MONICA SILVA photo project (from The Antology of Spoon River by E. Lee Masters)
Life Above All exhibition, with thirty Monica Silva’s works, personally inspirared by The Antology of Spoon River’ characters from the American author Edgar Lee Masters. The work of the brasilian photographer suits, perfectly, in the polyfunctional program of Mazzoleni Art gallery: an alternate of artistic expressions which main aim is centered on abstract landscapes and human figure.
Monica Silva’ shots are characterized by the use of colors of strong emotional impact that underline the internal landscape of the photographed character, set in eloquent environments, thin and at the same time rich of details as in a refined game of joint in which everything is equally essential. The shots reminds the first daguerreotypes of the second halves the eight hundred, when the still photography had the tendency to imitate painting as some portraits belonged to the modern pictorial tradition.
Life Above All, is the photographer’s first work as an artist, known in Italy and in foreign countries by her intense portraits of famous italians musicians and actors, as well as for tourism reportages published in the most important italian magazines. Not that her work untill now was not artistic, simply it was not the result of a project that, urged as her artistic demand, that of giving a body and a face – also psychological – to those of human sections that have populated Masters infancy in an american province of the mid-West in the beggining of XX century.
The project Life Above All is hinged on the comparison by sixteen poetries, drawn from the Anthology of Spoon River of Edgar Lee Masters – translated in Italian by Fernanda Pivano edited in Italy for the first time by Einaudi in 1943 – and the twenty-five Monica Silva’s prints. There is no discrepancy between the poetic texts and the images of the artist: the exhibited works also includes close-ups shots and macro details which must not be seen as stand alone shots but as works that live by themselves for such perfection searched for each shot, the sharpness of the framing and the balance in the composition. Notice Lucinda Matlock’s portrait, the grandmother of the writer: the mild nature of the typical housewife and mother of a large family, put into evidence, in the wide shot, thanks to the choice of the green color backgrounds, and to the scene props (an original knitting antique piece, a laced old wedding dress and a separé) and by the model characterized by a regular and sweet face, underlined by skin and eyes pastel colour. The same shot is enriched by close-ups of her face and scene props for a better deepening of the character’s psychology and her lived life. In the Matlock’s portrait, as to other shots, the constant “leit motif” is the bones spread on the floor, bared however from any restlessness, a turnover of the traditional iconography tied up to the vanitas, memento mori, in positive key: the bones spread on the set are not the trophies of the death but symbols of a defeated death.
The characters described in the texts are interpreted with rare sensibility by the photographer who, as underlined in the title of the exhibition, have captured deep messages in Lee Masters work, selecting not the elderly but youngsters in the spring of their lives, to testify the imperishable vital energy of life.
The frowning looks sometimes portrayed, typical from whom has been hurt or offended during ones life, remain as a remarkable evidency of a past not yet settled and therefore in the phase of resolution as symbolized by the tender age of the characters. It is in the example of the Wendell P. Blooyd portrait that for his ideas to the limit of the blasphemy, as so considered in that time, was confined in a reformatory and is shot crucifixed with a mental illed garment.
Action of faith of the artist in the regenerative power of life also after an existential trauma that, in practice, represents him thru the juvenile age – metaphor of the life in fierce – of Spoon River’s characters, otherwise oriented to the ineluctable end of their hopes as they were already dead when the poetic text was pubblshed.
The bright effects, the searched composition, the emotionally meaningful colors, come into light, thanks to the digital camera and to the metallic Kodak paper prints, chosen by the photographer for its chromatic FX and for it’s tridimensionality.
In that way the different levels of depth and the vivacity of the character’s looks, seems to follow who’s watching the pictures. Effects wanted by Monica Silva to bring up the psychology of the characters that populated Lee Masters poetries: men and women from an often turbulent past and whose soul is revealed, without hypocrisy and falsehood, by the poet. From here the necessità to amplify the function of the colors that stresses the doubleness, of the good or the bad, that dominates the human being.
The same urgency to bring up the truth, some years ago had already inspired Fabrizio De Andrè, whom in 1971 composed an album called Non al denaro, non all’amore né al cielo to the memory of the American poet.
With a different angle, or rather taking the distance from the nature of social report that characterizes the works of De André and Silva, the poems of Spoon River has been recently brought into light by the photographer William Willinghton, who published a book of black and white shots of the places described in Spoon River: a sort of visual documentation antropogeographic.
The very first exhibition for this project was on September 18th 2008 in Milan at Mazzoleni Art Gallery, and was coordinated by Valeria Mazzoleni, that has supported from the beggining, the layout of the project with Monica Silva, and is assisted by the precious critical consultation of Barbaria Silbe, journalist, author of the review text in the catalogue.