In a Foligno Church, a Magnet That Needs to Be Seen
After discovering the medieval and Renaissance wonders in Foligno, let yourself be drawn by a magnet. An enormous one.
You’ll find the 24-meter Calamita Cosmica (“Cosmic Magnet”), mammoth sculpture of Gino De Dominicis, in an 18th-century de-consecrated church, the Church of the Holy Trinity
Started in the mid-18th-century, the Church of the Holy Trinity was never completed and the unfinished edifice was used at times as a barracks, a bakery and even as an office and garage for the state police. Heavily damaged in the 1997 earthquake, the church was subsequently restored by the Region of Umbria together with the bank, Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, specifically to house the Calamita Cosmica which had been purchased by the Foligno bank.
The mammoth sculpture was installed – not without difficulties and challenges – in 2011. An exhibit presenting news on the artist, the church and the sculpture is in the room adjacent to the ticket office.
A photo of various phases of the installation caught my eye….
….as did the biography of Gino De Dominicis, artist born in Ancona in 1947 whose first exhibit was at the age of 17. The artist is as intriguing as his sculptures: for over 20 years, no one knew where he lived or worked and he provided only Rome hotels as his addresses. He was a nocturnal creature, apparently, working at night and he was known as mysterious and untraceable, dying alone in 1988.
De Dominicis created the monumental anthropomorphic skeleton with a bird’s beak stretched out on its back in 1988/89, working in absolute secrecy. The sculpture of plaster, polystyrene and synthetic resin was created by the artist wishing to place man in an inferior position in respect to something superhuman and inaccessible.
The Calamita Cosmica was first exhibited in Grenoble in 1990 and later appeared in Naples and had been shown in Milano, Ancona, in Florence, Rome and Belgium before finding its permanent home in a Foligno church.
At first site of the sculpture, one immediately notes the bird’s beak as De Dominicis desired, wishing to provoke in the observer a sense of inferiority and the insignificance of man before something unattainable and sovraumano (literally, “above the human” i.e.,”superhuman”):
Another curious aspect of the sculpture is the golden vertical rod (of gold-leafed aluminum), balanced on the tip of the middle finger of the right hand. De Dominicis intended it to be the magnet placing the skeleton in contact with the cosmic world:
Art critic and director of a museum, Italo Tomassoni, wrote an insightful critique on the De Dominicis masterpiece on display in the exhibit one visits before meeting the sculpture.
As I look at the photos I took that day, I find his description of the skeleton’s feet and the rod striking: “The feet are a Gothic prodigy of bones, like spires and pinnacles, pointing to the sky like the golden rod that activates the gravitational field, indicating an unreachable elsewhere and an initiatory journey to the light of the Origin.”
De Dominicis once wrote, “A work of art is a living object that to exist does not need to be seen.”
But if you visit Foligno, the Calamita Cosmica needs to be seen.
Read about the return of a Raphael masterpiece to Foligno
Read about a memorable Foligno culinary festival – in the medieval backstreets
Read about – and see! – Foligno’s stunning Baroque festival, La Quintana
Read about the celebration of honey in Foligno