Art Through Time: A Global View
Death Art: My Love Sings When the Flower is Near (The Philosopher and the Woman)
Angelo Filomeno’s work, My Love Sings When the Flower is Near (The Philosopher and the Woman), is a highly personal, bittersweet tribute to the artist’s parents, both of whom died when he was young.
Filomeno created this work by embroidering fine silk thread onto fabric with a sewing machine and attaching crystals to the surface. His precise craftsmanship has produced an image that is paradoxically romantic and macabre, poignant and humorous.
Two skeletons, representing the artist’s parents, fly on a broom across an indigo night sky. Above them a crescent moon is partially eclipsed by a skull; below, a cityscape, composed of hundreds of tiny crystals, glitters. The shimmering surface of the work elicits a visceral reaction from the viewer. However, the artist has also invested the work with symbolic meaning and autobiographical reference. The metropolis over which the skeletal couple passes is Los Angeles, the City of Angels. The broom on which the figures ride is not the vehicle of witches, but an object that the artist associates with his past. Used to sweep up olives that fell from the many olive trees on his family’s land, brooms were a familiar sight during Filomeno’s childhood in Italy.
My Love Sings When the Flower is Near deals with themes quite literally threaded throughout Filomeno’s oeuvre. By creating images of skulls, skeletons, insects, and other “dark” things out of rich, light-reflecting materials, Filomeno offers visions of beauty that offset the imminence of death and the pain of loss. Even when they draw on personal memories, Filomeno’s works speak to what is universal in the human experience.
Angelo Filomeno, Artist
“I am from Italy. My main medium is embroidery and silk. I lost my mother when I was twelve and my father when I was nineteen. I am taking that experience as inspiration of my work. But also my work is not just personal, since death is about everybody, and in any culture and in any part of the world. Always you will see in my work the contradiction of subject matter with the richness of the material. So I want the audience to feel death and that grief, but also to feel a little bit surprised, and to feel a little bit relieved, and to see something that is beautiful. So at the same time you forget what you are seeing, but what you are seeing about death, but you are seeing something more beautiful and precious.
In my skeletons there are some elements—there are natural elements, there are flowers. The skeletons look dead, but they are not dead; they are alive. So I am bringing them to life again. My favorite piece is one of the three pieces that I did for the Venice Biennale. And the title is My Love Sings When the Flower is Near. So it’s really about the love of two persons, which are my parents, and actually she is wearing a kind of flower in her hair. So it’s actually my father saying that to her, ‘My love sings when the flower is near.’ The broomstick represents a memory when I was child that since we had a lot of property and a lot of olive trees so we used the brooms to sweep olives and to make olive oil.”
“Angelo Filomeno.” Galerie Lelong Web site. http://www.galerielelong.com/artists.
Cotter, Holland. “Art in Review; Angelo Filomeno.” New York Times, November 23, 2001, Arts section, New York edition.
Ravenal, John B. Vanitas: Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art.Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2000.
Spears, Dorothy. “Costume Shop Boy Makes Good.” New York Times, February 12, 2006. Arts section, New York edition.