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Art Gallery | Spiritual Corner


By B. John Zavrel

Alessandra Della Valentina was born in Italy on March 9, 1962. She first studied at a language lyceum in Bologna. Then her father, an international businessman, moved the family to Mexico. It was at the National Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Mexico, where she received her formal art schooling. After completion of the four year study she spent two more years studying with Belisaro Dominguez in the Workshop for Advanced Painters.

She was fascinated by the Mexican culture, especially the ancient pre-hispanic Mayan culture. She visited a number of the ancient sites and studied their art, culture, and symbolism. Her first one-man exhibition was held in 1987 in the House of Culture in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

After this other exhibitions followed: Mexico City in 1987, Queretaro in 1988, Brandeis University, Boston in 1991, Sacile, her native town in Italy in 1993. The largest and most successful exhibition took place in 1994 in Germany. The exhibition titled "Communication through art" was sponsored by Brockmayer GmbH, a large high technology company in Duisburg, Germany. On the occasion of the opening of their new corporate headquarters, they invited Ms. Valentina to exhibit a collection of her paintings. The exhibition was a great success, and most of the works she exhibited were sold (including one that had been promised for our Museum, but the interested collector was so taken by the painting that we agreed to let him have it).

After spending 10 years in Mexico, the family moved back to Italy, and Ms. Valentina decided to continue her studies in the United States. She moved to Boston, where she was exposed to the modern abstract art. It made a strong impression on her artistically, and she started experimenting in this area. Most of her works created during this period of about 1 year are abstract paintings or abstract multi-media works.

Artists in general seem to have all kinds of trials and obstacles on their artistic paths. Valentina was no exception. When she left Boston to return to Italy, she left all of her works from this period with a friend for safekeeping. Unfortunately, the friend did not turn out to be a friend, and she gave away, or sold, all of of the young artist's paintings. When she was in this country last summer, she tried to track down and recover her works, but had no success.

Back in Italy, Ms. Valentina continued her work mostly in the abstract style. Her materials were wood, string, sand, nails. She prefers earthly tones -- red, brown. She likes to use old windows or doors to paint on. "I like to give old things new life," says Alessandra.

Her work was well received in Europe. Her interest in ecology brought her in contact with the International Committee Artists for Ecology. The committee sponsors an annual Ecological Award, which has been awarded for the past ten years to a prominent public personality whose public engagement promotes positive ecological initiatives. In 1993, the award was given to the Prince of Wales for his engagement over the past ten years in efforts to preserve the rain forests of the Amazon. I was invited to take part in the presentation of the award, which took place in Bonn, Germany.

In connection with the award of the Ecological Eagle to the Prince of Wales, an international exhibition was organized, showing the works of some 30 young artists on the theme "Art and Ecology." Alessandra Della Valentina was one of these artists, and it was on this occasion that we first met. As we were viewing the exhibition before the prince arrived, I was impressed by one painting which stood out from all the rest. It made a very strong impression on me, and I decided to meet the artist. The artist was Alessandra Valentina; we met and talked only very briefly just before the prince arrived.

A few days later our paths crossed once again for a brief moment, in the Beethoven Music Hall in Bonn, where the world-famous pianist and dirigent Justus Frantz was giving a benefit concert sponsored by several high cabinet ministers. As I was talking the to President of the Parliament, Dr. Rita Süssmuth, Alessandra Valentina joined us and we just managed to say hello and exchange addresses.

The following year, in 1994, Alessandra Valentina had the big exhibition organized by the Brockmeyer GmbH, an Electrical-, Communication- and Security Engineering firm in Duisburg, Germany. Some 30 of her recent works were shown, and the show had a very positive response -- most of the works shown were sold during the exhibit.

Some of these works were, for instance Mischievous Harmonies (1990), In Search of Dogma (1990), Come in Cielo Cosi in Terra (1991), Atlantean (1991), Assolo (1991), La Cellista (1992), Christo (1992), Guerriero (1992), Occhio (1993), The Open Heart (1994), Waiting for True Silence (1994), and Communication Through Art (1994).

When I mentioned to Ms. Valentina that we were going to have the Grand Opening of our Museum in July 1994 and invited her to represent Italian artists, she at once said yes. And as a special donation to our Museum, she brought with her four paintings: Assolo (1991) -- one of her most powerful, yet very simple paintings, and Exhalation of Fra Beato (1994) -- a highly unusual triptych, and also one which marks a turning point in her work. For the greater part of 1994 she has been studying the ancient paintings of the Italian monk Fra Beato, and this work was sort of a homage to this great artist.

The triptych consists of three panels, each about 14 x 28 inches. "In a way, the triptych is a complete dictionary of my work in the past 3 years," says the artists.

The first part has wood as its base. A special Mexican paper made of bark was glued to the base, and on it we see painted a figure of a man. It is an ancient, Mayan figure carrying a large stone on his shoulder. The man is carrying the world on his shoulders, signifying the strength of the mythological ideas and images of the ancient Mayan culture, which is still even to this day very powerful. She interprets the ancient American Indian culture and using her own tools -- string, nails, colors, and symbols.

The second part reminds us of a string instrument -- in its shape, the layout of the strings, the color scheme. One thinks of the ancient Greece of Rome, or and Indiac sitar. We feel the echoes of music. The fragment of terra cotta, thousands of years old, was found in the ruins of Rome and represents the ancient European culture.

The third part shows a religious motif behind a mysterious curtain. This work is a collage: wood, oil, acrylic, sand, nails, strings, and a reproduction. This work combines the past and the present; it is a dialog and a unity. Here, the artist combines the tradition with her own interpretation, her colors, and her choice of materials. The result is a very unique, original work of art which shows the soul of the artist.

At the end, I would like to let the artist speak to you in her own words about what art means to her. This is what she says about her creative work:

"Like a priest, the artist leads a life of self-denial, and his obligation as an artist is to dedicate his life to the broad religion of art. The creative act of painting has passed through all stages, from the highest levels of the sublime to its various debased and negative manifestations. In our time, it seems that there is a powerful cast that interferes with aesthetic experience, establishing with severe judgment who will be the chosen and who the damned. Contemporary painting seems to have become a cruel game, a false ritual that has no reference to aesthetic and emotive canons, as if the quest for reason and coherence is something to be ashamed of.

Intimidated and humiliated by this landscape of ruins, I do not pretend to change things. My only wish is to become a human being who faces her own reality, thereby having no secrets. To this faith, I am dedicating my work, as the act of painting somehow brings me closer to God. Thus, the act of creating becomes each day a new prayer. I search for the soul contained in matter, like an alchemist. I search in colour, in wood, and in canvas. Materials suggest the road I should take in my search. And I use their suggestions as words are used in a prayer.

The manner in which I manipulate matter in the creative process is, for me, a ritual. Each time I enter the ritual phase of creating, I enter the realm of the sacred, thus feeling the nature of existence. Hence, I use matter to convey the divine essence of the universe; and if I can bring this truth to others I have accomplished one of my duties as an artist. Yet, it is not only the divinity of matter that makes art; art can only happen when matter becomes one with my essence. In that sense art is an alchemy that fuses matter and spirit. In this way, the alchemy of creating becomes the search for my own truth. It is an exclusive truth that in my soul I understand will always be beyond capture, but in the search is the joy my work brings me. It is a joy that comes when I enter my playground of things and ideas. The materials of my art, the wood, string and colour take form through my own style of play and the accumulated experiences of my life. Without play, without joy, without pain, the human condition would have no meaning. That is, why I leave my play, my suffering, and beyond anything else, my love for life, as joyful or painful as it may be, in my work. Thus, art is my sword, my journey, my life and my death, and with it I continue my eternal prayer."

Related article: My Eternal Prayer, "Art is my sword, my life and my death", By Alessandra Della Valentina

Copyright 1996 PROMETHEUS
Reprinted with permission


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