Red Thread No. 3047 by Ornella Ridone is more than an exhibition of embroidery. In reality, it is a “collective autobiography” of her family composed of successive generations of embroiderers. At the same time it is a visual memory “transvestite” of her lineage, i.e. disguised characters concealed in such a way that we aren’t sure who is being represented in each of her dresses, though she invokes them with her precious embroidered drawings. In her precise introduction to the project, Ornella presents the goal of her proposal to us: “to show a series of feminine articles of white clothing, which I’ve embroidered over the past two years with red thread, transforming the embroidery into its own language, to address the theme of the unconscious family dynamic. I have converted the cloth into a map of inbred relationships that show how our lives are intertwined with the destiny of our ancestors in woven fabric. Such destinies touch us deeply because we are all part of a greater whole, ordered and structured by our family system. With needle and thread I stroke a path of access to the family soul, entering in contact with old content hidden in the generational unconscious expressed through the embroidered images.”
What more can be said on the subject? Writers and curators often rewrite stories and reveal mysteries that the artist voluntarily wished to conceal, sometimes due to modesty, others to maintain the enigma of their references and evocations. This is not the case here: in this sample of art, more than textile, Ornella Ridone shamelessly bares all using her dresses and embroidered family, more worth the paradox. Perhaps what corresponds to me on this occasion is the task of planning out other mental threads of her sentimental embroideries, unraveling them with admiration and patience, intoxicating me with their suggestive images. In short, they lead me to the brink of the most deliciously subjective interpretations … about ghosts, for example.
Consider that Ornella Ridone officiates this refection on the family soul, and in many aspects, also on the feminine identity, from her double and indissoluble condition of woman and artist. This is done, as would say Thomas Mann, with a multi-colored and mobile phantasmagoria of images which clearly leave us with the ideal, the spiritual: “Revealed here is the mediating task of the artist, their magical hermetic role of mediator between the upper and lower worlds, between the idea and the phenomenon, between the spirit and sensibility, because this is in fact the cosmic position, so to speak, of art.” Another spiritual dimension that we have encountered is clearly demonstrated in Paul Klee’s works, particularly in his drawings and watercolors. It is a way of him knowing himself, giving voice and image to the world and its core issues. Thus Klee expressed in his diaries, “know yourself…”
Without a doubt, Ornella Ridone possesses her own unique world, but also a style and esthetic that characterizes and differentiates this world of art without adjectives: the peculiar calligraphy of the embroideries, the slow automatism, the superimposed hatchings, their chromatic vibration, the primitive and intuitive forms which are transparent without effort, the expressive esthetical coexistence of the abstract (natural) and the figurative (built/constructed), the poetic significance, cosmic yearnings, the search for a body, a face, spooky even, and, that question the spectator.
Hillary Putnam points out that the relationship established between our mental representations and the external objects to which they refer is a “literal similarity.” That representation or mental image was called
a “ghost” by Aristotle; the ghost shared a form with an external object, i.e. they were similar, (although not the same). For the mind, the ghost represented the object; both the mental and object image; but they did not share properties, according to the Greek. For example, the “redness”, i.e. the “redness” in our mind is not the same literal property as the “redness” of the true object. Thus the relationship of similarities was understood, the formal, the mental, and the “objective” analogies; until the empiricism of the 18th century, when philosopher Georges Berkeley overthrew the Aristotelian hypothesis, as- serting that the mechanism of the reference is the similarity between our ideas, i.e. our images or ghosts and what they represent to us. No idea, (mental image) can represent or refer to something else that isn’t an image or a sensation.
We can only conceive, think and refer to phenomenal objects. Hillary Put- nam concludes, “Nothing can be similar to a feeling or image except another feeling or image.”
This reflection is relevant to the necessary connections between the sentiments and sensations that Ornella expresses about the issue of women, grandmothers, mothers and sisters, and in her committed and solidary subjectivity and formal treatment transfigured in this series of unnerving embroidered dresses. Everything fits and is ex- pressed in the face, noted Walter Benjamin, of the allegorical: “Everything from history since the beginning of time holds untimely pain, failure, and are expressed through the face; or better said in the skull. This is fully expressed as an enigma, not only human existence in general, but also the biographical history of an individual.” What better allegory than a blurred, formless body, behind a veil of ignorance, the perpetual sadness or the melancholy white of these familiar characters? What landscape more pertinent than that of these rewritten lattices, reinterpreted threads that are only known by the person who embroidered them, drawing and hiding any individual identity of its ghost charac- ters? Yes phantoms, beings who constantly and invariably repeat their actions far from real time, in a sort of “vigilant somnambulism”, like hypnotized prisoners of a horrible circular nightmare anchored to the center of a fixed idea.
Imagine the female lineage of Ornella Ridone bereaved in white, women who are hidden by their domestic habits like ghosts. They also cry silently for their massacred children or suicides by patriarchal fanaticism, and proverbial irrational machismo. They are women embroiderers; “Penelopes” dry of tears from so much crying after the imprisonment of their veils, and the permanent hopeless waiting only the owners of the cries of pain know with bloodied lips and the terrible makeup that decorated them. They are opaque, with deaf cries caught like bitter water in old pipes. The ghosts emit their cries in an ul- tra frequency barely audible to the human ear; we only recognize them because they shake us and raise our hair on end. So I feel the great power of Ornella’s images and their reverberation in my guts..
For some time I have blindly believed that the key to the interpretation of our present and near future, and also perhaps their solutions, come from women and by a new symbolic female order, (composed certainly of new feminine attributes and the renovated figures that represent them). What better than art, who better than the artist, to give image and visibility to this uncertain future. In art, it isn’t so essential to see how to make things visible, so stated Paul Klee in his diaries, and thus what I suspect and in- terpret from this series of artwork of Ornella Ridone. To make ghosts visible, our own or of others, is also a task of art.
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