National Museum of Women in the Arts
Gisella Meo
October 08 1936 - present
Photograph of Gisella Meo, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
gee-ZEHL-ah MAY-oh
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Drawings and prints, Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Painting, Sculpture, Installation Art
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Draftsperson, Installation Artist, Mixed Media Artist , Multimedia Artist, Painter, Sculptor
Abstract Expressionism , Conceptual Art
Artist's Statement:
At first my work was based on a mordant as well as autobiographical figurative expressionism. Then, I moved towards Abstract Expressionism, through drawings and paintings, in a process that reached its climax in the African phase’s informal works (1960-1962). In this period I fully expressed my own sensitive disposition: space, light, and the earth’s strength were my favorite subjects, all the materials were treated in order to convey a strong sense of physicality and pathos. This opening up to space and light, never disjointed from a passionate involvement with materials, has been recurring all through my work.

In the 1970s, I moved from polimaterial works to the analysis of supports, aiming at a gestural revitalization of geometric forms by melting away and emptying surfaces, and transforming them through cutting and pulling. This is the way my conceptual experience started; I made use of cuts, folding, and modularity. In 1977, I turned away myself to open spaces, through outdoor installations and earthworks, usually with a strong participatory component.

Together with these earthworks, I started out making artist’s books that were based, in my personal approach, on the same combination of geometric rigor and freeing gesture. All through this phase, I employed both soft material, such as paper, plastic, cloth rope and yarn, and hard material, such as plate cement or wood, an item I intervened on by articulations and sequences. Though the search for light and space is strongly present both in my informal paintings and in my conceptual works, the last ones are also based on the following, recurring patterns:
1. I take forms out of the surrounding world and I make them mine.
2. By making them mine, I play with them, therefore introducing a playful dimension.
3. Through cuts, foldings, modularities, and knittings I produce a circulation of light and air(thus creating a convergence with my previous phase).
4. I start from a single point to spread outside.
All my works can be extended in space; this means that theoretically, they could be brought on ad finitum.

I love big landscapes and my last earthwork was made on the Bagnaia Tower (near the city of Viterbo), on September 11, 2002, for the anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy. My aim was to propose a visual symbol of the common willingness to keep intact what human culture has built, against any aberrant impulse to destroy. This work received wide reactions in Italy as well as in the United States. This is a quote from the April 17, 2004 edition of The Washington Post: “…A first anniversary commemoration of September 11 in the Italian town of Bagnaia. To symbolically safeguard the town’s medieval tower from destruction, artist Gisella Meo enclosed it with [red] cord net while the townspeople waved American flags.”

Statement courtesy of Gisella Meo

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Galleria dell' Accademia, Venice, Italy (1955-1960)
Related Visual Artists:
collaborated with Mirella Bentivoglio
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Invitee, Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy (1978-1995) Invitee, Twenty-second São Paulo Art Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (1994)
Earliest exhibition:
Circolo Gobetti, Cultural Center, Treviso, Italy (1959)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Book as Art II
Book as Art V
Artist retrospective(s):
Espandersi, Museo della Moda e del Costume, Civilerghe di Mazzano, Brescia, Italy (1998)