Far from the haze of Milan, stars glimmer in the clear night sky over Trento. The city hums on this sultry night. Trento at night is like a Fellini film: an otherworldly beauty tinged with memory. An elegant woman in a black slip of a dress slides by silently. Only the sound of the water flowing from Neptune's fountain can be heard. The actress Francesca Neri was born in Trento. Perhaps she is the siren gliding by us?
Much of Italy often feels like a movie set. Intimate squares and piazzas backed by stage lit cathedrals and frescoed corridors. As if in a film cut, the darkened piazza is now lit by a swarm of electronic fireflies. A group of university students just left a nearby ice cream shop and their cellphone's blue glow creates a path across the square. Soon the quiet is broken as phones ring and calls are answered. I think of the innumerable conversations that have filled this spot. It is as if time has stopped. Almost perceptible shadows linger in a haze of half remembered experiences.
A distant train whistle echoes off the Cathedral looming over the piazza. We are close to the Brenner line that runs from Verona along the Adige River up through the Dolomites and into Austria. The train quickly reaches the city. The rumble of its linked wheels seems to bounce off the pavement beneath our feet. Then, as if it was never there at all, the train hurtles forward into the future. And we are left in this city of memories.
24"x18" oil on linen 2016
In the Trento Cathedral during the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent convened from 1545 -1563. First proposed as an ecumenical council that was open to hearing the concerns of Protestant leaders, by its end the Council condemned dissenting Protestant views with the phrase "anathema sit" ("let him be anathema"). The 25th decree of the Council of Trent censored artists:
'every superstition shall be removed ... all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust... there be nothing seen that is disorderly, or that is unbecomingly or confusedly arranged, nothing that is profane, nothing indecorous, seeing that holiness becometh the house of God. And that these things may be the more faithfully observed, the holy Synod ordains, that no one be allowed to place, or cause to be placed, any unusual image, in any place, or church, howsoever exempted, except that image have been approved of by the bishop'
Superstition, beauty, exciting to lust, unusual images - sounds like the almost naked statue of the pagan god Neptune sculpted two hundred years after the council of Trent and placed on top of the fountain in the center of the cathedral square. From my vantage point it seems that the fountain designed by Francesco Lavarone topped with the sculpture of Neptune by Stefano Salterio pokes fun at the conservative decrees from the council of Trent. Time moves on. Art is a long game. And art in Trento often has a sense of humor. In the Castello Buonconsiglio, not far from the Piazza del Duomo, a witty fresco of a 15th century snowball fight emphasizes that joy in living is not just a modern concept. In fact, fun and laughter are part of what it means to be human. Art can often provide a ray of light in a dark time.
January Snowball Fight
fresco c. 1405-1410
Castello Buonconsiglio, Trento, Italy,
"Trento Night" is part of a series of artworks inspired by and created in and around a recent art residency in Northern Italy. The historic city of Trento is named for Neptune's trident. In my painting, a glowing representation of Neptune's fountain graces the center of the scene.
Trento Night is on view at Saatchi Art in Santa Monica in the exhibition: