The culture of space and of civil commitment are facets of the same artistic path that unite and explain a spiritual vision of art: Maria Dompè was born in Fermo on March 4th, 1959; after having attended artistic high school, she graduated with a degree in sculpture from the Accademia di Belle Arti of Rome in 1982.
During the 1980’s she participated in competitions in which she often received prizes: the competition of the Accademie d’Italia (1981, first prize); the national competition of the Accademia di Belle Arti of Frosinone (1982, first prize); “Premio Bernini” Province of Rome (1984, second prize).
In 1985 she was invited by Filiberto Menna to the collective show “Esprit de Gèometrie,” at the Roman gallery Il Carpine. In 1989 she had her first personal exhibition at the gallery Il Millennio in Rome, followed by individual shows set up at the gallery Spazio Temporaneo in Milan (1991), at the gallery Isola in Rome (both in 1992 and 1993), at the gallery of Alberto Peola of Turin (1995) and at the Laboratory Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Rome, La Sapienza (1997) with an installation that involved the senses of smell and hearing, entitled, Don’t forget Mururoa. In the personal installation of 1999, Alle donne di Nakiri, Dompè challenged the external and internal spaces of the Japanese Cultural Institute of Rome. Also in 1999, the artist had a personal show at the Contemporary Sculpture Center of Tokyo. And in 2000, she had a personal show at the gallery Grossetti Arte Contemporanea of Milan, with the work: Daily Spiritual Life: Milano. In 2007, at the gallery Il Segno of Rome, she paid homage to the writer and explorer, Ella Maillart, by creating a vision of a large landscape of the spirit.
An understanding between the place and its history, in a kind of intimate dialogue between the space and the artist: “incursions in space”, is how the artist defines the transformation of the environment where the work is created for and with the pre-chosen place. The first was Hymnen (1989) for the exhibition “Visioni di Hymnen” at the Press Room of Lingotto in Turin, a work in rope and travertine, where the work’s scenographic vocation found its full realization in the theatrical spectacle designed by the Settimo Voltaire Company.
Many others to follow “incursions in space” in the years from 1990 to today, documented by specific publications. Let’s remember the show in Florence “Interni d’Artista” Virtute e conoscenza, Palazzo Budini Gattai, 1991; the two editions of “Etica all’Arte” (Funda Tracta, Palazzo dei Consoli of Gubbio and Domus de Janas, Museum Citadel of Cagliari, 1991); at Todi “Arte in Scena,” (Summa Cavea, Nido of Aquila, 1991).
The space, understood as place, contains a language, a language that Maria Dompè, instinctually, knows how to interact with dialectically. This is the case, for example, of the first permanent installation, created in 1990, at the museum Waldhof of Bielefeld (Germany) 1990, in which the use of sandstone merges with the peculiar history of the place that is associated with the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall; this is also the case with Umi-no-Kanata-he (1991) a permanent work realized in Japan. From her Japanese stay, Dompè received the inspiration for the show “Giappone Italia: Giovani Generazioni” at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome (1992), for which she created Camminando lungo il Kibune River, a work that takes in the entire Cosenza wing of the same National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome.
The artistic message of Maria Dompè further evolves towards social commitment. The changed sensibility of the artist is enriched by social altruism. The proof is in the works realized for artistic events, among which: Donne della Bosnia (Rome, 1993) a raw denunciation of the horrors of war (this work represents the first experience of the use of the senses by the artist that imposes on the spectator an active sensorial participation); the controversial installation Aberrazione, created for the Campaign against Racism of the City of Rome (1993); or collective initiatives like the “V Biennale d’Arte Sacra” in Teramo with the permanent work 1992:Falcone-Borsellino; the “XXIII Premio Suzzara” with the permanent work C’era una volta l’Accademia dei Gergofili (1993); the show “Que bien resistes!” Arezzo, 1994) with the “incursion” Fermateli! created for the inner courtyard of the library of Arezzo: a message against the martyrdom of war, of universal oneness, of religion where funeral columns and stones, Christian, Hebrew, Islamic symbols exist together.
In the years 1995/96 Maria Dompè created a permanent installation of important dimensions, Insula, winning the “Concorso Nazionale di Edificazione di un’Opera Monumentale” at the Nuova Casa Circondariale of Viterbo.
We can see the new inseparable relation between artistic creativity and civil commitment in the work: Non Immolate Il bambino created in 1996 for the “XII Quadriennale” of Rome; Meditazione realized for the cultural initiative “Varcare la Soglia” of the city of Rome, in 1997, at the House-Family (a house for AIDS victims), managed by Caritas, in Rome at the Villa Glori, a permanent installation of notable poetic impact.
In 1998, the participation in “Lavori in corso 3” is noteworthy, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea of Rome, a work which takes its title from a quotation from a book by the writer Tahar Ben Jelloun: Io sono quell’altro che ha attraversato un paese su una passerella che collega due sogni (I am that other who has crossed a country on a gangway that links two dreams). In the same year Maria Dompè realized, in three different occasions, a kind of triptych dedicated to women.The first “incursion”: “VIII Biennale d’Arte Sacra” at Teramo with the installation of Madre Teresa di Calcutta. The second: in the exhibition “Scultura marchigiana dal dopoguerra a oggi (1945-1998)” in Ancona where inside of the Mole Vanvitelliana in the courtyard of the Lazzaretto, the artist created a work dedicated to the young Tibetan monk Ngawang Sangdrol, who was condemned to 18 years of detention by the Chinese judiciary for the sole reason of verbally demonstrating his disagreement with the occupation of Tibet. The third “environmental incursion”: at the “IX Biennale di Scultura” in Carrara, dedicated to the former Kurd deputy Leyla Zana, imprisoned in Turkey in a cell of maximum security for having supported the rights of the Kurdish people against the repression of the Turkish government. The work transcends mere artistic sensitivity and becomes a message, a cognitive stimulus to awaken a weak and inert mankind.
At the “IX Biennale d’Arte Sacra” at Teramo in 2000, the artist created Shanti, an anthem for peace. Ani-la, an installation created for the year 2000 edition of the exhibition, “Giganti Arte Contemporanea nei Fori Imperiali di Roma”, ideally dedicated to the Tibetan monk. In the same year Rome and Milan are ideally united by a common message: Daily Spiritual Life: Rome, a “secret” work, realized along a Roman street in 9 consecutive days, documented by a book by the artist and Daily Spiritual Life: Milano, where Maria Dompè reinvented the blocked off space, inside of the gallery Grossetti of Milan, interpreting the imaginary in a meditative dimension, involving the spectator in a sensorial participation: sight; hearing by using music; touch by physical contact with sand, and smell by means of a natural essence perfume.
In 2001, for the celebration of 27 gennaio, the Day of Memory, Maria Dompè covered the courtyard and the gate of the Neue Synagogue of Berlin with woven white textiles and white roses as symbols of the Hebrew persecution. A participation, a sign of solidarity, evoked with a new “incursion in space” in the commemoration of 27 gennaio in 2002, in the external space of the Roman synagogue.
In Florence, in 2001, in the industrial space Baldassini-Tognozzi, Dompè with A Gao Xingjian dedicates a work to the dissident Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian. In the same year in Washington, on the terrace of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the artist, for the show “Connecting Worlds”, realized the “incursion” Connecting Worlds for the Galapagos, an environmental condemnation, in a nation where the sensitivity towards the environment was modest.
In March 2003 the event Amina Lawal merits special attention realized in the Piazza Campidoglio of Rome. Invited by the City of Rome, Maria Dompè denounces the drama of the Nigerian woman condemned to the death penalty for adultery, with an environmental work with an extraordinary sensorial impact, a contribution to the liberty achieved by Amina Lawal.
In September of 2003 in another permanent installation at the park of Poggio Valicaia in the hills of Chianti (Scandicci) which represented the opportunity for a further environmental denunciation: Gaia a walk for life – charter for environmental planetary urgencies. The work possesses a profound ethical value, stimulating an intimate dialectical relationship with nature.
In 2004, we note the event: 2 giugno 2004: Campo Fossoli, a message of brotherhood inside of Campo Fossoli, near Carpi, a place that was created as a processing centre for the deportation to German concentration camps. In the same year we also highlight the work: Water Emergency, two environmental incursions created in the Valle Sella for Arte Sella, one inside of the Malga Costa, while the other, a permanent work, on the outside of the itinerary of Arte Sella; nature, the protagonist, launches an appeal, by means of the artist, on the planet’s water emergency.
In 2005 the event Tibet for Freedom was realized at the American Academy in Rome. It was a message of liberty launched by the artist in favour of the Tibetan people who draw on their immense spiritual traditions to defend with non-violent weapons their ethnic and cultural identity. In the same year, in concurrence with the anniversary of the death of the Italian statesman Alcide De Gaspari, Maria Dompè, on behalf of the Municipality of Rome, created a monument that was placed in Via delle Fornaci. De Gasperi was remembered for his long-sighted European vision: “a verdant essence enclosed by quotations from his words”. Another important event took place in 2005: Dalhousie Square was realized in India in the heart of the metropolis of Calcutta, one of the sites listed by the World Monuments Fund for the preservation of world heritage. A denouncement of strong impact, dimensionally and chromatically, an historic “memory” of a country and its ancient spirituality.
In 2007, Un Offerta ai Monaci Birmani (An Offering to Burmese Monks), at the Holy Stairs of Rome. In one of the most important sites in Christianity, this is a symbolic gesture in solidarity with the Burmese monks, during the pacifist revolution in Burma. After a month, a portrait dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, a symbol of the democracy that is denied in Burma as well as a pacifist icon of the struggle, created in the window of the Archivio Crispolti, Via Ripetta, 131 in Rome.
In 2008 Remember-hope – 9/11 is the title that commemorates a date impressed on our collective memory: 11 September 2001, the terroristic attack on the Twin Towers in New York; the intervention was created in the industrial space of the company “Giulio Barbieri”.
On the occasion of the “public baptism” of the exposition space the former Elettrofonica in 2009 in Rome, the artist presented: Hay una diferencia entre estar vivo y sentirse vivo, a narrative of poetry and images, dreamlike and captivating.
In May 2009 an event was orgaized at Calais as a prelude to the inauguration of the new museum: International City of Lace and Fashion of Calais. An impressive environmental work, which used 85 kilometres of lace to surround all of the museum buildings and the nearby area. The work is entitled, La mer-la dentelle, la dentelle-la mer and encloses an artistic message: preserve a true cultural patrimony of the ancient traditions of Calais, and safeguard the sea as a precious social and environmental resource.
In 2011 in Rome at the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Piazza di Spagna, for the beatification of Pope Wojtyla, the artist was invited to celebrate the solemn event by creating an “incursion in space” in two parts: one external of monumental dimensions on the Bernini designed façade and one internal taking in the Re Magi Chapel of Borromini. A gift of intense spiritual symbolism dedicated to Ioannes Paulus P.P. II.
For the 2011 edition of the Biennale of Venice (Italian Pavilion, Arsenal) Maria Dompè re-invokes Japanese memories, by presenting a work dedicated to the strength and courage of the Japanese people. “Japan Courage:” a poetic and visionary image of a Japan that is in sharp contrast with the recent news of the nuclear tragedy of March 2011. An exhortation and incitement to rediscover in ancestral traditions, the spirituality and the determination, as well as the memory of the past, in order to create a new relationship with nature.
The dialogue with space is enriched by new “green transformations” or reinterpretations of existing spaces: green areas that have been remodelled and landscaped. In 2006 in Rome: Il giardino nel giardino di Luigi Muratori; in 2008/2009 Il giardino nel giardino: Scala Santa inside of the Convent of the Passionist Fathers of the Holy Stairs in Rome, one of the sacred places of the Christian faith. In 2009/2011 Il giardino di Irene Brin: a reinterpretation of a antique park enriched by sculptural incursions. In 2013/2014 the green work, The Garden of the Soul, a proposal for redevelopment and landscape modeling with new plantings. Created in one of the external gardens of the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea in Rome, called Gardens of fountains.
Between 2015 and 2016, the township of Massa Marittima in Tuscany commissioned Maria Dompè to a project of both developing and making functional an area that was recovered from the restauration of the town’s ancient walls. The artist created an environmental work Sol omnibus lucet,” which had a notable esthetic impact, by representing a symbolic bridge between history and the contemporary, a fortunate example, of the osmosis between the landscape and the urban fabric – much appreciated by the citizenry.
In 2017 while participating at the exhibition “Il Cammino delle Certose,” Maria Dompè created a double artistic visual presentation contained in a single landscaped work: Altum Silentium.The work is an environmental redevelopment of a abandoned area inside of the imposing monastery, the “Certosa di San Lorenzo” in Padula. An intervention that changes over time and that has a double value: an ephemeral and a permanent one (after the green, environmental transformation)
Between 2018 and 2019 an articulated project of in-depth cognitive analysis and, consequently, of accurate information, dealing with the migratory phenomenon and rigorously investigating this dramatically current reality. Dompè, in order to raise awareness and to promote and develop this project, has organized three artistic events, all with the same title: “my name is … il mio nome è … Conosci l’altro e la sua realtà.” The first in Rome at the MACRO Asilo in November 2018; the second in Naples at the “Chiesa delle Donne della Certosa e Museo di San Martino” (The Church of the Women of the Certosa and Museum of San Martino) in June 2019; the third in September 2019 at the municipality of Candela (FG) in a SPRAR (Immigration Support Agency) housed in an ancient Apulian farmhouse. Three events documented with as many books by the artist, gathered together in a single box set.
In 2019 Maria Dompè returns to the Scala Santa in Rome for an unrepeatable opportunity. She makes an offering to the spiritual energy that radiates intensely from this sacred place, a work Sursum corda! (Lifted hearts!) directly on the original marble steps, momentarily deprived of the ancient wooden protection.
In 2021 a very welcomed opportunity for the artist, a return to the Garden of Irene Brin in Sasso di Bordighera; where in 2009 she made a substantial redevelopment both in terms of the scenography and the art. Invited for the celebrations of the anniversary of Dante Alighieri, an event organized by the FAI, Dompè creates an ephemeral intervention of great suggestive power: spheres of a “floral fabric”, a chromatic explosion, a eulogy to Nature, a dreamlike vision of Dante in a search for a renewed harmony.
Between the end of the year 2022 and the beginning of 2023, the artist was engaged in the landscaping of an area of about 1,600 sq.meters inside the Eschilo Sporting Village in Rome. This was an opportunity to reaffirm a personal sensitivity to greenery, along with a growing unease about the consequences of the neglected balance between humanity and Nature.
Last we should mention the international grants that have been awarded to the artist (1991 The Japan Foundation and in 1996 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation), and from the editorial point of view, precious books by the artist (see the “Publications” page).