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Documenting the Hidden Mountain Shrines of Northern Italy

Artist Adriana Gallo explores the aesthetics of devotion through images of Italy’s secret mountainside altars.

In her series Santuario, artist Adriana Gallo’s abstract, colorful gouache shapes contrast against grey backgrounds of mountainside shrines. Gallo describes this work as a study of the aesthetics of devotion. The painted layer on top of the black-and-white photographs of the shrines amplifies the mystical feel of the images, which depict hidden altars found on a mountainside in northern Italy.

As a small child, Adriana Gallo grew up visiting the Italian Alps, and the memory of one particular area stuck with her. Just above northern Italy’s Lake Maggiore, she found “small and discreet shrines and chapels peppering the mountainside.” The artist “was enthralled by the tender, precious and sometimes gaudy compositions of real and fake flowers, statues, figurines, ribbons, and the occasional offering.”

By adding a distinctly modern layer of gouache to these sombre, traditional-feeling photos, Gallo brings the historic shrines into the present day, raising questions of how religious practices evolve over time. Taking on both geometric and organic forms, Gallo’s painted additions are alternately reminiscent of flowers, leaves, jewels, and doorways.

In some images, the painted shapes seem to mimic the landscape, a blue line embracing the curve of a roof or highlighting an altar. In other cases, the abstract forms seem to challenge their surroundings, partially obscuring signs, statues, and doors. Gallo’s added shapes complicate the viewer’s understanding of these devotional scenes, serving as a reminder of the mutability of worship.

See more of Adriana Gallo’s artwork at her online portfolio.

Related artwork:
Retro-Futuristic Magazine Collage Art by Ben Giles
Intricate Embroidered Photos of Anonymous People
Photo Series: ‘The Religious’

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