The Mind’s Eye

Attillio M. Varricchio’s compiled works showcase his diversity and his distinct approaches to transferring his artistic visions to canvas. He successfully manipulates the laws of physics with his playful juxtaposition of geometric shapes in works like Optical Dreams.  He explores the finiteness of space and time by adopting the symbolic imagery of the skull in his works Wonderful World and Special Waste. He uses photocollage and digital overpainting to create fantastical worlds that address the “ghettoization of contemporary history” in works like I Am Here About to Tell My Story. 

One work, however, embodies all of these messages that Varricchio strives to convey: When You Can’t See the Happiness, Look for It Inside. A photocollage and digital overpainting of one of Naples largest urban housing projects, it elicits sentiments of decay, abandon and failed dreams. It invites the viewer to cross a threshold into an impossible realm twisted upside down and sideways in defiance of gravity and logic. It allows the artist to create in a way that is limitless and unbounded.

Across Space and Time
The Vele di Scampía housing projects in Naples, Italy started off as a pipe dream. A vision for creating public housing that was affordable and representative of the new principles for social housing envisioned by Le Corbusier. However, natural and social disasters resulted in demolitions and invited squatters. The dream development became the perfect haven for crime, drugs and gangs. The kind of ghetto emerging in cities across the globe that Varricchio incorporates into his art.

In When You Can’t See the Happiness…, Varricchio once again employs the familiar photocollage and digital overpainting technique using images of the housing development. Though the pieces of the collage are recognizable as photos of Vele di Scampía, their positioning on the canvas results in the creation of a completely made-up and fantastical world, one that follows its own laws of spatial reason. And reminiscent of his MADI paintings, we see his penchant for geometry in the arrangement of the individual images in a downward extending spiral, one that draws us into an unknown abyss with invisible depths. 

The Eye of the Beholder
Though the secrets hiding in this chasm might be a mystery to the viewer, they are most certainly visible to the eye that Varricchio has created by conjoining these images. An eye nestled in a dark void, eerily echoing the empty socket of a skull. A fitting symbol for the death of a dream of better living and social equality.

But what else might the artist, a trained ophthalmologist, want this eye to express? As an eye surgeon, Varricchio knows that the pupil’s purpose is to regulate the amount of light that enters the eye. That its rim is encircled by a bold message in yellow: “When you can’t see the happiness, look inside” is a reminder. We are in control of how much darkness envelops us and how much light we permit entrance. 

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light
One might perceive the reappearance of the skull and its association with mortality and temporality as a suggestive harbinger of doom and despair. However, Varricchio’s final message remains one of hope. We only need look within to find the happiness and the light. Click here for an image of the artist’s work.