A Biodegradable Art Exhibit Through Italy’s Sella Valley
By Daphne Auza
The ArteNatura path through Italy’s Sella Valley seems like any other hike through an unpolluted, picturesque landscape. Among the foliage, however, one might spot what looks like alien plant-life and other unusual structures that emerge from the forest itself. These are the magnificent displays of Arte Sella, an international outdoor art exhibition found in the municipality of Borgo Valsugana.
Since 1986, Arte Sella has hosted a variety of sculptures made from stones, leaves, branches and tree trunks. A philosopher and an artist collaborated to conceive the original concept: a place that welcomed cultural and moral renovations of the contemporary art world while celebrating nature’s unconquerable qualities. Over the years, the Arte Sella Association has recruited more than 200 contemporary artists to create works that are left to decay until the natural environment re-absorbs them over time.
As can be seen from the uniqueness of each work, the artists have no other guidelines but to portray a respectful relationship with nature. The sculptures’ manufacture is documented step by step as artists build them right on the spot. In this way, the artist’s creative process and the natural processes of the surrounding environment become intertwined. Ultimately, he or she is working on Nature’s terms.
Also known as “The Contemporary Mountain”, Arte Sella’s exhibits follow a path along the southern slope of Armentera Mountain. When Arte Sella first began, it was a smaller, private collection organized in the courtyard of Casa Strobele. At the time, the Strobele family home served as an artistic community where people could exchange culture and ideas.
Eventually, Arte Sella became consolidated as a veritable institution supporting contemporary art’s place in the natural world. Today, the ArteNatura route is about three kilometers long and can comprise up to 25 different works at a time.
The pieces of art are available for viewing all year round, although visitors should check the weather before heading out to see these open-air installations. However, as evidenced by the Arte Sella Association’s photos, they are just as beautiful and haunting in winter as they are in the summer.
The ArteNatura route ends with the Malga Costa, a once privately owned dairy turned visitors’ center and events hall. Many kinds of activities have been held at the Malga Costa, including concerts, plays, creative workshops and photo exhibitions. Due to its creative aura, artists have chosen to erect sculptures around that area as well.
Nearby is the Tree Cathedral, one of the permanent fixtures of the exhibit created by Italian artist Giuliano Mauri in 2002. It is a complex structure, with more than 3,000 branches crossing one another to form a three-nave cathedral. Within each of its columns, Mauri had placed a hornbeam tree meant to uphold the structure once its original exterior rotted away.
In the early days of its innovation, Arte Sella was met with some doubt by the local community, Now, Arte Sella is a welcome aspect of Borgo Valsugana’s landscape for both its thought-provoking works and respect for the environment.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Based in Los Angeles, Daphne Auza is a current student at Occidental College pursuing a major in English and Comparative Literary Studies. Her interests lie in travel, poems, and the intersection between the arts and social justice, but her curiosity extends far beyond those realms as well. She likes to think that many of her passions are founded on her seemingly insatiable restlessness. You can check out her daily musings and other writings at candidkandu.tumblr.com.
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