In 1992, Arben Theodhosi unveiled forty of his works in oil at a personal exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. Most of the pieces of art were derived during a time when he and his family were exiled by the communist government during the time. During the exile, Arben—or Beni as Dr. Lori Amy, a friend of Arben’s and professor at Georgia Southern University, calls him—was forced to work in a copper mine for fifteen years; there is some question to whether he might have silica in his lungs.
Deep in the mines, Beni’s vision was obscured, which is what I saw in the image to the left: a series of faces that he might see, though obscured, in the mines—silhouettes, shadow casted down tunnels.
In my Writing the Body course, Dr. Lori Amy has given us the opportunity to communicate through email and Skype with students in Albania. These students know English but get very little chance to practice their articulation skills with native English speakers. I have been assigned a young man named Petro Saqellari as my Albania pen pal.
Petro and I are having a discussion via email about Beni’s beautiful artwork. I suggest what I see is obscurity in the darkness of the mines and this is what Petro had to add to my observation:
“We also should remember that Arben was in jail and most of his paintings show the suffering off his soul in there. In my opinion that is a dark room which directs us to the jail and the faces of the prisoners being destroyed by that times regime. If we want to see the painting in a larger scale and another point of view we can say that Albania as a country was a jail and everyone living in it had a dark part in [their] life. People [were] really under pressure and fear. All those faces in the painting show some fear and I [think] that they are also hiding something. The communist regime which I prefer to call a dictatorial regime used to imprison and make everyone who just offended the regime [suffer]— imagine what they could do to a regular criminal. That is in a few words what I wanted to say about that painting.”
I would just like to commend Petro on his English—he probably speaks more proper than me! On another note, coincidentally, this week in my Poetry course we will be going over Ekphrasis—poetry about art—and I will probably use a work from one of Beni’s online collections as my muse.