"Serenity"  |  Anthony Satori

“Serenity”  |  Anthony Satori

“Words exist because of meaning.  Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words.  Where can I find someone who has forgotten words?  This is who I wish to speak with.”  — Chuang Tzu

When someone tunes out the noise of the outer world, allows their thoughts to become still and calm, and immerses themselves in the experience of a work of art, they are speaking with someone who has “forgotten” words.  This is because art exists in a mode that goes beyond mere language, reaching directly into the realm of pure meaning.BlogImage-footd

Other Spirits

“Woman Walking on Stone Pathway (Bellagio, Italy)”  |  Anthony Satori

Not long ago, I visited a small lake-side town in northern Italy called Bellagio.  On an early morning stroll, I took a photograph of the rising sun washing over a stone pathway that weaved upward from the main promenade.  As I took the picture, I was struck by how this small road had surely remained essentially unchanged for years, decades, even centuries, and I was inspired by the wonder and romance of this notion.

Not long after returning to the States, I came across a relatively obscure collection of photographs taken by one of the most influential pioneers of photography from the early 20th Century, Alfred Stieglitz.  I already knew a fair amount about Stieglitz’ life and work as an early champion of photography as a legitimate medium of creative expression; however, these particular pictures had somehow escaped my experience up until now, perhaps because they were taken before he ever opened his first gallery, even before he moved to New York.

As I was enjoying the discovery of these remarkable early photographs, I ran across a particular image that caught my eye.  It was a picture that Stieglitz took of a small cobblestone pathway in a tiny lake-side town in northern Italy.  The photograph was titled, “A Road in Bellagio, 1894.”  I was amazed.  Here, over a hundred years before my having explored this small village and having taken a photograph expressing my awe at its beauty and timelessness, Stieglitz himself had walked along this very same cobblestone promenade and felt the very same creative impulse to capture an image of a small road weaving upward from its edge.  It is wonderful how art has the ability to connect us with other spirits, even over the centuries.

Here, then, are both of the images.  The image on the left is the photograph taken by me.  The image on the right is Alfred Stieglitz’ photograph, taken in 1894.

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"Pier Over Lake Como"  |  Anthony Satori

“Pier Over Lake Como”  |  Anthony Satori

It was early morning on the shores of Lake Como, northern Italy.  I took a deep breath and savored the quiet beauty of the surroundings.  A small motor boat appeared through the fog and docked at the end of the pier, waiting for us to board.  Our group began to walk along the wooden planks toward where the vessel gently rocked in the water.  About halfway down the pier, I moved to affix the lens cap to the end of my camera, but as I did, it slipped from my grasp.  There was a gasp as we watched it spin through the air, seemingly in slow motion, bounce one time off the wood, clear the edge of the pier, and then drop unceremoniously through the surface of the water with a quiet bloop.  The lens cap then sank slowly to the bottom of the lake, coming to rest nearly ten feet under water.  We all watched in silence as it settled on the lake floor.  I gave a sigh.  The others looked at me to see what I would do.  I lifted my head, smiled and said, “It’s alright, it’s just a lens cap.  I can get another.”  I then turned and continued to walk toward the boat.  Taking my cue, the others turned to walk with me.

The Italian boatman, however, having watched the entire situation unfold, stepped off his boat and said to me with a thick Italian accent, “No, no, we get it.”  I began to protest, but quickly realized that my protestations would be to no avail as the kind boatman walked back onto his vessel and retrieved a pole with a small fishing net at the end of it.  He returned to where I stood with a smile in his eyes and a look of friendly determination on his face.  He asked me where the lens cap had landed.  I indicated an almost unseeable dark disc sitting deep in the clear water.  The boatman crouched down at the side of the pier and lowered the pole into the water, the net just barely reaching the lens cap where it lay.  He tapped it gently with the edge of the net, nudging it ever-so-slightly toward the shore.  At this point, everyone was watching with bated breath.  Every eye upon him, the kind boatman continued to gently tap the lens cap toward shore, get up and take a  few steps up the pier, and then reach down again with the net to tap it further.  The entire group stood watching each incremental move with rapt attention.  After numerous similar nudges, each yielding only the smallest of advances, he finally got the cap into shallow enough water where I could lean down over the side of the pier and retrieve it.  I pulled it up out of the water and lifted it into the air.  Everyone cheered.  The boatman stood up with a smile of triumph.  I thanked him, saying, “Grazie, signore, mille grazie.”  Feeling the appreciation, he smiled back at me and warmly replied, “Ti prego.”

Thus began our journey into Lake Como.  We started the day with a genuine show of kindness from a new friend, and the bonding that comes from a shared achievement, and this set the tone for the entire day.  As we boarded the boat, I quietly folded the still-wet lens cap into a small silk cloth and slipped it into a side pocket of my camera case.  Since that day, I have never rinsed nor cleaned that lens cap, instead keeping it just as it is, still touched with traces of the very water and earth of Lake Como, and imbued with a warm memory of a foggy morning in northern Italy.


The Galleria (Milan)

Interior, The Galleria (Milan, Italy)  |  Anthony Satori

Interior, The Galleria  |  (Milan, Italy)  |  Anthony Satori

It is difficult to rival the Italians when it comes to architecture as an art form.  Consider the awe-inspiring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, in Milan, Italy.  It is a magnificent structure built with dramatically arching panes of glass, intricate cast iron latticework, and an interior filled with paintings, mosaics, and countless other elements of architectural and artistic style. 

It was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni in 1861, and it was built between the years 1865 and 1877, also by him.   The building was named after (and financed by) Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of a newly unified Italy.

Other interesting facts:

1)  It was intended to be exactly what it is, a shopping mall.  And, over 100 years later, it still is.

2)  Whenever you go to a modern shopping mall anywhere in the world and it is called “The Galleria,” it is a reference to this specific structure.  (Whether the builders realize it or not.) 

3)  In an ironic turn of fate, Mengoni died soon after the Galleria’s completion.  He fell off the roof of his own creation.  (It is 154 feet tall.)

On a lighter note, a few years back I ate a Big Mac there.  Madness, I know.  A Big Mac in Italy, the land of incredible food.  But there was a method to my madness.  First, purely for the sake of the sheer juxtaposition of experience, it was novel and fun.  Second, I have a healthy appetite, so there was no chance that one burger was going to slow me down.  Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, you can’t have a Big Mac there anymore.  That’s right, in 2012 the Galleria refused to renew McDonalds’ lease, and after a protracted round of legal jousting it was decided that the fast food giant would never return to the mall.  That spot is now occupied by a Prada store.  There was, of course, no way for me to foresee this at the time, but it definitely makes me all the more glad that I did it.

I suppose the point is, enjoy the moment.  Have fun.  A Big Mac is only as mundane as you allow it to be.  Engage with the unique texture of wherever you find yourself.  To be alive is amazing… savor it.


Resonant Space

Italian Street at Night  |  Anthony Satori

“Resonant Space”  |  Anthony Satori

When I look at this image, I like to think of everyone who has lived, loved, worked, and passed the time here, on this very street, for centuries.  How many people have set foot upon these stones?  How many fingertips have brushed along these walls?  Who made a friend here, fell in love here, dreamed dreams here, lived the fullness of their life within this resonant space?  I like to quiet my mind and try to imagine them, to feel their presence.  I can almost hear the echoes of children laughing and playing, eager to extend the last moments of daylight before the sun goes down and they must go inside…

Art has the power to remind us that beyond all time and space, we are connected.