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Mazzei, Valentina: "PORTRAIT OF EMILY DICKINSON," sculpture


ARTIST’S STATEMENT by Valentina Mazzei

This portrait bust of Emily Dickinson is part of an ongoing project featuring portraits of women writers from different countries and cultural backgrounds. I have given this project the title “Women of their Word”, as the women portrayed dedicated their lives to words, understood as writing, and in so doing they kept their word, the promise of their immense talent by overcoming difficulties and obstacles created, or fueled by, an androcentric society.
Women united not only by talent, but also by lives that were never easy, tormented by physical or mental illness, but who, in spite (and almost by virtue) of these difficulties are elevated to icons, representatives of a struggle against the emotional fragility inextricably linked to the social obstacles that threaten to destroy not only the expression of female creativity, but the very right of women to have a voice.
In the making of these portraits I took inspiration, in terms of their function and portable size, from the Lares and Penates, gods worshipped in ancient Rome as protectors of the household and of the state. Whilst the Lares represented the spirits of dead ancestors, the Penates were originally protectors of the penus, a word relating both to food and the place where food was kept. Their statuettes were placed in dedicated shrines in the heart of the house. The word Penates also extended to public gods, “protectors of the state and its basic needs” (Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 10, p. 1100. Edited by C. Scott Littleton, publishers: Marshall Cavendish 2005.)
The women writers portrayed in my project are therefore associated with the spiritual nourishment necessary both for individual and social development, and with a function of ancestral guardian spirits, protectors of values such as freedom of expression, both on an individual and a collective level.
By re-appropriating the classical form of the bust, so rarely dedicated to female subjects, I also intended to mitigate, through their small size, the temptation towards a rhetorical celebration preferring the more intimate setting of a private and personal devotion.

Valentina Mazzei
Rome, Italy - 8 July 2013


Emily Dickinson
23 x 14 x 11 cm
Year: 2010