I had bought about seven aluminum blocks of various dimensions and thicknesses a year ago and put them away in a box. So I pulled a flat one out the box a year later and placed a skeleton on top of it as if it were asleep, and considered the combination to be a significant enough for further examination. It looked like, well, a bed, an elevated bed. Then at some point I wondered if I could add some excitement, some life, so I made it into a narrative by bending the skeleton's arms and legs into a particular pose as if were doing something. Yeah, I liked it. But what was I liking about it?
I put the combo on top of another block of aluminum, a sort of plinth, so that the work now consisted of three pieces: The skeleton laying on a thick sheet of metal resting on on top of another piece of aluminum. It reminded me of a Greek bier about which I lectured in art history classes. Current culture might call it a wake. I taught these art history classes at La Sierra University and Menifee Community College. (At California Baptist University, the dean assigned me computer technology which were outmost geeky.)
So I figured I would make nine more and name them the Bier Series. As I started animating more skeletons into different, more dramatic poses. This was tedious because I felt I was fumbling. I did not know what I was doing. Each twist was emotional agony, and the process of bending these 8" skeletons actually tired me out. Then I became disturbed that they expressed too much emotion, reminding me of the gesticulations in illustrations of saints in 10th C. Romanesque books of hours which looked amateurish and exaggerated which I at first did not want. I comforted myself that I could get away with it, however, by noting this fit into my current interest into making work that expressed emotion, thinking of later art of the Baroque period whose dramatic stories and poses is made to appeal to one's emotions, to engage the viewer by entertaining. This, of course is antithetical to the current academic teaching of overstated minimalism which I consider effete and vacuous. On the other hand, I felt that the process I used to make the biers was already minimalistic enough in that I relied on ready-made gems and metals needing minimal modification, and that this would moderate and counteract the poses of the dramatic skeletons. I achieved a balance.
As I reformed the last skeletons, I felt uneasy that they had no basis to express so much emotion. What do do? I found justification in my current appreciation for the Sceneggiata song, developed in Napli, Italia, and brought to the US by Italian immigrants. I often listen to it while I work in my studio.
The form nearly died out until various singers of sceneggiatas resurrected it in the middle of the 20th C. My favorite such singer is Mario Merola. His voice has that feeling that only a person grounded in innocent, un-pretenscious dramatic theater can have. His singing has elements of Moslem call to prayer in its kind of vibrato found in S. Italy. His most important sceneggiata songs can be sampled here.
The Sceneggiata is an early 20th C. form of live theater developed in Napoli, Italy performed by non-professionals. By necessity and localization, they are of low budget and made to entertain locals in low income brackets. The song consists of an emotional story, usually about cheating, a broken heart, and often a maiming or killing in the end. The form can be likened to a stereotypical US country song but without the maiming or killing. One of The Godfather movies showed a part of a Sceneggiata as a backdrop to a scene taking place in Little Italy, New York.
Well I found my theme and naming convention. I am gratified. I will name them: Sceneggiata Prima, Sceneggiata Seconda, Sceneggta Terza, Sceneggiata Quarta, Sceneggiata Quinta, Sceneggiata Sesta, Sceneggiata Settima, Sceneggiata Ottava, Sceneggiata Nona, Sceneggiata Decima.
They are Sceneggiatas! I love it!
My favorite scenegiattas and other songs sung in Neopolitan Italian and their singers are:
1. Guapparia: Mario Merola, Bruno Venturini
2. Accarezame: Mirna Doris, Iva Zanichi
3. 'O Fachiro: Aurelio Fierro
4. Tammurriata Nera: Angela Luce, Bruno Venturini
5. Presentimento: Angela Luce, Raffaela de Simone
6. Napule Bello: Giulietta Sacco