Mauro Drudi’s installation of LEI (SHE/HER/YOU – formal) in the Chiesa de San Cristoforo on the Sicilian island of Ortigia where I usually take a bus to daily has become the shrine of women I’ve been searching for. Each time I cry, I am glad I can feel something: those tears are a mixture of communion, comfort, and recognition.
When one enters the church, there are two converging walls. On either side, a woman’s face is painted in shadow and light, gazing off toward the light, is reproduced over and over so that the number of women looks almost countless. They are the same face, a reproduction of Antonello da Messina’s “Annunziata” in the mode of pop art. The difference is not in expression. They all wear the same thoughtful, complicated, neutral countenance, holding deep thoughts and experiences of suffering and wise knowing, both acceptance and maybe resistance; they have lived and might be any age, although I see in our connection my own. The difference is between glossy, unblemished surfaces of wood vs. surfaces weathered, slightly ragged, sometimes scribbled on with ink. The former, found on the right when one enters supposedly represents the “positive” woman, the “western woman [. . . representing someone] happy, gorgeous, well-kept.” On the left, about these representations, Drudi says, “Which artist can paint the skin of a woman who has been abused, beaten, exploited, captivated or disfigured with acid? In my opinion, nobody, and so I let the material speak: the wall of a beach hut destroyed by a storm; woods and materials used and abused [. . .]; exhausted panels deriving from carrying tons of goods, tables, packagings, production wastes.”