In my idle moments
I look at my hands.
Surfaces furrowed with blue cords
Where blood flows to feed life.
I owe it to them
The indefatigable activity
Obedience to my every thought.
(Franca Maranò, My hands )
When Franca Maranò passed away in June 2015, in her nineties, few perhaps remembered her, the artist from Bari with a long, courageous militancy, protagonist of female art in Puglia in the late twentieth century. Nonconformist, always experimenting with new techniques and new languages, her artistic story, in the period of maturity and maximum success, is strictly connected to the twenty-year activity of the Centrosei Gallery. Founded in 1970 by the will of six artists (Umberto Baldassarre, Mimmo Conenna, Sergio Da Molin, Franca Maranò, Michele Depalma, Vitantonio Russo), the Centrosei, born more precisely as a Cultural Association, carried out in the seventies and eighties, next to the Gallery Marilena Bonomo, an important role in supporting and disseminating the latest avant-garde trends in the visual arts. Furthermore, the Gallery, which was located in a space on the north side of the Petruzzelli Theater, has promoted and enhanced numerous emerging artists from Puglia, "who have always been mortified by the critical, informative and structural void that surrounds the work of young people and southern artists in particular . "
At the time of the foundation of the Centrosei Franca Maranò already had a rich curriculum of pictorial and sculptural experiences behind her - her activity as a ceramist, however, of vigorous polychrome panels, characterized by a particular constructiveness of the sign, is still to be discovered - and prestigious exhibitions also outside the region. She was flanked and tenaciously supported by her husband Nicola De Benedictis who, after the crumbling of the historic group of the Gallery, became its "Director" guiding the fate of the new Centrosei for another ten years, until it closed in 1991. Thanks to the painstaking work of De Benedictis we are now in possession of the complete archive of the Gallery, donated in 2010, shortly before his death, to a Department (today Letters, Languages, Italian Arts and Comparative Cultures) of the University of Bari. allowed to retrace the history of Centrosei which for over twenty years was also a place of primary importance for the artistic culture of the city of Bari and Puglia.
Alongside her husband in the management of the Gallery, it is thanks to Franca Maranò to have imposed a very specific address aimed, starting from 1974, increasingly on the contribution of women, who, on the wave of the feminist movement, proposed decidedly innovative works, introducing unpublished works. performative practices. Among the artists invited by the Centrosei are some of the most deployed and committed protagonists of the Italian scene, both in the field of female art and in the more authentically feminist one, by the well-known essayist and scholar Mirella Bentivoglio, active above all in the field of Visual Poetry, to Tomaso Binga (pseudonym of Bianca Menna), dedicated to the practice of art as writing. The Roman Lucia Romualdi, the Genoese Elisa Montessori, the Neapolitan Anna Maria Pugliese, the American by Italian adoption Adele Plotkin are placed on the same line of the awareness of the woman artist and the research on female identity. , Ada Costa from Bari and Maria Lai from Sardinia, the latter, with works on bread, looms and beautiful sewn books, close to the new Maranò investigations.
In one of her numerous poetic declarations, the Bari-based artist clearly states that it was the feminist movement that led her to revise the terms of her research, "also in order to satisfy my need to operate outside the culture of privilege and no longer related to the codes of the already done and with the traditional pictorial means. " So the artist resorted to the needle, the thread and the canvas, "out of a heartfelt need for a creative freedom aimed at recovering meanings that seemed lost." The series of Mental Dresses and Sewing, now brought together and re-proposed - together with some groups of pictorial works of the sixties and seventies - in a small but evocative exhibition are, without a doubt, as Pietro Marino writes, "a milestone" in history of the neo-avant-gardes in Puglia. Sensitive interpreter of her art, Franca Maranò once confessed to the difficulty of talking about mental habits, which "represent a utopia" in which one can recognize "a discipline of the spirit". This problematic statement appears symptomatic of the complex personality of our artist, of her cultural depth and of her continuous, often painful research, carried out as is typical of every authentic artist, in painful loneliness and anxious hopes.
Bari, October 2017
Christine Farese Sperken
extract from La Magia delle Mani, Adda Editore, Bari
The Archive and Franca Maranò's family express their gratitude to all those who took part in the long and complex work of recovering, cataloging and enhancing the artist's work. For her critical commitment and academic research, we thank Professor Christine Farese Sperken; for the first cataloging, thanks to Doctors Nicola Zito and Liliana Tangorra; for the organizational and promotional commitment, we thank Anna Gambatesa and Misia Arte Gallery; for this website, we thanks Nicola Guastamacchia.