|“Double Torso,” Belgian black marble|
“Surprised!” That’s how Torpedo Factory sculptor Mirella Monti Belshé greeted the news that she had been named a “wise woman” by the local chapter of the National Organization of Italian American Women. At next week’s annual Epiphany dinner, Belshé will be one of three honorees, and while she’s hesitant to call herself “wise,” she’s delighted to support an effort that speaks to both sides of her personal and artistic identity.
“I’m totally Italian and totally American,” Belshé says. “I’m very involved in the politics of this country, and my professional life and education have all been here—but my heart also belongs to Florence.”
As one of the Torpedo Factory’s founding artists, Belshé has seen her colleagues pursue inspiration around the world, but she particularly understands why artists throughout the building regularly travel to Italy to study, paint, or photograph.
“If you’re Italian, you take such pride in the past,” she says, recalling the veneration for public art she witnessed as a child during World War II. “During the war, Italians covered great works such as fountains and monuments with sandbags. My parents would take me around and say, ‘Look at the perfection!’
“My grandmother pointed out to me something I’ll never forget: Some of those sandbags were embroidered pillowcases. People in Italy felt such personal ownership about art, such a love, that the woman who made this pillowcase wanted at any cost to protect this masterpiece in front of her house.”
|“Mermaid,” Portuguese pink marble|
Belshé travels regularly to Italy, often to select perfect specimens of marble—and to be refreshed by her home country’s artistic legacy.
“When I began as an artist, I made kinetic sculpture, as modern and as experimental as can be!” she says with a laugh. “But as I get older, my inspiration comes from the artists of the Renaissance. They were geniuses.”
A beautiful torso in black Belgian marble, intricate paper faces, repurposed books—stop by Belshé’s wonderfully cluttered studio, right next to the Torpedo Factory’s main entrance, to see sculpture in any medium you can imagine. Belshé has funny stories to tell about the dilapidated early days of the Torpedo Factory, when artists shared their work spaces with pigeons and piles of trash, but her mind remains fixed on the endless possibility of the future. She’s even exploring a new medium: oil painting.
“As artists, we are always teaching and taking classes,” Belshé whispers, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “We never end!”