the faces of Beauty - Beauty's faces
Beauty is a very complex concept and, within this framework, it does not signify a merely aesthetic fact. We don't need to recall Hellenic classicism; in the past “beautiful “ was what made us better, what made us feel good, what excited us, what stirred feelings and sensations inside us which then became memories and stories to tell. To be more precise, however, to pay tribute to the roots of our civilization, and to introduce the significance of this exhibition, it is worth noting that – in ancient Greece - the word for beauty was kalokagathìa, and it referred to an example of human perfection. This term represents the union of two adjectives describing a person's harmonious development, that is to say "beautiful and good", but also as a "virtuous person". The word beautiful hence involved finding in the same person beauty and moral value, a principle which therefore included the spheres of aesthetics and ethics. The Greeks and the Romans, who inherited this principle, went even further, but unfortunately - in the West – no trace is left of this physiognomy of beauty. According to Hellenic culture, beauty was a gift which made it possible to irradiate beauty and goodness. You did not notice that someone was beautiful because of their outer appearance, their somatic traits, but rather you noticed someone's beauty because they irradiated beauty and wellbeing to the things and persons around them. The goddess of such an extraordinary gift was Aphrodite, or Venus, who had the ability to irradiate beauty around the persons and things which came in contact or cooperated with her. People were in awe of such contagious beauty, and this beauty healed the pains of the soul, of the psyche. Ancient writers, the likes of Hesiod, Herodotus, Sophocles, Apuleius, wrote whole pages where this gift of the gods is revealed. Parnassus was enchanted by the beauty radiating from Apollo, the Muses, nature; every creature was filled by this light, it was enchanting. As a consequence, the Muses were able to inspire human creatures. The person I am talking about and who came up with the idea of this exhibition had this gift, irradiated beauty, which was not only goodness, because goodness can also be passive; you are good even if you sit still, quiet and without harming anybody. Those who have the gift of Beauty are able to pervade people and things with this light; they are able to perceive, feel, discover the faces of Beauty, and it sometimes happens that things and persons change, they become themselves healthy carriers of this wonderful virus, so wonders and miracles happen. You go back to hoping in an active way, you build the future. There are many examples of this: every progress that has led humanity to progress and to new awareness has been the work of those who had this extraordinary quality, which – it is worth noting – is not innate, you are not born with it…or maybe you are: what is certain is that you can receive it as a gift. This is what beauty was for the man who came up with the idea of this exhibition. His life, though short, has been evidence of a proactive, dynamic, tireless intent to bring Beauty everywhere and in everyone. This man wanted to rediscover beauty which had been in every person, from the vicissitudes of hidden line. In this man, therefore the high ideals of honesty, understanding and equality coexisted, as well as love which is not mere philanthropy - which can be useless - but rather the vibrant construction of Beauty. What I am writing might sound rhetorical, given that the man has my same surname; however, many people who have worked, shared part of their time and life with him, can confirm with more decision that my statement, as a matter of fact, is just part of the truth. The man who had the idea of this exhibition had the gift of radiating Beauty, not by genetic inheritance, but because of the teachings of a mother and a family who shared scarcity or abundance, with those who had just heard of beauty and with those who had only received few remains of this beauty. When you grow up with the fascination and wish to look for this ancient spark in small everyday things, you wonder at the closed bud of a flower as well as of the fireworks which turn the night into daylight. Those who, like my brother, grow up realising that sacrifice does not just mean suffering, but rather making sacred what you do, will understand that other people always have something to give, and that you can always learn from other people, even if they are younger, lower in status or have less money than you. Once you have learned, like Nazzareno did, to fight for your ideas and stand tall on the top of stairs like the Nike of Samothrace, fearless and against the wind, then you understand that this beauty can truly save the world and each of us. Nazzareno was always brave enough to swim against the tide, and to talk to anyone with the same gaze, with the same heart. He was always like that, even as a child. He devoured books and talked about what he had read; it was from him that I heard of Salgari, Tom Sawyer, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Jesus and a shared joy which is the expression of love for your neighbour, which results in freedom and equality, as well as the true Beauty which I believe our Creator puts in every creature at the time of creation. Nazzareno had the proud and serene gaze of those who could afford to look everyone in the eye because he had a sense of justice, having known prevarication and injustices; he never got anything for free, ever. He had the generous spirit of someone who had worked since he was a boy, and made sacrifices to achieve in a short time something that has benefitted many people. He loved to protect the helpless and those who have been injured in their lifetime; I have been protected by him on many occasions, too, and we played together until time and work separated us. We had a healthy family which passed on to us eternal values; and he – more than Fabio, Beniamino and myself – has lived those values and put them in practice, as confirmed by this exhibition. Many will know that what I am writing is just part of the truth, and could add much more; however, not many people will know that Nazzareno, as a boy, was touched by the sight of a dead little dog, and that he always cared for the little ones because we were once little ones ourselves, and that is where we felt we belonged. For him beauty has always been a means to make people feel good, and – I remember this well – he gave his only pair of jeans to a refugee who had never seen one. That was Nazzareno D'Atanasio, that was what he attempted and wished to show with the beauty of the works on display. This exhibition, therefore, originated from the idea of a man who loved the faces of Beauty. He was aware of beauty, the real one, and every task he attempted included this creative, involving, calming energy. People were attracted to him because he was farsighted, which made him able to discover skills, competences, talents which had been neglected, hidden or curtailed. As a result the effects of partnership, cooperation, effort, have become understanding, empathy, respect. This man is not one of those people who are like a poplar, smooth and wispy; they are more like oak trees, rough, strong, with a thick bark, a dense crop, sturdy branches which protect you also during the autumn and winter, even without leaves. With these rare people you exchange views, you discuss, you argue, but like oak trees they are always able to return to their role and provide shade, rest, safety. That is what my brother was like. Then I felt the roughness of the bark, the diverging of his branches from mine, who am not an oak tree. Night fell and, when the day broke, Nazzareno had discovered and found Beauty in someone else, Cristina Bonucci, another miracle in whose work ancient symbols merge with the original essence of the word "contemplation". His art highlights the sacred feminine which is placed as a passage, a bridge between humans, immanence and God, transcendence. I did not yet know about Cristina Bonucci when I entered the hall: I found the temple, symbols, chalices, I found beauty. I then understood that, for this kind of beauty, you do not need an art historian: you need someone who is able to recognise the face of beauty. Nazzareno was very good at this; Nazzareno, my brother, was a master at this. Nazzareno D'Atanasio could find and discover the faces of Beauty.
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