GELATO! I just had my first gelato. We all waited until today, February 15, to eat gelato, because it was FREE GELATO day at several gelaterias! I got a flavor called Fondente, which is such a dark chocolate it is practically black! It literally tasted like frozen brownie mix with dark chocolate swirled in. It is fun to watch them scoop the gelato with the knifey-scrapey thing. Waiting until today was worth it and eating gelato made it feel like spring is coming which is a WONDERFUL feeling.

This week has brought a lot of thoughts to my mind about what constitutes art. When I decided to study abroad in Italy, I romanticized the idea of my time here, imagining myself studying the masters and the Renaissance and classic paintings and sculptures. As it turns out, what I’ve learned about so far in my classes has been quite the opposite! In my Art & Society class, the art we’ve been looking at so far has been extremely grotesque, erotic and crude. We are discussing the notion of the body as a social metaphor, and one of the two professors of the class has a very perverse sense of the body in art. We’ve looked at images by artists I am familiar with such as Barbara Kruger or Cindy Sherman (who does some VERY strange things), but we have also looked at gorey and distorted images of the human body that speak to sexuality in a very grotesque way. Our professor is also very interested in cannibalism, and shared this with us, along with a story about an artist he has worked with involving cannibalism. These lessons have been hard to sit through because I do not connect with many of these topics, especially cannibalism. And I do not feel that cannibalism is a form of art, either! I think it is a truly bizarre expression that some cultures might find okay, and luckily Western culture finds it to be taboo. I found it frustrating that our first classes were spent on such crude subjects, and I voiced this to the professor. This is the inaugural semester of my program, so I felt it was important to tell them about my feelings.

One aspect of our class yesterday that I enjoyed very much was talking about how we can describe ourselves as humans with bodies to other living beings in the universe. We discussed NASA’s idea to send a message in a bottle to the outerspace, describing humans. We were asked by our professors to come up with images and ideas of what we think is important to share with another living group in the universe. So many things to come to mind! Human expression through art, music, culture, fashion and physical communication would be important to share. Memory, moments in our lives, people that are meaningful to us, feelings we have, scientific discoveries…there is a lot that we know and have accomplished!

Last night at the weekly artist talk, a man named Piergiacomo Petrioli spoke. Petrioli is an art historian and art critic. His program was entitled, “Is Shit Art? Is Art Shit?” What an appropriate topic for this week! The first image he shared with us was called, “Shit-Rabbit-Shit.” From what I could gather (this presentation was given in Italian…) this piece of work consisted of human excrement, sticks, cigarette butts and other….found objects. It is very amusing to write this here, but I think it is important to share! Another piece he shared with us was Manzoni’s “Merde D’Artiste,” from 1961, which is an attractively decorated can (it looks like a pretty container of soap) which supposedly contains the merde of Mr. Manzoni. Another image we looked at was a painting of the Virgin Mary made with bodily waste, as well! What a day yesterday was!!! A happy Valentines Day for sure.

On Monday we took a trip to the only glass-blowing, stained glass window studio in Siena. The two brothers who work there were very kind and informative. They create stained glass windows using the same technique developed during Medieval times, and they create windows in the same Gothic style they were created in as so many buildings and churches were designed and built. It is a truly amazing process. The sketches, measurements, colors of glass, the cutting of the glass, and the painting on the glass itself to add shadow to the figures–it was all very wonderful to see! The brothers said the windows they create are made to last over 500 years. They said, “If the window does not last 500 years, we will give our customers a refund.” Ha ha ha!

Friday is our final Italian exam! Voglio fare bene! I want to do well!

I feel badly sharing my adventures of delicious gelato and crude artwork in the same post! I apologize!

Arrivederci!! Ciao!