I was told that “once upon a time”, a sibyl, a divine prophetess, offered up her predictions in this grotto on the Adriatic Coast of Italy near Lecce. Our most gracious host, Monica, drove us there one afternoon. There were two grottos – one where people were swimming and enjoying the day (I was sorry I hadn’t brought my swim suit – the water was so gorgeous), the other was fenced off and foreboding – but that was the one that held the mystery. Ignoring the ‘no entry’ signs, we squeezed through the fence and started down the scaffolding. My companions chose to stay at the first level, but I descended further into the grotto to get a sense of the space and to listen for the whispers of the ancients.
We happened upon an exhibition of artifacts from the Grotto at a nearby castle that enlightened us about the usage, the rituals, and the time frame. Grotta de Poesia was in use during the Final Bronze Age – middle 4th to 2nd century B.C. The name, poesia, comes from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘source of fresh water’. But it sounds like poem, doesn’t it? – I like the double meaning. The caves follow a circular pattern deep underground. Some of the items found were vessels, small abstract figures, and a bronze double ax (associated with the goddess according to Marija Gimbutas.) There were numerous votive inscriptions and symbols on the cave walls as well.
A couple of weeks later, working at Scuola Int’l de Grafica in Venice as an artist in residence, I re-visited the images of the Grotta de Poesia. The shimmering water, the range of blues, spoke to me. I did a series of 14″ x 11″ monotype prints (one of a kind images) trying to capture the movement and intensity that I felt there. I discovered a rich cobalt blue that I had never used before and love the result.