Charting Devotion: Contemporary Italian Ex-Votos
Upon entering a variety of the churches and shrines throughout Italy, visitors are frequently struck by the innumerable, small metallic objects, paintings, ribbons, photographs and articles of clothing that adorn the walls. Known as ex-votos, these pieces of material religious culture are offered primarily as objects of personal devotion in thanksgiving for what is believed to be a miraculous intervention in the life of an individual. These particular ex-votos are not employed to solicit favors from the Divine but are instead intended to proclaim aid previously received during a time of physical, emotional or spiritual anguish. Offered in the form of paintings on wood, molded wax, metallic parts of the body, carved figures, locks of hair, clothing, jewelry, handwritten notes, apparatuses used to assist the disabled, ceramic panels or photographs, the ex-voto in many ways visually embodies the complex socio-cultural ethos of Italian Roman Catholicism. My creative research explores how the Italian ex-voto functions as both an aestheticized object and a ritually significant gesture that permits its practitioners to exercise an intense emotive experience through multi-sensorial means.