We the Innocents
oss of innocence. It’s what parents try to prolong and adults regret in their own lives. Yet while we often get caught up in the specifics of who and when and why, in reality one might argue that all of that is actually secondary to the fact of the loss itself. For your parents it may have been a deal-for-arms scandal, soulless agreements made by their political leaders that tore a nation from its sleepy cocoon. For you it may have been something far more personal: the beloved friend of the family who cornered you behind closed doors. Your father’s addiction. Your mother’s secret.
Trust betrayed. Faith destroyed. Innocence lost. If you’re an artist, you can take this loss and use it. That doesn’t mean you can rewrite what happened or how it wrenched your soul. That event, that education, forever changed you, and as a result you have never been quite the same person since. You cannot undo the loss of innocence, but by naming this loss or by taking that once-you child to your lap and holding her close and rocking her, whispering into her ear that you have not forgotten how she once was, how precious that sense of wonder, the play without fear…then you as artist can do something really quite powerful. Not only for herself, but for us all.
Luciano Civettini, painter; Italy: “The children come directly from my past. Yes, they can surely be saved. The only risk they run is to be forgotten.”
“To forget our childhood is tantamount to forgetting the story. How can we get to where we want to go if we do not remember the path we have traveled? Children have a lot to tell us. Their innocence is brilliant!”
“If I forgot the child I was, I’m sure I would never be able to paint.” . . . “I think as you grow older you lose the sincere and fresh vision of the world.” “I do not know what makes a good artist, but I know what I do as an artist; and I think that this ingredient is essential to my painting, and perhaps art in general. It is the poignant melancholy that comes from memory and absence.”
“I find it very poetic that at age forty-five, many of the dreams I had as a child have become impossible to realize by now.”
“I believe that any absence causes pain. We are disappointed when we miss something, and so as an artist this gives me the opportunity to transform that pain or sadness into a painting. Into something different. The secret? Play. Art for me is a game, the place where I can say and do what everyday life prohibits.”
Aron Demetz, sculptor; Italy:
At first glance, Civettini’s almost naive watercolors have nothing in common with the wooden sculptures carved by fellow countryman, Aron Demetz. While Civettini’s party dress and costume-clad children and peace-loving animals suggest innocence and a sweeter, simpler time, Demetz pieces appear almost stoic as they face the rituals they are subjected to. But look closer: . “This piece is called ‘Initiation’ and is the representation of a procession that is used in our area, bringing the country around the saints of the church. At a girl’s first communion she normally dresses as an immaculate virgin. Here, I have replaced this with a copy of the girl herself.”
Consider the significance of his burned human figures, life-sized pieces that begin as old-growth trees and end as charcoal. Certainly burning is a violent act, and fire, of the four natural elements, one might argue is the most destructive. To purposefully inflict this torment on one’s own artwork seems an act of self-sabotage, a brilliant but cannibalistic ritual born of anger. Or is there something even deeper at play? By setting fire to his own work, Demetz is metaphorically removing the outside facade of the people he carves. His very direct way of revealing humanity’s elemental essence. Devoid of pretense. Innocent. Demetz is taking us back to our very roots. Literally.
Demetz: “For me, the act of burning is so important; for what remains is Truth, clear and unmistakably raw.”
“It’s a way of not only being clear and unequivocal, but a means by which one reverts back to zero.”
And these? Humans maneuvering around on all fours, their gait awkward and inefficient?
“Solid fragility,” says Demetz. “An opportunity to start again.”
Mehmet Mustafa Bulakçıbaşı, documentary photographer; Istanbul, Turkey:
“I’m trying to do this on my own, not part of any organization. I am from here, these are my people. But here is difficult to take pictures. These are Ghost Villages. Those who can fight, go. The children and elderly are left behind. Heavy and difficult life for children and elderly. Secondary lives. Marginalized because they are forgotten. “
“Turkey has been fighting terrorism, you know. From Everywhere: Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran. And these people live in these areas. Gold also great risk to children and the elderly. So much chaos. All because of addiction to oil and comfortable living. But I am not concerned with who is fighting. Each side, the situation the same: the elderly and the children always get crushed.”
“I want to testify. Obviously this is not so easy. Region is politically conservative. But when they see that you value them and understand them, they open their world to you.”
“Everywhere, very young children, as young as three years old, wandering barefoot in the cold mud villages…”
These children deserve to live better than this. They watch me from their broken windows and doorways, curious eyes watching…Their world is very small.” . “What is happiness? They do not know. For them, happy because they have a new pair of rubber shoes.” . “I have witnessed hundreds of children and elderly living like this. I saw. I felt. I put myself in their place, enter their souls. I understand and so try to tell others. This is their story. These photos belong to the people living in villages and caves in Istanbul.” . “When you enter the village as an outsider, you must become part of the village immediately. Explain what your purpose is. That you are here to try to understand them. This should give them a sense of confidence. Only then will you gain entrance into these people’s homes…even their souls….“
“These photographs are my way to give voice. To show the rest of the world how people live here, in the caves, mountain villages, extreme poverty. This should not be so. These are human beings. Because I am a person, I am responsible for this situation. It is a heavy burden.”
“As a child I grew up in these conditions. Now I have lived a long time separate from them. When I came back, the children seem even younger. All the rest has not changed.”
“I think my role as a photographer is to read their expressions, their expectations of life in their faces.”
“I try to convey. I find again and again almost the same expression on the faces. I see pain…poverty…but also hope.”
“Each child is me, you see…I am one of those children.”
Luciano Civettini, painter, Italy: http://www.civettiniluciano.com
Mehmet Mustafa Bulakçıbaşı, documentary photographer; Istanbul, Turkey: mehmetmustafa.bulakcibasi
Aron Demetz, sculptor, Italy: http://www.arondemetz.it
Great post today. I really enjoyed your photos very much. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for stopping by, Friend.
I always feel a strong jolt in the stomach, (or many would say to the heart?) when I discover new sculptures by Aron Demetz, one of the few artists who I respect in the last generation Italian, that his recent path where the fire becomes average combustor is exceptional . I love these works, they come to me in the flesh with their deep black, they are a confirmation of death who slays in the life that pressed under my skin, feeling the luck is fighting, the sense that I lead is the sublime. Of them are obscure, they are part of the genealogy of Hades
Thanks for leaving your comment, Agostino. I will make sure he sees this! I so enjoyed our discussion about Aron’s work when I first came across them. Valuable insights!
” Loss of innocence. It’s what parents try to prolong and adults regret in their own lives. ”
Interesting Trilogy of Expressions. Your quoted words above took me directly to the un-truths our parents told us. We now know our parents were told versions of fairy-tales as well. Santa Claus, the Easter Rabbit and: ” Yes, if we are good, we go to heaven when God calls us. ”
I have no children to tell such lies to, life is not a fairy-tale nor a TV show, it is directed upon high need for greed by few while the masses suffer as well-illustrated by the three above.
Thank you Deanna.
Would that we all had someone caring and perceptive to guide us through our youth, Dennis.
We cannot invoke a “do-over” for what’s already passed, but we can take what we’ve learned and use it to become gentle and forgiving friends to who we are now. And for one another. And what is more lovely than that? x
“I think as you grow older you lose the sincere and fresh vision of the world.”
“Each child is me, you see…I am one of those children.”
These will linger on my mind. Thank you for this post!
So glad their words resonated with you, Mariko. I agree, both wise and beautiful, even as they seem contradictory. Reminds us how much of life is perception–reality borne of expectations.
dear Deanna ;
for your support ,
all behalf of the people living in difficult conditions
offer deepest thanks ….
photography , should serve the purpose of …!
mehmet mustafa BULAKÇIBAŞI
Your talent is a gift, Mehmet. To all of us. Lovely interviewing you. x
Every time I receive an email telling me there’s a new post here I seem to drop everything & race over to read it. I never regret it.
The painting, the sculpture and finally the photography combine in a wonderfully symbiotic way that leaves me with a lot to think about.
Sweeter words I could not hope to read, Thank you, Andy. Coming from a writer with your skill makes this dearer still.
wow… coming from you that’s quite a compliment… thank you…
The innocent within each of us is the child left out in the cold and mud; this is what this page expresses to me. Let us each remember to care for the innocents, within and without.
Yes. Precious words, Jillian!
What a wonderful choice putting these three so different artists together but with all such complimentary and compelling works, the sculpture left me deliciosly disturbed whilst Luciano Civettinis’ paintings magic spun a web of childhood memories around me scary yet strangely calming,and finally the photographer, those little lonely feet amongst curious shy eyes.
Wisrful and truthful.
So poetically expressed, Tash! So glad you stopped by!
Deanna. I liked your page. When we our use art to highlight social inequality then we bring it into the consciousness of the wider population, do so, we speak/advocate for those who do not have a voice.
I agree, Andy. A gift to others as well as ourselves. x
Very moving and human in the painting and in the narrative. A tender portrait of the meaning of compassion and a vivid depiction of the raw ingredients that go into the creation of art and the making of a life. Thank you.
Lovely words, Chet. Thank you.