Maria Lai

mending the world

vocation in the field of contemporary art

Born in Ulassai in 1919, daughter of Giuseppe and Sofia Mereu, Maria is the second of five children. Her delicate health in childhood in the winter took her from her village in Ulassai to the plains of Gairo, completely isolated at that time, where she could recover. She lived with her childless aunt and uncle, agricultural traders. In the winter months, she completely skips nursery and elementary schools. In complete isolation, she begins to discover and grasp her talent for drawing. The family later decides to enroll her in secondary schools in Cagliari, where she is fortunate enough to know her literature teacher, Salvatore Cambosu. He is the first to understand the child's struggle integrating into school and the first to discover her artistic sensibility. It is thanks to him that the young Ulassai student came to understood the importance and value of Latin and poetry and discover "the value of the rhythm of the words that lead to silence."

period of studies

In 1939, "though with so many difficulties", she decided to continue her search for the sign, enrolling in the Artistic High School in Rome, where she met sculptors like Angelo Prini and Marino Mazzacurati, who immediately see a mature and very masculine sign in her, extremely simple and quick. Having finished high school, she left for Verona and Venice right after because the events of World War II prevented her from going back to Sardinia. In 1943, she moved to Venice where she enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, where she attended a sculpture course taught by artists Arturo Martini and Alberto Viani. In the academic environment of Venice, she encountered several difficulties. At first, the figure of her teacher charms her as she goes through a profound poetic crisis in that particular moment but which will be immediately fruitful after the 1950's. In 1945 he returned to Sardinia full of adventure in rescue boats from the port of Naples to Cagliari. She remains on the island until 1954. Meanwhile, she resumes her friendship with Salvatore Cambosu and teaches Drawing in elementary schools in the city. In this period, she is friends with the writer and artist Foiso Fois. She returned to Rome in 1954, a very difficult year for the artist because of the murder of her younger brother, Lorenzo, near her hometown.

the return to rome

She returned to Rome in 1954, a very difficult year for the artist because of the murder of her younger brother, Lorenzo, near her hometown. In 1957, at the Irene Brin Obelisk Gallery, she held her first solo exhibit with pencil designs from 1941 to 1954. In the meantime, she also opened a small art studio, began friendships with artists such as Jorge Eduardo Eielson, and participated in some of the services of the Istituo Luce. In 1961, the artist began a profound poetic and existential crisis that would last for about 10 years, during which the materials and techniques of his research radically change. She moved far from galleries and artists and closer to the world of poets and writers. During the entire sixties, in fact, she cultivated a relationship of friendship and collaboration with the writer Giuseppe Dessì, her neighbor in Rome. Through the writer, she rediscovers the meaning of the myth and legends from her land, draws profound inspiration from his books. She realizes even more how important and privileged her prehistoric Sardinian origins are. In Roman silence, she contemplates contemporary emerging currents, such as Poor and Informal Arts, increasingly understanding Martini's lessons (initially seen as a complete failure), Cambosu's words, and the traditions, myths, and legends of her native soil. Treating the matter through the inherent anxiety in the frame and the magic of its use, nourishment, and objects of an archaic Sardinian past, she began her journey, which sees the past as a survey of the future. 1971 at the Schneider Gallery in Rome, she exhibits the first frames. The exhibition was curated by Marcello Venturoli, a cycle that characterizes the entire decade to come. In 1976. she was acquainted with Angela Grilletti Migliavacca, owner and director of the Arte Duchamp gallery in Cagliari and her future personal curator, with whom she later worked for a year and befriended. In 1977, she met the art historian Mirella Bentivoglio. The following year allowed her to disembark on the Venice Biennale.

the eighties and the venice biennale

The Eighties are however characterized by short-term engagements, from work in the theater to the work of hand-sewn books and the astral charts defined by geography critics. Of the works done in the region, the 1981"Legarsi alla montagna" in Ulassai should especially be mentioned. It would become the most important work of her life and enable the realization of future works in the country. It would be followed by "La Disfatta dei Varani a Camerino" , "L'Alveare del poeta ad Orotelli" and many more. It was during these years that she would meet Bruno Munari and Cagliari Costantino Nivola in Rome. In the nineties, her works emerged as a reinterpretation of her overall journey and the various cycles are harmoniously assembled with each other. The unexpected speed of the signs-designs fuse with tangle s of wires and chord ropes. In this historical context, her work was greatly appreciated internationally. These years date back to her friendship with designer Antonio Marras. In the 2000s, she lived and worked in a country house near the village of Cardedu. In Ulassai , she launched in 2006 the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Stazione dell’ Arte. In 2011, she won the Chamber of Deputies Award for the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, where her work entitled "Orme di Legge" was placed at the Nuova Aula for parliamentary groups. The most respected art critics discuss her. She died in Cardedu, Italiy on April 16, 2013. Six months after her death, a conference was held in her memory by Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies at the Sala della Regina in the Palazzo Montecitorio.
Maria Lai is now buried at the cemetery of Ulassai.