Known for the elegance, poetry, and social engagement of her work, Italian artist Giuseppina Giordano is creating a site-specific installation for the David R. and Susan S. Goode Gallery at the Taubman Museum of Art—Please, Teach Me the Language of a Rose

Combining elements ranging from the concrete to the ephemeral, and meanings moving from the textual to the sensuous, the immersive work invites viewers through its veiled threshold, printed with the following words of Italian poet Giorgio Caproni (1912–1990): “Throw away any works in verses or prose / nobody has been able to say / what is, in its essence, a rose.” From there the installation engages our senses, as it attempts to describe a rose or what we might associate with a rose, without using an image of the flower.

Populating the space are a number of vases the artist fashioned from rose petal “clay,” the ancient medium used originally to make rosaries and then jewelry during the Victorian era. For her vase shapes, Giordano found inspiration from forms depicted in modernist and contemporary still-life paintings by artists ranging from Suzanne Valadon to Roy Lichtenstein. While Giordano’s rose-petal vases emit the flower’s odor, a stereo component, created in collaboration with a musician, repeats the rustling sound of an unfolding bloom. In an accompanying video, a woman repeatedly signals “rose” using the sign languages of the world. Viewers are invited to sit or lay on the floor in the meditative environment, which prompts imagining and remembrance. Perhaps we might remember Shakespeare’s words from Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

A resident of Milan, Giuseppina Giordano was born in 1987 in Mazara del Vallo, a fishing town on the west coast of Sicily. In 2006 she began studying political science at the University of Palermo, but then changed to fine arts studies at the Brera Academy, where she obtained her BA in 2012 and her MA in 2016. Giordano has been awarded residencies in Italy, China, England, and the United States, most recently at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. Her recent evocative installations have included The Wall of Delicacy (Ode to America) (begun 2019 and ongoing), created from dried rose buds and steel and concrete, and The Wall of Delicacy (Ode to China) (2018), constructed of oyster shells and glass. 

Giuseppina Giordano: Please, Teach Me the Language of a Rose is on view through February 9, 2020. 

Meet Giuseppina and hear about her inspiration and process with an Artist Talk on Friday, September 6. Poet Ashley Rhame also will share some of her poems inspired by works on view. Advance registration encouraged; click here to learn more and register.

The Secular Society is the presenting sponsor of this exhibition at the Taubman Museum of Art.

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