They fight prejudices and shake up the canons of modern literature and contemporary art; they are sister souls, of few words, great thought and many dreams. Petite and delicate, they are reminiscent of the mythical janas (fairies) and, like them, they emanate powerful and enchanted energies, giving voice to the women of the deepest Sardinia and to the poetry of their native places, Barbagia and Ogliastra. Here you can find Maria Lai's greatest works, in the Ulassai countryside, along the mountain paths towards the miracle of nature that is the su Marmuri cave and inside the village, alongside those of international artists who wanted to celebrate her creative genius by marking her places with their art. Maria Lai will pay the same tribute to Grazia Deledda by installing her latest work in Nuoro, a few steps from the Chiesa della Solitudine church where the only female Nobel Prize winner for literature rests. Andando via (‘Going away’) is a journey through the life-filled silences of Deledda's women, through places inhabited by myths and millenary legends, a poetic world that has nourished the artistic sensitivity of both.
On receiving the Nobel Prize, the writer from Nuoro said of her city: "I saw the sunrise and the sunset, the moonrise in the immense solitude of the mountains, I listened to the songs, the traditional music and fairy tales, and the words of the people, and this is how my art was formed". But Italian intellectuals turned up their noses at her; she was a woman, what's more, uneducated and not a purist; she writes in Italian but as a foreigner, a 'dirty' language one would say today in praise of this type of writing. They had not grasped her universal language beyond clichés, the power of her straight and raw words from the belly of the ancestral and male chauvinist world of Barbagia. The pages of Canne al Vento, Cosima, Cenere and La madre sparked much thought which pervaded Nuoro and which today can be found in the literary park dedicated to her, in the places of cultural avant-garde, such as the Man, the museum of contemporary art, constantly at the centre of new artistic expressions, and in the ethnographic museum, guardian of Sardinia's thousand-year-old traditions, so dear to our artists.
Grazia Deledda built the bridge between Sardinian culture and the world. Maria Lai travelled along it but she too was ignored by the critics, the same critics who, decades later, consecrate her and recognise the watershed of contemporary art in the living installation created in Ulassai. Relational art, land art, street art, collective performance, people have tried to give a name to the poetics of Legarsi alla montagna (‘Bind to the Mountain’), but her work is grandiose, surpassing the very definition of avant-garde. A blue ribbon, the symbol of art, binds the houses together, a knot where there is friendship, a loaf where there is love, the thread then runs towards the mountain and the village remained bound like this for days, amidst collective singing and dancing. In Ulassai, which overlooks the sea from its majestic Tacchi, Maria Lai left her unmistakable mark of craftsmanship on the cooperative of women weavers with old-fashioned looms and many works and installations housed at the Stazione dell'Arte, which is much more than a personal museum of the artist, it is a journey into a special soul.