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Monsters, death and the Mona Lisa stripping: Lorenzo Alessandri, father of Italian surrealism
07.15.2015
11:06 am
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At the end of World War II, Italian artist Lorenzo Alessandri opened up his first studio, naming it “Attic Macabre,” a clear indication of his artistic direction. It wasn’t until 1964 though, that he coined the term “Surfanta” (a portmanteau of surrealism and fantasy) to describe the movement he spearheaded—a wide-ranging genre of other-worldly creatures, horror, sex, mystery, occultism, and a healthy dose of religious and historical farce. He titled a magazine Surfanta, and you can even catch the word in the signage of his paintings, like morbid little Hidden Mickeys. The sheer diversity of his work makes it impossible to do a comprehensive retrospective, but I’ll cover a few of the weirdest highlights—pictures below are relatively safe for work, embedded links are… less so.

Throughout his career, Alessandri had a fascination with grotesque sexuality. He utilized a variety of subjects for the theme, including sentient genitals, anthropomorphic animals and horrifyingly lewd monsters. Not all of his prurient material was disgusting though—there was also his campy “groovy chick” phase, which often featured regular pin-up style ladies in surreal settings. Sometimes the babes themselves were psychedelic—often a shade of electric blue, and sometimes they hung out with his occult characters or his sex-monsters (though they stop short of doing anything hardcore).

In my opinion, Alessandri’s most fascinating and sophisticated work is his series of contemporary fantasy scenarios, which deal most readily with the politics and history of the modern world. The KKK lord over a naked woman before an atom bomb and a gorilla. Mona Lisa does a striptease before an animalian bourgeoisie (he also did a version where she had a penis). There’s also a ton of occult imagery. Airplanes piloted by skeletons (he loves those) roll by estates, landmarks and villages. Shadowy figures—perhaps demonic creatures or paranormal monks—are busy, perhaps frantic. The worlds he created are complex and mysterious—an inscrutable delight.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Amber Frost
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07.15.2015
11:06 am
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Get your luxurious goth on with the skeleton sculptures of Rome
08.07.2014
09:34 am
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Sant’Agostino, memorial to Cardinal Giuseppe Ranato Imperiali, by Paolo Posi (design) and Pietro Bracci (statuary), 1741
 
There’s a romance to Catholicism that I envied growing up—services attended with Protestant grandparents provided none of the splashy aesthetics Catholicism is so famous for. We certainly weren’t graced with sculptures of super-vigorous skeletons—specifically, skeletons that aren’t letting their lack of skin and organs prevent them from leading active, productive afterlives. Skeletons with joie de décès, if you will.

These Roman skeleton sculptures (documented by Catholic death ritual hobbyist, Elizabeth Harper) exhibit an expressiveness not expected from bones of stone. Harper’s subjects hoist the doors to their own tombs, brandish banners and portraits, and even genuflect before the dead. Congregants are reminded of their own mortality, but the morbid stigma of the skeleton is eclipsed by the dynamic, lush beauty of the sculptures.
 

Gesù e Maria, memorial to Camillo del Corno by Domenico Guidi, 1682
 

San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa Grande, memorial to Maria Camilla and Giovanni Battista Rospigliosi, skeleton by Michele Garofolino, 1713
 

San Pietro in Montorio: Detail of the relief carved on the tomb of Girolamo Raimondi by Niccolo Sale, chapel designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1640
 

San Pietro in Vincoli, memorial to Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini by Carlo Bizzaccheri, died 1610
 

San Pietro in Vincoli, memorial to Cardinal Mariano Pietro Vecchiarelli, died 1639
 

Sant’Eustachio, memorial to Silvio Cavallieri, 1717
 

Santa Maria del Popolo, tomb of Giovanni Battista Gisleni, made for himself prior to his death in 1672
 

Santa Maria del Popolo, tomb of Princess Maria Eleonora Boncompagni Ludovisi, died 1745
 

Detail of the façade of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, designed by Ferdinando Fuga, 1738. The inscription on the scroll reads, “Today me, tomorrow you.”
 

Façade of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, designed by Ferdinando Fuga, 1738
 

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, memorial to Carlo Emanuele Vizzani, by Domenico Guidi, 1661
 
Via Atlas Obscura

Posted by Amber Frost
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08.07.2014
09:34 am
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Gifts for the lapsed Catholic in your life: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye prayer candles
03.15.2013
10:05 am
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Love the ritual of the Catholic Church, but hate the… everything else? Welcome the new Pope by burning one of these awesome secular “prayer” candles featuring scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Maybe pray for something like a radical change in the Church’s policy on birth control or homosexuality?
 
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Posted by Amber Frost
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03.15.2013
10:05 am
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The Vatican is the landlord of the biggest gay bathhouse in Europe!
03.12.2013
02:16 pm
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Oh this is good: As the papal conclave meets to select a new pontiff, it’s being reported by The Independent that the Vatican purchased a €23 million share of a Rome apartment block in 2008 that houses the Europa Multiclub, the continent’s largest gay sauna.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, the 76-year-old leader of the Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples and a senior Vatican “prince of the church”—due to participate in the election today at the Sistine Chapel—lives in a 12-room apartment merely yards from the sex club. There are 18 other Vatican apartments on this block.

There was one sentence that stuck out in The Independent’s reporting that I got a bit of a chuckle from:

Cardinal Dias, who is seen as a social conservative even by the current standards of the church hierarchy, is no doubt horrified to learn of the activities taking place a floor below.

Is he really? Why… tell me HOW could this be a surprise in any way to someone living in the same bloody building??? Raise your hands, how many of you reading this would be “horrified” to find that the largest gay bathhouse in all of Europe was a few yards away from your own front door? And under a circumstance like this one where the Catholic Church itself—the very organization that you yourself work for—would be the landlord? This is utterly preposterous. He sleeps one floor above it!

Furthermore, the Cardinal, is known for being a homophobe who has described homosexuality as both an “unnatural tendency” and a disease of the soul.

What I want to know is, what does Cardinal Dias think the Europa Multiclub is, if not THE LARGEST GAY BATHHOUSE IN EUROPE?

A Chipolte? An Abercrombie & Fitch? Has anyone asked him?

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.12.2013
02:16 pm
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The Lord’s work is never done
06.25.2012
02:00 pm
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The Lord’s work is never done…

Apparently.

Round of applause for Mr. Elon Green. Give the man some Twitter respeck...

Via Esquire Politics

Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.25.2012
02:00 pm
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Italian women unite to defend their priest lovers

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The sex lives of Catholic priests takes another controversial turn today with this story from Rome.  39 women who have engaged in longtime romantic relationships with priests have just penned an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI:

denouncing compulsory celibacy as a “torn up shroud.”  In the letter, the women describe the closeted lives they lead as companions to priests and ask the pope to consider that, perhaps, their men can only fulfill their priestly duties with their lives fulfilled by marriage.  “In order to become effective witnesses to the need for love, they need to embody it and experience it fully, in the way their nature demands it,” the letter said.  “Is it a sick nature?  A transgressing one?”

While the Vatican has declined comment, one of the letter’s authors, Stefania Salomone (above), is hardly afraid to voice her opinions.  The 42-year old, who’s been romantically involved with a priest on at least two occasions, points out that reconciling faith with sexuality wasn’t always so difficult, “most of the Apostles were married, and so were the presbyteroi, the elders who exercised priestly authority in the first Christian communities, as described in the Act of the Apostles and St. Paul’s letters.” 

To better help others like her, Salomone has launched a site for women romantically involved with priests.  The group letter to Pope Benedict was recently translated into (often moving) English.  You can read it in its entirety here, but it ends, stingingly, with the following quote from church critic, Eugen Drewermann:

The God that Jesus spoke about wants precisely what the Catholic Church today fears more than anything: free, happy and mature human life, which is not born of anguish, but of obedient trust and which is free from the limitations of the tyranny of a traditional theology that prefers to seek the truth of God in sacred scripture rather than in the sanctity of human life.

My Father, My Lover: Priests Struggle With Celibacy

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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05.28.2010
02:25 pm
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