Marbles was born in the summer of 2016. I had spent my holidays in Rome and had the chance to meet artists connected to the Roman independent music scene. By frequenting the club Marmo (marble), I was able to meet Roman musicians whose lyrics inspired me to create a series of illustrations. I called the project Marbles because of the word’s multiple meanings and how they are related to the subjects of and the circumstances under which I developed the project.
Marmo is walking distance from Campo Verano, Rome’s historic cemetery. In the past, the area around the cemetery was home to a concentration of shops that specialized in the fabrication of decorative marble tombstones that were placed by families of the dead buried at Verano. The club Marmo was once one of these shops and it has retained its historical name.
The name of my project refers not only to the place where the project originated but also addresses the artistic tradition of the city of Rome, which is, of course, famous for its cultural heritage. Marbles implicitly refers to Rome’s artistic tradition of making marble statues that were commissioned by emperors and popes to celebrate their power and affirm their authority. The subjects represented in these statues were glorious and majestic rulers, deities, warriors, and saints.
Relating to this artistic tradition I put timeless Roman marble statues— Michelangelo’s Pietà (1499), Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s David (1624), Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (1793)—in dialogue with modern day Romans (that is, the musicians I met at Marmo).The reality addressed by these contemporary representations is in opposition to the themes portrayed by traditional Roman art: they do not exalt the sublime, courage, grace, and sacredness. Rather, they show a generation depressed and living in a city characterized by strong contradiction, where the beauty of the past coexists with a high rate of youth unemployment, an economic crisis, and the backward mentality of a portion of its society.
In Marbles I present the Roman people in a way that differs greatly from the decadent lifestyle portrayed in famous films like Federico Fellini’s La DolceVita (1960) or Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013). In this project I tried to reflect the self-irony and dark humor expressed in the songs I refer to in my illustrations, focusing on the everyday life they speak about, exploring themes such as poverty, lack of opportunity, depression, homophobia, misogyny, racism, sexual frustration, insomnia, insecurity, and inadequacy. This way of representing Romans aims to challenge the simplistic idea of the West as a prosperous and advanced society and to underline the cultural, political, and economic problems of some of its disadvantaged populations.