La donna barbuta (2000) by Alessandra SpranziLa Galleria Nazionale
No sadness is in the bearded woman, but indeed
A wild, pervasive serenity, a restless serenity,
Sometimes a melancholy mingled with peace. The bearded woman
Walks through her meadows, along her paths, she is alone, in the still,
Away from the buzz, from wasted smiles. She recognizes
The far and the near, the seasons that come and go,
The shadows of the night. She knows that being in the world means challenging it,
Stinging it, provoking it. It means choosing to stay there.
(Milan, 1962. She lives and works in Milan.)
The camera is a diaphragm which on the one side separates us from things and on the other helps us focus them.
Alessandra Spranzi uses photography as a way of looking at and reinventing the world: she is not interested in the technique of the photographic process (in this sense “she is not a photographer, but an artist who uses photography”), but in the operations characterizing and oscillating between the documentation of the real data and its construction.
“Collecting, bringing together, assembling, matching are a way to reorganize, or surprise, vision and thought, involving the enigmatic nature of the photographic image that continually questions us”, so the artist.
Even when she uses collage, or re-photographs images found and reassembled on the work table, or prints them using a different technique, she enlarges them, isolates a detail, moves within the limits – or rather the possibilities – of photography.
If everything is already included within reality, our task is to give it back the ability to amaze and surprise us through a gesture, even the smallest one, such as that of looking: “unveiling, bringing to light or tearing out of darkness are all actions of photography”, Spranzi says.
These actions then take shape in the form of photographic series and artist’s books, using space and page as different and necessary places of enunciation.
La donna barbuta (The bearded woman) on display at Galleria Nazionale is a series of thirty black-and-white portraits in a domestic interior and in the landscape of a generic countryside (an interior and an exterior) of a woman at ease in meeting the gaze of the camera despite her uniqueness.
We see her leaning against a pole while she turns her back to a plowed field, appearing behind a flowering bush, sitting at a table in the morning.
The bearded woman’s image presented itself to the artist as a condition of claimed extraneousness: it would be enough to shave to get back to normality. But what do we lose of ourselves by withdrawing from our untamed side?
Looking at the photographs it seems that the bearded woman knows how to stay between things, showing an awareness and a serenity deriving just from her being different.
The woman portrayed is the artist, who created this series when she experienced motherhood, and therefore an animal and primordial part of herself: “the beard, the belly, the breast are images of a becoming; of a harmonic natural conformity. They convey the strength of a present mystery and, finally, they are a metaphor of life itself”.
The bearded protagonist is the woman when she takes her strength from the earth, and carries her beard into the civilized world: her strength, her wildness, her magic.
Alessandra Spranzi and Cecilia Canziani
Simone Menegoi, 2014
Francesco Durante, 2000