Another of my favorite sculptures that Franco Alessandrini created is in his home country, Italy. It stands, actually it’s seated, on a stone wall at the Monte Casale Monastery overlooking a magical valley.
It is sculpted in white Carrara marble, the same material Michelangelo used to sculpt “David”. Franco and his family live in Italy each summer, where they live on a mountain top near Arezzo. From here he can more easily supervise the quarrying of the stone he will use for his next project.
I remember fondly how, in 2005, they invited all of us (we were a party of fifteen!) to join their Fourth of July celebration on their mountain top. I believe the entire town was present. It was a perfect melding of two cultures, complete with a roasted suckling pig, a Tuscan flag waver, a local rock band, American apple pie and brownies, and fireworks. After the medieval flag-waving demonstration, my niece beamed with utter delight and exclaimed: “This is just like being in the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’”. I smile when I remember how a small group of us, mostly the teens in our party, broke out and sang “America the Beautiful” and other American patriotic songs during the fireworks.
Little did we know that less than two months later, their lives would be turned completely upside down.
The Alessandrinis returned to their home in New Orleans in time to see Hurricane Katrina come looming into the region. The majority of New Orleans’ citizens evacuated frantically and witnessed the effects of the hurricane and subsequent flood through news reports from their scattered destinations. The Alessandrinis first fled to Texas and then to Italy, where they stayed for one year before returning. The feeling of helplessness and disorientation left a deep-seated feeling of displacement in their souls. Over three years after Hurricane Katrina, in November 2008, Franco Alessandrini installed a sculpture on his rooftop to express the collective sense of displacement in New Orleans.
The wind starts to blow and the rain beats down on her deck. The waves begin to rock her gently at first then become huge swells likened to those you see on the High Seas. She is pitched violently into the dock time and time again. She is beaten. Desperate.
She panics to free herself, to save herself, as a horse would that is tied in its stall as the water rises.
Her mooring lines snap and she is set free. Set free to sail but faces more peril ahead.
The water recedes and she finds herself in a place she never dreamed of being.
Under her there is no water where she once glided with the wind. Now she is still. Trapped in this foreign land.
I liken this boat to my soul. The soul that I lost in the storm. My soul that I hope to reunite with one day.
I liken this boat to the thousands of people who were beaten by the winds, rain and leve breaks.
You may wonder how this 30-foot, 5,000 pound boat is secured up on that roof; here is the structure that holds her:
Images from Franco Alessandrini's website.