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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

Capturing Beauty: The Art of Roberto Ghezzi

September 17, 2021



 

I look and look.

Looking’s a way of being: one becomes,

sometimes a pair of eyes walking.

Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes dig and burrow into the world.

            —Denise Levertov, poet

 

I want to capture beauty.

            Roberto Ghezzi, artist

 

Like a young child in need of attention, the natural world around us demands our gaze and delight. As Denise Levertov highlights in her poem “Looking, Walking, Being,” the habit of really looking is like our eyes are taking us for a walk around the world and rooting us in it.  And in this looking, we will see the world bearing witness that “beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses.” [1]

It seems almost cliché to ask, “What is beauty?” Throughout the 20th century, the art world mocked the idea of creating beauty; serious artists did not pursue it. Daniel Finch, painter and art professor at Messiah University, once commented that when he was in art school, the worst thing that could be said of someone’s work during a class critique was “Oh, your piece is very beautiful.” In contrast, Makoto Fujimura, an artist seeking to revitalize the place of beauty in the arts, helpfully elaborates, “Beauty is the quality connected with those things that are in themselves appealing and desirable. Beautiful things are a delight to the senses, a pleasure to the mind, a refreshment for the spirit.”[2]

The Italian artist Roberto Ghezzi’s sublime work helps us to see with new eyes the glory of the beautiful and how it is goodness made manifest to the senses. His vision is to capture beauty by partnering with nature. He is known for his artistic research that is in close contact with water and earth. Instead of calling what he does “art work” he calls it Naturografia.  Roberto’s work seems to embody Fujimura’s words, “I wanted to help recover a view of beauty as a gift we discover, receive, and steward.” [3]

Nature is that gift worth discovering. Roberto shows us an example of stewarding it well as he works with natural materials and within natural settings. An accomplished, classically trained painter, he states in his website, “Man has always created works of art by painting nature, or using elements of nature, or in nature: Naturografia is a living work where artist and nature collaborate together.” [4]

He elaborates, “My research has been enriched with extraordinary experiences, and I have been able to dialogue with different environments, from the brackish lagoon to the mountain stream, from the man-made port to the river park.”[5] Traveling the world to find the environments to collaborate with, and using specific techniques and tools, Roberto partners with the light, land, water, vegetation, minerals, and living organisms to create, with nature, a portrait of that area. Instead of painting what he sees in the wild, he dialogues with the elements to create a visual testimony of its life. 

A recent issue of CIVA SEEN Journal featuring Roberto’s work explained his technique:

Ghezzi specifically places the canvases in sites selected due to their environment—chemical, physical and biological characteristics. Landscape elements include weather occurrences that will give back a different stratification of sediments and traces on each support prepared to accommodate them. The differences in water level due to tides and rain, wind, soil and sand, insects and other small animals, but also molds, algae, leaves and twigs, each will leave their footprint and create a kind of identity card.[6]

It’s this residue that is captured on finely woven materials or wooden boards that are displayed in art galleries. 

During a trip to Italy in early December 2019, I experienced beauty as goodness made manifest to the senses in Roberto’s collaborative work with nature. With my husband and friends at an opening night of new artwork in a local gallery, I found Roberto’s piece in an outside courtyard, hanging between two sturdy poles and with a bright light shining on it. Its dreamy appearance beckoned us forward, and we found we could walk around it and view both sides. Initially, when seeing it from afar, it reminded me of a Rothko painting with its swaths of light browns and pale purple-blue whites. But as we moved closer and examined it carefully, I could see sediment and small debris of twigs, insect body parts, and other unidentifiable detritus. Sandwiched in the center of this work was a branch, as if rooted in the light-brown bottom and stretching into the blue sky-like top half of the piece. I had never experienced such beauty and innocence as this in a piece of art. Several times during the rest of the evening I would find myself back in the courtyard to re-examine and enjoy it. 

The next day, we traveled to Cortona, the ancient hilltop city in Tuscany, Italy, to have lunch with Roberto. A resident here, he was a long-time friend of one of my traveling companions. Sitting together in one of his favorite restaurants, we talked about his work while enjoying our homemade pasta and local red wine. When we asked Roberto about his vision for his work, without a pause, he said, “I want to capture beauty.” Having just experienced his work in person the night before, I knew he was fulfilling this goal.

Cultivate your seeing by attending to these pieces of Roberto Ghezzi’s Naturographia. Use the following passages of Scripture, quotes, and poem as guides to interacting with them. How do you respond to these words in light of these visuals? After looking at them, when you close your eyes, what images remain in your mind? How can these images and words aid you in cultivating eyes for beauty? Check out more of his work at https://www.robertoghezzi.it.

Psalm 104:24-25 (NIV)

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.” 

Romans 1:20 (NIV)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”

“Beauty invites us in, capturing our attention, and making us want to linger.”[7] Makoto Fujimura

“In everything we make, we bring our creative energies, but we are also acting in stewardship of what we have been given. At our best, we work with our raw materials, honoring their properties, respecting their limits, not working against the grain or twisting them out of context. In short we need to love both nature and culture to exercise a proper stewardship.“[8] Makoto Fujimura

 

Looking, Walking, Being

Denise Levertov

 

“The world is not something to look at, 

it is something to be in.” 

Mark Rudman

 

I look and look.

Looking’s a way of being: one becomes,

sometimes a pair of eyes walking.

Walking wherever looking takes one.

 

The eyes 

dig and burrow into the world.

They touch

fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.

World and past of it,

not only 

visible present, solid and shadow

that looks at one looking.

 

And language? Rhythms

of echo and interruption?

That’s a way of breathing,

 

breathing to sustain

looking,

walking and looking,

through the world,

in it. 



[1]  Dallas Willard; www.ChristianityToday.com/CT/2013/May-web-only/man-from-another-time-zone.html?paging=off, May 8, 2013.

[2] Makoto Fujimura, Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life, 2014, (International Arts Movement, New York, NY) p. 32.

[3] Fujimura, Ibid., p. 34

[4] Elena Cantori, “Roberto Ghezzi,” https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://elenacantori.com/artisti/roberto-ghezzi/&prev=search&pto=aue

[5] Roberto Ghezzi, Project and Solo Sow in Trieste – Naturografie 2020, August 31, 2020, https://www.robertoghezzi.it/project-and-solo-show-in-trieste-naturografie-2020/

[6]  Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) SEEN Journal, Winter 2021

[7]  Fujimura, Culture Care, p. 32

[8]  Fujimura, Culture Care, p. 34-35.



The featured image is by Roberto Ghezzi. 



 

Leslie Bustard

comments

  1. Delro Rosco says:

    So good Leslie and I am so intrigued by the description of Roberto’s art.

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