In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we reached across the Atlantic and into the heart of one of the outbreak’s worst-hit countries, Italy, to speak with Spring 2020 cover artist Micaela Lattanzio. From one quarantine to another, we wanted to learn more about what drives Lattanzio’s ecological approach to her work, the cover art’s backstory, and how it feels to be a practicing artist while her entire country is in lockdown.
Micaela Lattanzio was born in Rome, where she currently lives and works. She attended Rome’s Academy of Fine Arts and, in 2014, won the Zingarelli Special Jury award for her work, “Silent Tales.” Lattanzio exhibits her work across the world, and, most recently, at Context Art Miami and Barcú Art Fair in Bogota, Colombia.
First thing’s first. You live in Italy, a country being devastated by the coronavirus. You are effectively in national quarantine. What’s it like at the moment?
Italy is experiencing a very difficult historical moment. We still cannot know what consequences will come of this isolation. We don’t know how much we’ll contain this global pandemic and how many victims it will take. What we can do is implement more empathic behavior, limit social relations, and acknowledge what is happening not as something local but a global phenomenon. Global solidarity is what we need at this time.
We must slow down and change the nature of hyper-productivity that has been driving this system. I think the time has come for silence. At this moment, our bodies are still. We need to turn our gaze toward internal spaces. The buzz of having to do has fallen asleep for many of us. Earth has begun to breathe again and people are closer, despite the distance. We can feel more united in this. Without a doubt, we are facing great change, and that can offer us an opportunity to reinvent society. Perhaps then we’ll realize that a system based on mass consumption is simply no longer viable. At the end of this path, I see two possibilities:
- Try and restore the system back to its previous state, or
- Take, through further efforts, the road to some new shared change.
It will be the primary task of those of us who make culture to inspire new pathways that can guide us to a new system. As an artist, I’m feeling the need to slow down, to devote myself to studying, reading, drawing, sketching, and creating with unprecedented experimentation.
Let’s talk about the Spring 2020 cover. What’s the backstory?
The work is part of a series titled “New Worlds.” This series investigates the relationship between man and nature, and also between microcosm and macrocosm. I find a sort of cosmic geometry that combines both the physical and invisible space of humans, a connection between us and the world.
My work is based on the transformation of photographs through a technique where the images become three-dimensional matter. For me, this fragmentation is a metaphorical representation of cells and molecules. As for paintings or site-specific installations, I start from this idea that one is always generating new forms and structures through multiplication, just as it happens in nature.
To me, art is the vehicle that forces us to look where we cannot see,
a magnifying glass on reality, a way to observe the world in all its complexity.
This “New Worlds” series is really a reflection of what consequences our actions have on Earth. The series touches on overpopulation, desertification, increasing of global pollution, and the detachment of contemporary humans from their roots.
I transform satellite imagery into three-dimensional pieces. It’s possible to recognize glimpses of deserts, seas, cultivated fields, cities, or roads in these images. I create a chromatic pattern, a palette made of pixels that I rearrange in abstraction, and the result is a redefinition of geopolitical and natural boundaries. These assemblages are inspired by molecular structures seen under a microscope, another way to underscore the fundamental connection between the micro and macro world.
You were born and raised in Rome, and currently live there. Can you share a snapshot of Rome’s contemporary art scene?
Italy has an exceptional contemporary art culture. Being a small country, there is a strong connection between cities. No one single artistic scene. Rather, it’s more a network that joins cities from north to south.
Growing up in Italy has definitely contributed to my love of history and culture. In this country, it’s impossible not to wonder about the meaning of beauty and its role over the centuries. This much I know: through art we can better understand humanity on its historical course, both from an anthropological and aesthetic level.
Much of my work stems from observing classical sculpture and fragments of frescoes and mosaics. These works have always fascinated me because they often interrogate the imagination in search of truth. The name of my series “Fragmenta” takes its name from the “Fragmenta Picta,” which is an Italian restoration technique that reconstructs fragments of frescoes, decorations, or classic sculptures without entirely reconstructing the work. So this classical background, backed by a curiosity for science and philosophy, has really been the driving force behind all my work and artistic research.
There appears to be a strong environmental ethic guiding your work.
There is no greater artist than nature, and I am constantly inspired by this perfection. All my works are based on observing nature and its relationship with humanity. This research has pushed me to deepen bonds of biophilia.
Through my work, I try and recreate a multifaceted reality that is both visible and invisible to the eye, in order to stimulate the spectator’s inner interpretation. To me, art is the vehicle that forces us to look where we cannot see, a magnifying glass on reality, a way to observe the world in all its complexity.
(Video: a visual performance of the artist’s recent “Corpus Imago” exhibition.)
Molecular consciousness. Boundaries. Interbeing. Elemental borrowing. These all seem so central to your work.
The exhibition “Fragmenta: A Journey beyond the Body” was a prelude to my most recent exhibition entitled “Corpus Imago,” part of a project that’s lasted for more than ten years and investigates the body as a physical space of collective identities.
The exhibition is divided up into three chapters, which together lead the viewer on a journey inspired by the cycle of life and the transformation of the body in both physical and philosophical terms.
To truly see another body is equivalent to losing one’s own, since it involves a total immersion through entering into the skin of the other. In this series, ranging from paintings to installations, I investigate the body as a place of social rights and cultural diversity. Through the body we are in contact with the world as a space for living, where we meet in relationship with one another. In “Fragmenta,” the body becomes fluid, extending its epidermal boundaries to reveal the molecular matrix of our skin, tissues, and bones. Really, it is only the imagination that guides us toward the infinite possibilities this universe generates for us. O
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