The writing’s on the wall

“Anna, it’s going to be awesome and it’s going to be… massive!”

I first heard about Opiemme last summer, when my friend Ivan Barreca started raving about how the Turin-based street artist with a passion for poetry was about to arrive in Sicily, to paint a huge mural in the center of his home town of Menfi.

Opiemme’s street art is site-specific, meaning that he often incorporates references to local history and the words of a neighborhood poet in his work.

In Menfi, Opiemme painted the name of the town across a 26m long by 4.5m high wall in the old Grotte del Purgatorio district, filling each of the giant letters with the words of  Menfi-born poets Maria Mistretta, Rosetta Di Blasi, Claudia Calcagno and Nino Ardizzone.

9-Menfi

The artichokes, olive branches, and bunches of grapes dotted amidst the letters which he stenciled in the background are symbols of the town’s centuries-old agricultural traditions.

For the inhabitants of the seaside town, which, like much of the surrounding Valle del Belice, has never fully recovered from the earthquake which hit this area of Sicily in 1978, the mural provided an unexpected opportunity to reflect on their past and present identity – as well as a great backdrop for an infinite series of individual and group selfies posted on the various social networks.

Menfi selfies

Menfi was one of many stops on a journey through painting and poetry which saw Opiemme travel the length and breadth of Italy (covering more than 5000 kms by train and bus). In fact, during the long hot summer of 2013, he left his mark on the walls and pavements of Turin, Bologna, Rieti, Pizzo Calabro, Faggiano, Ariano Irpino, Genoa, Tirano and Rome.

In each town or city, the artist created a mural or installation using stencils, paint and the words of the poets he loves.

In his home-city of Turin, Opiemme painted a Raven, the  feathers of which were formed with the words of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem; in Bologna he challenged the locals with his stencil of a hefty hound and the proposal “show me your dog and I’ll tell you who you are”; in Genoa, he created the site-specific installation “Jupiter”, which provided the stage for a stunning piece by the performance dancer Olivia Giovannini.

Genova

One of my favorite works is the one which Opiemme painted on the wall of the headquarters of Ziguline Magazine in Ariano Irpino, in the province of Avellino.

The artist spent all 4 days of the 14th Ariano Folk Festival dripping over 30 liters of paint down a 150sqm wall, creating a cascade of color onto which he stenciled dandelions and the words of the local poet Franco Arminio “We are here in the midst of this wind, a wind that blows even when still”

Ariano

 

Permission for use of photography kindly granted by Opiemme.

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