Walking into to the Limonaia at
Palazzo Medici Riccardi you may be surprised to see a giant cake inviting you
to come inside. If you take the installation up on its offer, you’ll hear a
voice reciting Lorenzo de’ Medici’s poetry in various languages. Sound different?
It is; and it’s all part of Marina Calamai’s latest show,
DOLCEmente…RINASCImentalmente, which celebrates two seemingly unconnected
themes: cake and the Renaissance. Calamai’s creations bring the Limonaia’s
seven niches to life while giving them historical significance by connecting
the dolci to the very people who created them: the Medici family and their
Florence-born Calamai, who first
began her studies in music and fashion design, started painting in 1982. Her
work has been featured in shows across Italy, as well as in several food and
She took a moment to walk us
through her exhibit and give us some insight into her fabulous creations.
How did you begin
using cakes as the subject of your paintings?
When I was preg-nant, I had
temporary diabetes and couldn’t eat any sugar. That’s when I started painting
them. In the first painting, there were about 50 cakes, and a child is emerging
from the meringue one. In fact, I painted the child some days after my son’s
birth. This was somewhat of a liberation for me. Apart from the joy of having
my son, I could also start eating cake again!
us about your creative process. For example, do you use models or forms when
I use photos. I take
pictures every-where I go, especially of nice displays of cakes. If I see a
cake, I take a picture. I like certain types of cakes, and I find them in many
different places. Sometimes, when I need a special form, color or other special
detail, I bake the cakes.
you think about audience?
I am affected by my
audience, but I am also influenced by the space in which I will exhibit. When I
see it for the first time, I think about the look and feel of the place. For
example, when I came into the Limonaia and saw the empty niches, I thought ‘I
want to put my paintings in there.’ It was very difficult, because the niches
are oval and each one is different from the other. So this was the first step.
As for the paint-ings, each is oil on canvas with a wonderful plaster frame. I
like the contrast between the niches and the paintings. The large cake in the
middle of the Limonaia, which you can actually go into, is much more
contemporary than the paintings and includes a sound design. You can hear the
words of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Canti Carnascialeschi. We even translated
the poems into Chinese and Russian.
other objects have figured in your paintings?
I have used the heartbeat-a
cardiogram, which I engraved on plexiglass very soon after the birth of my
children. The first time I did this was in a round painting that represented
gestation-a baby inside the womb. For me, heartbeat means emotion.
have worked and studied in both Paris and New York. What made you return to
I returned from Paris to
work. When I went to New York-where I had a wonderful experience in the Art
Student League-I knew it was going to be for a certain period and I would come
back. But I’m always open to opportunities.
Do you think your work is
well received by the Florentine community?
I think so. There is a part
of my work that is ‘easy’, which is the painting and the sound design. I’ve
also made hats in the shape of cakes, which are fun. I think my work has been well
received because it’s very ironic and people usually like irony.
studied at the Lorenzo de’ Medici School of Art, the Medici coat of arms is
represented in the piece Crème Carmel in the Form of a Fortress, and the
location for the show is a Medici palace: would you consider this exhibition a
tribute, not just to the Renaissance, but to the Medici family as well?
Absolutely! I have read
extensively about the Medici family and I am very interested in its story.
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi was was built by Cosimo il Vecchio and Lorenzo il
Magnifico lived here, hosting many parties and large buffets. Several pieces
represented in the show were specifically inspired by the family: the coat of
arms, the gelato with raspberry and oranges-which is an ice cream that the
creator, who was a friend of Catherine de’ Medici, improved by adding fresh
fruit. In a final painting, I have cialdoni, which are like pancakes.
Lorenzo de’ Medici was a very good cook!
experience do you hope your audience has from the Sweet Renaissance Project?
I hope they will enjoy the
forms and the colors. I would also like them to think about what we could do to
start a new renaissance-take this idea from the past and create new avenues for
advice would you give to fellow artists whose focus is an alternative genre?
To continue what they are
doing: if you are convinced, the best thing is to persevere.
Until October 14
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