Antonella D'Elia, 1964
Getting dressed and getting dressed, undressing. It is impossible to count how many times, in life, the secular rite of dressing is repeated, renewing its magic each time. Dressing and dressing up become synonymous, and not just because - today - the look and appearance matter more than the rest. It was like this centuries and centuries ago, in distant lands, as remote as those of fairy tales. Hiding behind a dress or entrusting it with thoughts, otherwise inexpressible. Finding the lost symbols of the ancient dressing rituals is tantamount to setting fixed points in the flow of existence. It is the first step in the search for the bonds that unite the person to his identity.
The second step is to recognize the false disguises. The third is to choose one's roles and models, that is, one's clothes. Franca Marano moved along this itinerary in the 1970s. In Europe and America, the Neo-avant-gardes are the spokespersons of minimal references to origins. Languages are reduced to primary structures. The redundancy and the superfluous that characterize the civilization of consumption are denied, in the name of a restoration of more authentic values, found in myth and in nature. The direct experience of the authors is recovered, their experience. The battle is for a different centrality of the subject in the homologating apparatus of the mass media.
Franca Marano's mental habits see the light in this cultural climate. Wondering about the reasons for making art, Franca looks back. He chooses the medieval canvas, the needle and the thread and carries on his investigation of being. The problem of self-representation goes far beyond the autobiographical confession. Against the background of "weak thinking", bewilderment involves both sexes, but the thought of differences "makes new approaches visible. The highest values of Western culture have determined, for millennia, the loss of a gender culture. Neither the masculine nor the feminine, but the neutral in whose container almost all the ancient knowledge of the Mothers has been lost.
It is on the trail of this heritage that not a few authors have been working since the 1970s. The tips of the iceberg are in the United States, but the waters are also stirring in Europe. Here, the work of many artists proceeds individually, outside the ranks of the New Feminism. But looking at their works it is inevitable to find the thread that connects them to their companions from overseas. Against the imposed roles and behind the masks of the angel or the vamp (two among many), the artists belonging to Body Art fight - in the international context - for multiple shifts of meaning linked to corporeality (pleasure, desire), behaviors, to the symbols that represent them: in everyday life, in the mass media, in politics, etc.
Within this recovery of woman-identity, some languages are valued, considered marginal and belonging to female practice. Needle and thread are equated with brush and color. Franca Marano's work is linked to the culture of the body and (as in many artists of Body Art), but it starts from conceptual bases of total redefinition of making art, which involves techniques, supports, expressive means, recipients. Folds like wrinkles and wounds, points like scars, cuts like lacerations, the clothes bare the soul, showing the effect of time in the seams, and between the lapels of the dress, like a turning of the page in the story of life, feminine carpi , or parts of it, white carpi of corpses or angels. The essentiality of the "mental clothes" against all the fashions of the star-system, against all advertising clamor, invites you to stop, empty yourself, regenerate yourself. Thinking back to oneself, cleaning up the soul, rediscovering innocence, are points of no return in the journey that leads to knowledge and rebirth: the bringing into the world of the new genre. Far beyond the mechanical rigidity of Minimalism, in which the essentiality of language reaffirms the separate purity of thought, the emptying of much European art to regenerate itself takes on a cathartic and initiatory value. The next stop on this journey is the story. Personal history becomes collective and in the search for signs, symbols, figures, colors, rediscovers a complex language that reunites the body and the word, the image and the matter, the present and the past.
Franca Maranò realizes, in the eighties, the "Cantastorie". The canvases become screens on which to sew, paint, glue, cut out. The shreds find a unity in the body of the story that is given in its immediacy. The narrator is disguised as a classical statue, a metaphor for art. The life of a woman linked to her aesthetic research appears beyond false myths. The story is revelation: of truth, fictions, illusions. It is the coexistence of joy and pain. It is discovery. Not without bitterness, not without a cry. As after a catastrophe, life starts again from a minimum. A new clarity emerges in the confusion. The mind and the hand find a new symbolic order. The cycle begins with "La Storia". It is 1982. Nine stations on the canvas mark some stages, like a calendar of existence. A symbol for every moment. A bouquet of flowers and life begins. A black cotton braid, an ivy leaf and sewn alongside, small examples of Mental Clothing.
The story becomes "Autobiography" (1992) and opens with a cloth diary, on the title page of which, the author writes shouting: "I live". The work becomes a proof of existence. The colors darken, the bright reds testify to an energy that can no longer be contained. The story is enriched with new symbols. In the "anxiety" (1992) a tiger, crows, a wheel are blocked by the net that surrounds them. Even the sun is a prisoner. It is the story of an intimate battle, poised between freedom and slavery. The figure that stands on the the canvas is in danger. The events, never concluded, ignite doubts, demand answers, invite relationships. These are words that open a dialogue, ignite the imagination and Franca, rediscovering the ancient ritual of being together to tell each other, invites us all, to listen to ancient legends or modern tales, his and our stories.