My Cloak of Conscience
To be or not to be / The first appearance of the Cloak in 1980
Since my early childhood there is a question that never left me: What am I doing here? What is the meaning of my life? Do I have a mission, a duty to perform?
As I started to discover my artistic talent I began to find some answers. In 1980 I created a painting which I called “To be or not to be”, which shows a nude female body, representing the radiant beauty of youth, and in contrast the empty garment of an old woman, bent by the weight of life, with its worries and sufferings.
In 1992, coming out of a long period of suffering due to a serious accident, I decided to abandon painting for some time and to devote myself entirely to sculpture. My first major work was the empty Cloak, which reflects my pain, but also my confidence in a better future. When finished, the sculpture was chosen for an exhibition on the main square of Pietrasanta, my place of work, with the ominous title “La veste del vuoto” (“The Clothing of the Void”). This was the start of a journey on a long road whose final destination I can only now begin to glimpse.
This Cloak is, for me, the symbol of what survives us after our passage on earth.
Like “Jedermann” (“Everyman”), the play of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which accompanied my youth in Salzburg, we will be accompanied on our passage by our faith and our good deeds, by our love towards others and the support we have given them. The void of the Cloak is filled by our soul, by our conscience, and our creative energy, which will survive us forever.
Paul Valery has expressed it wonderfully in the following words: “You know my judgment on the enterprise called Life: there are only two things. The only two that transform us into beings capable and worthy of surmounting all that reduces us to being only the duplicates of our fellow citizens……Love and Work. But to give them a sense new and extreme – and combined, Love becoming Work”.
To be or not to be (1980)
Cloak of Conscience
Having created the Cloak spontaneously, with my gut feeling, I decided to find out more and discovered that in the past, the image of a coat or cloak was used by many wise men as a metaphor for the protection of people in need or to recommend a conscience-building exercise. From Saint Francis, who recommended our own body as a mantle of meditation in the absence of a place of worship, to Mahatma Ghandi, who recommended swapping the clothes of the occupants for garments woven by his people, the examples are legion. In Western and Eastern philosophy there is a strong school of thought which deals with questions of Conscience and Harmony, and for Albert Camus “Conscience is even more important than survival”.
From the beginning, the Cloak met with the greatest interest among all my works, in the public and the media. Many public institutions and individuals have decided to mark symbolic places with this enigmatic symbol. Thus a Cloak in bronze, 150 centimeters high, reminds us of the Commander in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and its first performance at the Stavovské divadlò (Estates Theatre) in Prague; another original reflects the Pieta in front of the Salzburg Cathedral, the image of a mother suffering for the world; still another represents the image of philosophy at Fondazione C’à la Ghironda in Bologna. All these sculptures, together with many others installed over the last ten years, provoke a lively reaction from the public, which finds expression in numerous letters and e-mails. It seems that, even without further explanation, these Cloaks contribute to an awakening of conscience in all people who encounter them.
Unfortunately this appeal does not suffice. Otherwise how would it be possible that very few of our fellow citizens seem moved by the living cloaks of the poor which we see on street corners, and the fate of millions of exploited and abused children? Too few of us remember the command of Ezekiel in the Bible, which I have engraved in the base of my “Heart for the World”, created in 2002 for Pope John Paul II: “Throw away your hearts of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh”.
The Cloak of Conscience