There was a time, before all this street art, when a significant amount of graffiti was private messages of love. Was carving a heart and initials on a tree tradition and did farmers complain about kids tagging their trees. Or was this only in the cartoons? (I don’t know as I’ve only once carved my name into a tree – in 1975 on a baobab tree that was covered in names by the highway in Mozambique.)
Now the personal messages of love are kind of rare although you can still see them around. It is not that there isn’t as much love around but the expression of it has changed.
In Europe the padlock is another kind of personal symbol of love that I have seen on the street. A padlock is attached to public railing and the padlock becomes a metaphor for the strength of the relationship.
I missed St. Valentine’s Day for this entry because I was thinking about my darling Catherine.
Vitor Manfredi’s art paintings and sculptures are hard to explain as they combine whimsy and biology, the cute and erotic. They are attractive and repulsive at the same time. I saw his exhibition, Delirium, in the small back gallery space at Jenny Port Gallery. I had seen his exhibition, Conference, last year and I wanted to see more.
The key to Manfredi’s art lies in one of his polymer clay and acrylic painted sculptures in the exhibition, titled Empedocles. It is a strange creature a finger with a tiny ear, a talon and a breast. Empedocles of Acagras in Sicily, (c. 492-432 BC) was a pre-Socratic philosopher, mystic, healer and democratic politician who believed in the mystical power of Love.
In attempting to explain the origins of life and the similarities between different life forms Empedocles developed a theory of evolution. “According to fragments B57, B59, B60, and B61, first of all individual limbs and organs were produced from the earth. These wandered separately at first and then under the combining power of Love they came together in all sorts of wild and seemingly random hybrid combinations, producing double fronted creatures, hermaphrodites, ox-faced man creatures and man-faced ox-creatures.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/empedocl.htm
This mystical biological theory of life explains a lot about the strange creatures in Manfredi’s art. (Empedocles was not alone amongst the pre-Socratic philosopher to try to explain the origins of life; Anaximander of Miletus (d. c.547/6 BC) maintained that all living things, including humans, originated from slime. These ancient thinkers demonstrate what an impediment Christianity is to biological science.)
Empedocles’s belief in Love, as a primary cosmic force, is evident in Manfredi’s art. His art is full of love dripping with secretions and longing for unions. It is at the heart of all his work.