As mentioned in the previous post, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Collemacchia and tried to refrain from researching too much before I arrived. One thing that I did find out about, prior to embarking on the residency, was the presence of votive shrines in the area.
I’ve been interested in votives for a while although I’ve never had the opportunity to research them thoroughly and my attraction to them has been based mainly on aesthetics. I’ve briefly researched images of ceramic or metal votives, crafted to represent specific body parts, and Mexican ex-votos and retablo. A number of things drew me to these items; their folk-art quality, the boxes or frames that the votive shrines are housed in, the scale of smaller shrines, the use of bright colours, patterns and symbols and the breakdown of the body or ideas into isolated objects (e.g. a single eye or hand). I’m not a religious person and because of this, I didn’t really think of the votives in terms of spirituality. I found it a struggle to connect with the idea of directing time, energy and belief towards these objects from a spiritual standpoint and chose to appreciate their qualities as objects and works of art.
When I found out there were votive shrines in Collemacchia, Filignano, and Venafro, I asked Tracy (one half of the Museum of Loss and Renewal and host of the residency) where the sites were but she only specified one which was situated on a path in the middle of a wooded area; difficult to find without direction. The rest of the 17 that I managed to find were displayed in villages and towns; mainly outside homes or churches. There were statues, usually housed in alcoves or small cabinets, and majolica tiles showcasing more flair and colour. The tiles were made in Naples by craftsmen and apparently, some of the text contains spelling mistakes where the text has been copied verbatim, from the request or commission, without making corrections.
I photographed all of the votive shrines I found and I’m researching further into the majolica tiles and the images adorning those. The statues that were housed in niches and cabinet structures have been a source of inspiration for a series of small lino cuts. I began working on these prints while in Collemacchia and have continued adding images to the collection since I’ve returned to the UK. As well as capturing the statues and votives I have also incorporated other niches that I found cut into walls in the villages. They contained weeds, pieces of old pipe, rags and other mundane items but I’m interested in the way their appearance and the framing of objects within the recesses mimics the aesthetic qualities of the structures housing the religious icons.
I’ve included some of the photos and images of my sketches and initial prints. This is an ongoing project and eventually, I’m aiming to build up a body of work around this subject, though there’s a lot of research to do.