At the river Vittoria sits at the base of the tree and poses. She does it easily, naturally, because she knows what a beautiful image it will make. If I weren’t so intent on f-stop, shutter speed and light level I might tell her those steel mill smoke stacks and dark metal buildings across the swiftly moving river are right out of the urban nightmares of Charles Sheeler. Or that these exposed tree roots represent the Italian family culture that imprisons her.
A few days earlier she had come along the nearby path, exploring. She found this little clearing, and immediately understood the significance of the massive tree, and the rushing river, and the incongruous industrial landscape. As a prisoner of her culture she is not allowed to speak of important things. Thus she reverts to the symbols and metaphors of art. Here they are in abundance.
She understands the urgent necessity of making art that expresses all that she is not permitted to say. About the sensation of being strangled, silenced. See? Words can’t tell you how tightly I am bound. You must see this image so that you won’t ever accuse me of making it up.
“Why are we here?” I asked her this morning as we walked along the path beside the river.
“You will see,” she said, smiling.
She’d called, and said, “Be ready, I’m coming. And pack your camera bag.”
“All right,” I said.
“I’m serious. Bring your cameras.”
Earlier on her solitary exploration she’d been drawn to that tree’s spreading branches, and certainly she was struck by these writhing, snake-like roots. It’s a long path and there are many trees along the way, but here the roots have been exposed by erosion of the soil.
What once was hidden deep within the earth is now revealed. Like that biblical thing about seeing through a glass darkly but now face to face. A revelation. She has a natural artist’s understanding of the profound power of symbols, how the abundance of symbol here perfectly represents her struggle. She was raised in a culture of silence, but now—through art—it is time for her to speak.
Me? I’m merely following her direction. This is her creation, not mine.