Contemporary Art in Historic Rome (Continued)

Fig Tree

Fig Tree from the exhibit “Laudato si – To the Roots of Life”

I believe it was those sage philosophers Rodgers and Hammerstein* who said, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”  That describes our Friday in Rome.

After seeing the stunning Santa Maria del Popolo in the morning (more on that later), we had planned to take in the Bernini statue The Ecstasy of St. Theresa  at Santa Maria della Vittoria and then walk down the street to see Francesco Borromini’s fantastic San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.  Both were closed.  Thankfully, I’ve seen San Carlo (and will try to get Candice there tomorrow).  But we were disappointed, and the gelato we had after our picnic lunch only partially brought my spirits back.

However, as has been our practice, when we walk by a church or open historic building that we haven’t seen before, we’ll ask each other, “Do you want to go in?”  More times than not, we’ll say “yes” and head in to find some new hidden gem.

We were walking back towards Trastevere when we passed Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio (the Church of St. Ignatius).  The two of us almost walked past it, but we decided to turn back and go inside to see why there was a pretty good crowd of visitors in the doorway.

We are so glad that we did!

As I wrote a little over a week ago, Rome is not only a place for incredible historic works of art, but the city continues to inspire contemporary artists. We stumbled in on a beautiful exhibit of copper, blowtorched and forged by fire, into a series of trees by the artist Settimo Tamanini.

Nave at Sant' Ignazio

Central Nave with Frescoes in the vaulted ceiling and tree from the “To the Roots of Life” exhibit

When one enters Sant’ Ignazio, the eye is immediately drawn to the Andrea Pezzo frescoes in the vaulted ceiling.  But today, that view includes shimmering copper trees, “blowtorched and forged by fire” from the exhibit To the Roots of Life.

This exhibit ties in with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato sì on the need to safeguard creation.  Eight of the artist’s creations – almond, apple, fig, pomegranate, olive, and chestnut trees along with a burning bush and grape vine – are placed throughout the church, along with short engravings that bring forth commentary and scripture.  This moving work softens the architectural space with all its marble and brass.  As the exhibition’s curator notes, “…the sculptures of the trees…complete the visual pathway from the frescoes of the vault to the garden, embracing everything and providing an illusory perspective of matter unified and transfigured.”

Sacristy

“To the Roots of Life” in the Sacristy of Sant’ Ignazio

This exhibition is part of the call of an earlier pope to bring contemporary art to the life of today’s church.  But these works – as is true with any good art – can be seen from a myriad of perspectives, with or without religious overtones.  You can take this work on several levels.

I’ll end with an excerpt from the words of Settimo Tamanini in the exhibit catalog:

…Art, as a way towards Beauty, represents a great challenge and responsibility for contemporary artists: that of offering, through its universal language, a visible image of the fertile and silent activity of invisible Wisdom.

I have drawn inspiration from the tree, already present in the first pages of the Bible and in deep harmony with the Universe.

This is how the “Trees of Great Mothers” fruit trees from Palestine, have been born, powerful sculptures in pure copper wrought through blown flames and fire.

The Garden of Eden which is in us all.

So that, entrusting ourselves to our true Master, we can breathe joy and hope to be given to others.

More to come…

DJB

*(Note for careful readers:  I actually realize that this quote is from The Sound of Music book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, but if I had said “Lindsay and Crouse, no one would know what I meant.)

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