Many of you know I've spent much of the last two years working on my first novel "Beneath the Lion's Wings", and keeping this blog. Both have brought me great pleasure and have opened my world up to those who I would have otherwise never met. Viewers from across the globe have found their way to my blog, and my shared love of writing has introduced me to authors and new friends in New York, San Francisco, England, Australia...well the list goes on. In order to thank my readers and all those who continue to encourage me to write and follow my dream of one day being published, I have decided to open up "Italy to Los Angeles and Back" to some topnotch guest bloggers.
My first guest is Julianne Davidow. She's a sometimes expat, constant lover of art and the author of "Outer Beauty, Inner Joy: Contemplating the Soul of the Renaissance". Julianne's beautiful book can be found at www.juliannedavidow.com Welcome Julianne Davidow!
The Power of Beauty: I've always been captivated by the beauty of Italy, and particularly by the art and architecture of the Renaissance. I’m not alone, of course. Many people are drawn to Italy and experience strong reactions to the beauty that is all around. When the 19th century French writer Stendhal visited Florence in 1817, he wrote of feeling so overwhelmed by the number of masterpieces that he had heart palpitations and was afraid he would faint! In fact, others have also spoken of having similar experiences.
During the months and years I’ve spent in Italy, I’ve taken countless photographs of Renaissance art and architecture. But it was when I began to read the works of Renaissance writers that I understood there was a strong connection between the art and the philosophy—and that this connection had something to do with why the art feels so powerful. I wanted to share my experience with others, and to express why the art and philosophy of the Renaissance are still relevant today.
Outer Beauty, Inner Joy: Contemplating the Soul of the Renaissance, is an interweaving of photos, quotes from Italian Renaissance writers, brief essays, and my own thoughts and impressions. The book is a dip into the Renaissance--one that I hope will transport the reader back into a time when poetry, mythology, and mystery were important aspects of life.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, philosophers and artists rediscovered writings, architecture, and sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome. They studied ancient texts, which spoke of love and beauty as being ways to contact a higher spiritual reality. In the art, they found a sense of harmony, order, and proportion, and wanted to use these same principles in their own work. But rather than imitate, Renaissance artists developed unique methods of incorporating these ancient ideals. As a result, they brought beautiful, innovative creations to the world.
The writings of Plato played a major part in the unfolding of this art and culture. Plato spoke of a divine world of forms of which this level of reality is merely a reflection. He suggests that the reason we love beauty so much is that it makes us remember our former life in an eternal dimension.
During the Renaissance, it was believed that great artists had special powers, and that they could contact unseen forces, bringing the beauty of higher realms into their art. It was also believed that those who viewed this art could come into contact with a divine essence. Perhaps many people feel this way when they look at a sculpture by Michelangelo or a painting by Botticelli, for example. I certainly do. There is something about seeing one of these great works of art that seems to put us in touch with a different level of reality.
Renaissance artists and writers looked deeply into beauty and found meaning in what they saw. They felt that beauty is a living energy force, and that through noticing beauty we actually nourish it, just as it nourishes us.
I believe that by paying more attention to beauty when we find it—in art, nature, and in those we love—we expand our ability to discover it more often and in more places. Through cultivating a greater awareness of beauty, something in us awakens and we can find a new way of living in the world.
Julianne lives in New York City but has been traveling to Italy since 1990. She lived in Rome for two years and in Venice for three. As a writer and editor, she has contributed to such print publications as the L.A. Weekly newspaper and to Rosebud, Angels on Earth, Time Out, and Departures magazines. She was also the correspondent for the Veneto region for the online publication, Italy Italia. Julianne's beautiful book can be found at www.juliannedavidow.com