Artist Sergio Vega on Dante


Sergio Vega, detail from The Golden Age with Mosquitoes, 1999

“Nicolas Guagnini: The first piece of yours I’d ever seen was a small painted sculpture, a parrot with the face of Dante Alighieri. My obvious reaction was amusement. Dante could not stop writing, just as parrots can’t stop talking. Once the humor subsided, I understood what you were getting at: Dante was giving us a version of biblical themes, namely heaven and hell, in his own contemporary terms. Are you a theological commentator or an evolutionist?
Sergio Vega: I am glad you bring up that piece, Dante-parrot, because it functions as an axis upon which most of the work I have produced in the last eight years hinges. At the time I made it, I was puzzled by the term U.S. politicians were using, when they referred to the countries of Latin America as “our backyard.” Immersed as I was in Dante’s work, I decided to make a cast from a replica of his death mask to represent a habitant of that backyard, like one of those cement dwarfs people use to decorate their gardens. Dante is turned into a parrot as if someone had put a spell on him; he is entering the Garden of Eden (in Canto 28 of Purgatorio). Besides the joke that the parrot’s beak is in this case Dante’s famous nose, the piece proposes a paradox of ideas about originality, staging the contradictions of a constituted Latin subject: Dante, the author who articulated a new language in order to produce his own work, is embodied in the vernacular representation of a bird that mimics speech.” [. . .]    –Nicolàs Guagnini, Bombsite, 2001

Contributed by Hope Stockton (Bowdoin ’07)