Terrible is the Body

I don’t know the first name of the woman in the photographic image that this piece is based on. Her last name is “Ricciardi,” and I like her for two reasons: she lived in Denver, my hometown (but not a place where any of my Sicilian relatives live), and (in this image, at least) she looks like a stout, sturdy, soft matron. The Sicilian proverb below her face intrigued me: is the mother’s body “terrible,” terrifying, to her children and spouse, or to herself? In my imagining, the cross-hatched shadows on the woman’s face signify harsh experiences etched onto soft cheeks, contributing to the woman’s sense of herself growing older. At the same time, the fact that Mrs. Ricciardi sits for her own portrait says (again, to me) that she is loved and powerful in her world. (To see the historical Mrs. Ricciardi, whose photo was made sometime between 1910-1925, go to the Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection).




  • October 19th, 2011
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