Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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An Uphill Battle

When I rented this house in the Sicilian town of Cianciana to renovate¬†my art studio, people raved about the location: “You’re staying at the best place in town to see Jesus getting flogged on Good Friday!” they said.

In the Mediterranean countryside, ancient traditions live on, Catholic merges with Pagan, and nobody around here is afraid of a little blood.

Cianciana: Christ closeup

Or a lot. Or, even, Passion.

Because these stories dramatize the challenges we experience throughout our lives, and bring the ancient just a bit closer to the everyday. In Sicily, life has never been easy: around here, the sulphur mines were a hellish occupation for many residents for 3000 years – Booker T. Washington visited in 1910 and was shocked by the child slaves of Sicily, and local writer Alessio Di Giovanni waxed poetic on the horrible living conditions of the workers in his father’s mines.

No wonder people around here needed something to believe in, something that at once echoed and transported them away from the grimness of their everyday existence, which Washington called “about the nearest thing to hell that I expect to see in this life.”

From the cold stare of strangers to the judgements imposed by officials, conflict & turmoil, questioning & sacrifice are part of the process of getting from where we are, to where we want to be Рsomething that hits home as I struggle with the final phase of my renovations: every day seems to bring another series of challenges. (Yet the photos remind me of how far I have progressed with the studio in a short time.)

Cianciana: Fellow crucifixion

There are some fetching faces along the way, like these soldiers who took shelter from the rain this afternoon.

Cianciana: soldiers posing

Here’s a very low-res video I shot of part of the Passion parade today, it’s blurred like a pastel painting:

Jesus getting Flogged in the Piazza, Cianciana Sicily 2011 from Elizabeth Briel on Vimeo.

And you can read more about Cianciana’s Passion Week here (in Italian).

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5 Responses to An Uphill Battle

  1. Mike says:

    Impressive pictures, I even envy you :)
    Please tell me where you buy construction materials for renovations?

  2. Great stuff.

    Darn right you have to suffer for your art…

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Mike, there are several building merchants here in town, as well as a number of different kinds of DIY stores scattered across Sicily.

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks. Will be in Cianciana from 9 May to 18. Hope to see you and your project, it’s very interesting. Good luck.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Mike, we’ve left Cianciana for this year but will be back next spring to install the paper machine and do more work on the house. Stay in touch & let me know how things progress with yours!