How The Myths And Legends Of Naples Influence My Art

Growing up in Naples, I find inspiration everywhere: in stories about people’s lives, cinema, music and, of course, Vesuvius.
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Naples is a city steeped in myth and legends.

One of the most popular myths tells the story of how the city was born. According to legend, the Siren Parthenope cast herself into the Tyrrhenian Sea after she failed to seduce the Greek hero Ulysses with her singing. Her body washed ashore onto the island of Megaride in the Gulf of Naples where the present-day Castel dell’Ovo, the oldest fortification in the city, stands today.

The body of Parthenope is said to have dissolved and helped create the foundation of Naples. They say her head lies in the Capodimonte hill, her body makes up the centro storico and her tail follows the soft outline of Posillippo, a residential area that was a favorite vacation spot for Roman emperors.

There are many legends like this one that pique the curiosity and sense of wonder of travelers and locals alike – and naturally, me. Naples, with its many stories and traditions, is an endless font of inspiration for me and my work. The city has a unique ability to make me feel both remarkably alive, and inexorably ephemeral, at the same time.

“Even in the dark I can see you. I recognize you and I feel safe.” This is how I describe my relationship with my homeland and Mount Vesuvius. Although it is one of the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes in the world, I, like many Neapolitans, cannot help but see Vesuvius as a protective presence. We belong to each other. For Neapolitans, Vesuvius represents home, so you can’t help but feel welcomed in his presence.

This is why Vesuvius often appears in my art. The volcano is inescapable but we never tire of him. On the contrary, we are always looking for him on the horizon and when we can’t see him, we feel lost or disoriented. It’s as though Vesuvius were a lighthouse, a guide, a father. His form is majestic, a well-defined outline marked by two peaks. His shape, together with the very nature and energy of Naples, certainly influenced my studies and inspired me to pursue my artistic training in sculpture. I wanted to understand the relationship between form and matter.

Naples may be characterized by the imposing presence of Vesuvius, but the city is also made of tufa lava stone. It is rough, but also friable and porous; it absorbs and impregnates at the same time. Naples is the solid and mighty Castel dell’Ovo, a fortification that rests on a small island constantly battered by the sea.

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Naples is a capa’ e Napule. The Marianna, an ancient marble bust of a woman, strong and solid like a man. Naples is full of contradictions: it represents the coexistence of opposites that drive me to detest and adore this city at the same time. It constantly gives and takes away, forcing you to never stay still, lest you get distracted. For better or for worse, Naples demands your attention, so you carry her spirit with you wherever you go. This is why my favorite view of Naples is the first one I see when I return from a trip.

My art is in constant motion, like the city. I follow my instincts and experiment with different techniques and mediums: sculpture, photography, painting, illustration or digital drawing. The study of sculpture taught me to consider the whole. This has become my modus operandi: I start with a wide view before diving into the details.

My work is also informed by my studies of human anatomy, classical art and statuary and contemporary sculpture. I’m inspired by the ancient Greek masters and also Michelangelo, Bernini, Rodin to Mitoraij, Moore and Kapoor. And I can’t forget Picasso’s entire body of work. I love heavy shapes: powerful forms with no frills.

And color has always been important to me. I’m constantly in search of chromatic harmony, something I learned from studying the Impressionists. I reflect upon the color used in the works of art hanging in museums, like I do in every landscape I see off in the distance; in every new city I visit and every alley in Naples. Color plays an important role in my daily life, not just in my art, but also at home and in my cooking. It represents energy and has the same weight and importance as materials such as marble or stone.

The themes I choose for my works, on the other hand, come from my land, from the sacred symbols that are so powerful here, from the readings that inspire and stimulate me, from mythology, my love for nature or even my commissions. I am inspired by all forms of art and life: people’s life stories, cinema, music. Anything that provokes a strong emotion or a deep reflection can become a source of inspiration for a new work.

I often tell stories of myths and legends because they represent a mysterious and fascinating aspect of the history of a place and its culture: they reflect its true identity. Myths, legends, sacred rites, superstitions or popular beliefs merge with the history and contribute to the essence and authenticity of the land and its people.

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