Poetess of impalpable: Maria Lai

February 21, 2022

Tele cucite, Geografie immaginarie, Libri scheme narrations that are recreated by the viewer

Maria Lai (1919-2013), “poetess of the impalpable”, was born in Ulassai, a village threatened by winds and landslides; an expert of Sardinian traditions, Salvaore Cambosu, taught her the value of poetry and freedom. She left Sardinia “charged with future”, as she said, for going to Rome and then Venice where, at the Academy of Fine Arts, by the words of the master Arturo Martini, she learned that art is not an object to possess, but it’s like the ball in the game of football, it needs to be passed and thrown far away. Recalling her grandmother’s mends, she used the needle and thread for writing. The stories narrated by the shepherds fed her artistic imagery, she came close to poor art and conceptual art, she chose rich materials with symbolic value – canvas, threads, ropes and fabrics – with which she created Tele Cucite, Geografie Immaginarie, Libri scheming narrations that were recreated by the viewer. She arrived at the Biennale in 1978 with sculptures made of bread.


“The artist is a being who can dream the impossible”. “She-goat keen to precipices”, as her father said, when she was a little girl she ran away on a gipsy wagon. And on that wagon, she always travelled with fantasy. Weaving is an ancient gesture that Maria Lai brings in the world of contemporary art with her Looms, millenary tools that are redesigned with the thread of existence, which are hidden, broken, to be entwined, warps and weft of relations and bonds to be woven. Advocate of a relational art, she engaged her fellow villagers from Ulassai to give life to “Binding to the mountain” (1981), for actualizing the sense of an ancient legend that tells the story of a girl who survives a landslide running after a blue ribbon. Kilometers of blue ribbons are tied together for connecting one house to the other, beyond the grudges dividing the population, for hugging the village and the overlooking mountain, the entire community, society and nature, live and dead, in a collective and revolutionary artwork. The artist must be “a poet who brings to society new thoughts, scenarios of happiness”.


Art is for everyone, everyone can come close to it, reassured by her mantra: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand, just follow the rhythm”. Curated by Alberto Salvadori, the exhibit at the M77 Gallery in Milan brings back to life the world of Maria Lai, and the shots of Piero Beregno Gardin, with the video made by Tonino Casula, are vivid proofs of “Binding to the mountain”. The art of Maria Lai is a game which knots together memory, myths and manual ability, which puts together visible and invisible, yesterday and today: “Behind me there are millennia of silence, attempts at poetry, breads of the feast days and weaving looms”.

The Author

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The daughter of collectors, she focuses on the history of visual art - her field of interest – and on writing - a passion she has cultivated since her childhood. A happy and fateful meeting as a teenager, while she was listening to Battisti, the Genesis and de André, led her to love Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schubert, chamber music and symphonic music. She is attracted to all the southern lands in the world, to the sea and to dark chocolate. She curates exhibitions and has written for different magazines in Italy and abroad. She feels happy and honoured to be a part of the AW ArtMag staff since its first release. Always looking for a motto, which she fatefully changes in tune with the dynamism of existence, in the present times she finds truth and comfort in Dante's "but to follow virtue and knowledge".

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