"I am, I am, I am"



Marilena Nardi, The Trust.
As a student at our National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst), it fell to me to go through the museum archives.

Archives are the deposits of saucy dirt and I found the answer to a question sent from the Department of Education about the time of the inauguration of the museum in 1896, whether it, given its status, would offer positions to women?

The answer was as short as it was definitive: Women lack the training and education needed - we have no use for them.

I sent a copy to my mentor, Louise Arnheim at the Royal Library and she uncovered their rather specific answer: Nope! No way and no thank you. Women will only swipe down the books from the shelves with their skirts.

Cultural reasoning to the biological question and no one saw the difference.


Marilena Nardi, Psyche and Analysis (S. Freud).


That man of the many words above. He was but one of those constructing theories on female existence according to his personal accommodation.

Marilena Nardi turns the table on Freud, taking him on his word. As always she has kept the color at a minimum so that nothing shall take away our attention from the deformation taking place before us. Yet, he sees nothing of what he is causing to the female body.

Marilena Nardi, Suffocating Love.
The deformation of the soul. She is Psyche, the personification of being alive, literally to breathe.

Marilena Nardi has drawn the bell jar of more than the tormented woman sealed off to the world; she has added the reason why. This is the heart of the tormented and her attempt at clawing a way out, of calling out, and in spite of the bright light she is exposed to, a shadow falls across her face.

Winging herself open, starving for oxygen, with the sense that the oxygen is being eaten from her, to paraphrase the poem Tulips by Sylvia Plath. The Bildungsroman of woman involves a mental institution.

A woman in literature breaking the mold of her life to forge a path for herself, does so in the name of passion, we have learned through the past centuries. Tragedy looms ahead. She goes mad or ends up underneath a train.

And Sylvia Plath has so far been defined by her death, not her writing.
Marilena Nardi, June 16. 2017.



So let us change the angle from that of implosion and reflect pain, struggle, courage and passion for the grandeur it deserves in the same light of how we see the traditional male fictional figure.

The women before us fight for their lives and they bleed for it, but they do not perish.

Marilena Nardi, Pain, December 10, 2016.

We recognize in the artworks by Marilena Nardi the bodies before us from the greatest of artistic expressions. The exertion into utter deformation. That is grandiosity on the scale of The Sistine Chapel.

In his 1753-treatise The Analysis of Beauty William Hogarth sighed how Michelangelo at one point in his life included snakes ad nauseam in his compositions.

A snake serves double duty by being a meandering line, the beginning of all drawing, as well as bringing the drama by being added to the pyramidal shape of for instance the placing of a human body. The pyramid is the perfection of proportionality, brought to life by the swirling line around that nude human body, immobilizing him, while he will struggle back, almost bursting his muscles in the fight for life.

Look no further, a body striving for its pyramidal composition, at once achieved by way of its shadow and sabotaged by it. The bodies by Marilena Nardi battle a textural drama between the smooth sensuality of the marble and the accents of the humans within, bleeding from their wounds.


Marilena Nardi, The Shadow, June 20. 2017.
- not an illustration of, but accompanied by the words by Alda Merini:
"Those like me look forward, even if the heart always remains a few steps behind"


Hogarth was paraphrasing the 1584-treaty on the arts by Paolo Lomazzo, who would define certain characteristics to specific artists. "Movement" was ascribed to Michelangelo.

Of Lomazzo's categories, Marilena Nardi fits just the one of Michelangelo. Not to take from Raphael nor Leonardo, but in Marilena we have she, who dares to go all the way of limbs out of proportions, bursting, breaking asunder, testing how far she can take her idea and driving each new drawing beyond the ones that went before.

For comparison a face would grow mythological flowers in a painting by Botticelli. The woman of Marilena Nardi grips the flowers and reverses the movement for her own need. The bending in extremis of her wrist teases the move from fluid femininity to determination.


Marilena Nardi, Spring, March 24, 2017.


Bleeding from their wounds, but not dissolved. Let us give the last word to Sylvia Plath from The Bell Jar in which the protagonist takes part in the funeral of her friend, who hanged herself. Whereas the protagonist:

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am".
Marilena Nardi, The Rock



The cartoons shown are courtesy of Marilena Nardi and must not be reproduced without her permission.


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