Well, it is my last night in Florence and I couldn’t help but run around the city one last time before I leave tomorrow morning. I hadn’t realized it, but it was actually my first time exploring the city at night! Part of me really regrets not getting out more in the evening, but my days have been so long, I have needed to simply retreat to my quaint, market side apartment to work on sketches or snuggle up with one of the many books I have on the go.
So why did I head out tonight? With the intent of buying some last minute biscotti for folks at home, I also headed to the Uffizi to document all of the statues that line the museum’s outdoor corridor. Along the way and upon heading back, I enjoyed everything I have seen for the last twenty-four days anew. Monuments, architecture and just the everyday were all lit up in dramatic ways and casting shadows that remain constant with the artificial lights of Florence. To see the city illuminated like this was a nice end to the trip as I was beginning to see the ugly shadows that inhabit every urban centre.
The darkness began to creep in about a week ago when I acknowledged that as wonderful as my life has been for the last couple of weeks, that would not be the case if I lived here. Artists here have it as hard as anywhere else. Lining every square in the stifling heat or hidden in workshops repairing or restoring all that has come before them, one can’t imagine how hard it would be to create contemporary or even classical art in an area of the world where each and every moment you are compared to the likes of Michelangelo, Da
Vinci, Giotto, etc ….
As I ventured out this evening, the roads were lined with refuse from the daily markets, the overabundance of leather shops made me start counting dead cows and the romantic facades of the buildings no longer hide how many empty storefronts there actually are. During the hot afternoons, the smells of urine and sewage become very strong with the increase in temperature and the barrage of tourists flocking to and clogging the city. Selfie sticks have become an incessant obstacle when walking and street vendors have yelled at me for buying at another booth! Anyways, tonight seemed to reinstitute my love for Florence and all that it has to offer.
To catch you up on what I have done over the last week or so, after our independent study critique, I finally saw the Madonna of the Shadows at Santo Marco, where I also discovered some wonderful examples of early surrealist work by Fra Frangelico. The 41 cells of the monks were all lined with light and unique frescoes. On Tuesday, the entire IAMD clan made our way back up to San Miniato al Monte to witness the lighting up of the nave on the solstice, proving that the churches / monasteries of the 1400’s were embracing science as a way of telling time and seasons. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of planning that an architect would need to undertake to arrange for such a magical thing to occur! Apparently the light hits the floor to symbolize the procession of the monks in their rites of passage to go out into the world. One of the rays of light beams down on the sign of cancer inlayed within the mosaic on the floor.
Wednesday included a ride out into the country with Dan Soloman, Martha Ladly and an author named Richard Fremantle, a man who has books published about the works of Masacchio and the Medici family. Richard confided that it was his visit to Florence as a student that inspired him to become a researcher and writer. Richard helped us find a hidden Donatello crucifix hidden in a monastery in the hills of Tuscany beyond telling us wonderful background information about the Medici's buried within the pages of his books.
Thursday, I took in the interior of San Spirito, another church referred to as the little brother of San Lorenzo, once again designed by Brunelleschi. The light in here was exquisite and once agian the ceiling blew my mind. Adjacent to a small piazza south of the Arno, the interior was well worth the wait despite the heat, local homeless washing in the fountain, a three hour wait and the worst gelato I have had since I have been here. I also managed to run around and visit the Guggenheim collection of modern art showing at the Strozzi gallery. I went to see Motherwell, but I was surprised to be taken more by Ellsworth Kelly’s work and Lucio Fontana. Of course seeing Cy Twomby’s work first hand was a hoot, and I could’ve watched the shadows of Calder’s work all night.
One observation I made today was in a church adjacent to the Ospedale degli Innocenti, another Brunelleschi architectural contribution. The ceiling was laden with gold and the light was extremely haunting. There was one chapel in particular in which the light was coming in from a window and obscuring the painting that adorned the space. This visual occurrence reminded me that light can also obscure or blind us from the truth. Light as enlightenment or aligned with creating the spectacle? (Theory of a Young Girl – a must read!)
While the world is rallying around the crisis in the UK and providing a perfect example of the economic interconnectivity of our landscapes that I am researching, other outings have included a visit to Sant’Ambrogia market to buy some antique lace, checking out the astrolabe on the front of Santa Maria Novella (coolest thing here!), hitting the stores near the train station for some affordable Italian fashion, scouring the alley ways for a cheap carry-on to tote back my purchases home and frequenting local gardens and scenic spots to continue my sketches for all of my wonderful patrons who helped make this trip possible.
I look forward to sharing more images and updates when I get home, but for now, arrivederci.