The Arno’s Ancient Green Is Holy Not Color by Joel Werring

In Spring 2020, the LdM Gallery should have hosted visiting artist Joel Werring, professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Although we could not physically host the exhibition for obvious reasons, at the start of this academic year, we wish to celebrate the work he accomplished during the lockdown (February-May 2020) while looking forward to meeting Joel and his family again.



In Florence you sleep
with yesterday’s forgotten
Ghosts that clench your hair.
Tangled, they let go
when mothers of mothers soothe
Scraped ankles with clay.
In Florence, westward
The Arno’s ancient green is
Holy, not color
But the stained words of
poets pulled deep beneath the
Swan’s rippled S curve.
This Sunday I want
For you, Rosemary sprig and
the river’s blessing,
the sacred taste of
strawberry, enduring tears
from a headless saint.

Joel Werring, May 2020, Florence, Italy


I’ve always wanted to give myself a year of just working in black and
white, to really think about drawing as an investigative tool. As it
turned out, the limited palette, combined with the physical restraint of
lockdown, has allowed me this freedom and focus. 

Joel Werring, artist

Un silenzio sembra pervadere le composizioni di Joel: un silenzio che splende nell’impianto strutturale delle linee, e che scivola verso gli elementi che racchiudono, svelando una trama che non spiega, ma induce lo spettatore isolare ed intuire il sentimento delle cose, dei luoghi, così fortemente evocativi e poetici per l’artista.

È il silenzio che deve aver accompagnato Joel nelle sue lunghe passeggiate sulla riva dell’Arno, lo stesso silenzio che gli ha premesso di ascoltare lo scorrere, mutevole ed eterno, dell’acqua e delle infinite sfumature intonate al verde che l’artista richiama non nelle opere, condotte a grafite, ma nel titolo, evidenziandone l’elemento sacro, astratto, eterno, riflesso nelle fronde dell’albero di magnolia che ha osservato rinnovarsi ogni giorno, così come nei fondali metafisici degli affreschi dell’Angelico e nelle opere di Masaccio e Pontormo. È quel verde che l’artista sa di poter rivedere ogni volta che vorrà visitare questo suo luogo della memoria, per ritrovarsi, ancora, nella sintesi di quella luce.

Silence seems to permeate the compositions: a silence that shines through the structure of traced lines, flowing within the elements that enclose it, revealing a plot that does not explain but inspires in the viewer the feeling of things and places that are so evocative and poetic for the artist. An echo of the silence that accompanied Joel in his long walks on the banks of the Arno. The same silence that allowed him to recall the metaphysical backgrounds of Angelico’s frescoes and the work of Pontormo, while listening to the perpetually changing flow of water and its countless shades of green.

The artist evokes this green in the title he has chosen for its corpus of work, rather than in the drawings themselves, which are created using graphite. In doing so, he expresses its sacredness, its holy abstraction – The Arno’s Ancient Green is Holy, Not Color –, which he saw shining through the magnolia’s flowers and leaves, as well as in the metaphysical backgrounds of Fra’ Angelico’s frescoes, and in Masaccio’s and Pontormo’s work. That green he can recall every time he wants to visit this place of his memory, and discover himself in the synthesis of that light.

Elisa Gradi, Art History Supervisor at LdM

I met Joel for the first time when only a few days separated us from the
beginning of the spring semester 2020. […] Being the LdM Gallery Coordinator, the possibility of organizing the personal exhibition of an important and celebrated artist was something I was expecting with great enthusiasm. Joel turned out to be exactly what they told me about: kind, professional and deeply in love with the experience he was having with his family in Florence. […] I distinctly remember his excitement and enthusiasm with which he had accepted to work in view of his exhibition. […] Unfortunately, he couldn’t do this in the gallery, but the extraordinary thing is that he still managed to carry out his project inside his Florentine apartment, a large part of it transformed
in his studio. […] All of us are left with the pleasure of enjoying his works,
grateful to Joel for his passion and infinite humanity.

Federico Gori, LdM Gallery Coordinator

Visit the LdM Gallery page for more information.