Livio Orazio Valentini
An Artist's Spiritual Odyssey
Born to a poor family in 1920, Valentini lived most of his life in Orvieto, Italy. With no money for a formal education, he became a self-taught artist. At the age of twenty, Valentini was called into military service during World War II. After being captured by the Germans, he was confined in Buchenwald and other concentration camps, where he endured two years of physical labor. For Valentini the confinement was life-changing; he experienced a spiritual awakening that became a lifelong odyssey reflected in his art and teaching.
Valentini's art and even his existence centered on his efforts to find freedom. His paintings, charcoal sketches, and sculptures formed from terracotta, forged iron, tile, or stone are often a statement on the human condition, germination and rebirth, and the negativity and violence of humanity. Valentini often spoke about injustice and oppression through the metaphor of a caged bird, explaining how compassion could overcome cruelty and art could bring healing and hope to conquer fear.
While Valentini's art was well known in Italy and other European countries, it was relatively unknown in the United States until the 1990s, when Aiken, South Carolina, and Orvieto, Italy, became linked after a chance meeting between Valentini and a fellow Rotary Club member who was vacationing in Orvieto. The connection blossomed into a multifaceted exchange program for students and citizens that celebrates culture and art, including Valentini's.
Erika Pauli Bizzarri, who offered editorial assistance on this volume, has worked as a research and translation assistant on countless volumes including McGraw Hill's English edition of Encyclopedia of World Art. She taught art history at Gonzaga University in Florence, Italy.
"This is a marvelous book about a man, an artist: Livio Orazio Valentini of Orvieto, Italy. It tells of his journey through life, including his time as a prisoner of war during WWII, his own spiritual growth and how his paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints are a reflection of this legacy. As well, it is the story of his special relationship with the community of Aiken, SC and of Livio's appreciation of Luca Signorelli and his fresco cycle in the Orvieto Cathedral, which he adapted into his own works and writings. Written in an approachable, intimate style, this book makes an important contribution to art history and culture by bringing Livio to the world. It is a compelling work of which the authors should be proud."—Katherine McIver, professor emerita of art history
"This splendidly illustrated study mines primary sources and numerous interviews tracing the trajectory of Valentini's odyssey from the cruelty of Buchenwald to the gentility of Aiken, South Carolina. An important contribution to contemporary studies, this book presents not only the artist's biography and legacy but also a triumph of the human spirit."—Debra Murphy, University of North Florida
"Alexander and Elliott have achieved an informative, vividly illustrated biography and art historical study of post-modern painter Livio Orazio Valentini. A beloved artist, whose talent, honesty, and wit are palpable, Valentini's exceptional and heartfelt impact on the University of South Carolina Aiken conveys the significant benefit of comingling European and American visual arts culture."—Deborah C. Pollack, author and art historian, Palm Beach, Florida
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