Description by the artist
Occhi chini is Sicilian for “eyes full of joy”. Looking out from my workshop I see ‘A Muntagna, that is Etna, and thanks to it I was inspired to depict our region, in which I decorated Etna as the protagonist and the prickly pear blades as a contour. And my eyes filled with beauty (occhi chini, eyes full in Italian). Rustic brick made by hand in Santa Maria di Licodia, on the slopes of Etna. Lava stone powder is mixed into the clay mixture and spread by hand in wooden forms in which an iron hook is inserted and baked at 1200 ° c.
The artwork in the Sicilian culture
Etna, the highest volcano in Europe (3300 meters above sea level), imperiously dominates the eastern part of Sicily, but it is so huge that it can be seen up to hundreds of kilometers away. Men of all ages have climbed to the top starting with the philosopher Empedocle from Agrigento (V B.C.) who, according to legend, ended his life by throwing himself into it. The toponym (Aitna) seems to derive from some word whose etymology, leads back to the meaning “I burn”. For the Arabs of Sicily (IX-XI century) it was a mountain twice as high and they called it Mons (mount) Gebel (mountain), twice a mountain; and until the recent past (but also today) the Sicilians called it Mongibello. But its Sicilian name par excellence is: “a muntagna”. It has given work to the nivalori (that they collected the snow, they preserved it in the caves of the volcano and then they sold it in the villages), to the coalmen, to the gatherers of the Ginestra (excellent for the bakers). Prickly pears are one of the great symbols of Sicily. They grow everywhere: on the sides of cliffs, in gardens, on the roofs of abandoned houses, on the sides of roads … Its fruit (ripe by the end of August) is delicious and much loved by Sicilians who also make rosoli and mostarda, a sweet typically prepared in jars, with the addition of carnations, cinnamon and almonds. Gelo is also very appreciated, a sort of gelatinous cream. Prickly pears were imported by Arabs during their domination (IX-XI century).
(photo) Etna volcano and Taormina Greek theatre, engraving 1779