Home Art Magazine Michael Gambino's Thought-Provoking Butterflies

In all its splendor and vastness, art is known to have intersected with many other spheres of our lives; we live in a time when certain artworks are based on the latest technological developments for instance, while others carry strong political messages around the globe, or use nature as their resource. Many artists end up exploring fields that have nothing to do with artistic production itself so they can create powerful statements, and for some of them, inspiration comes from a specific academic background they had built.

One such creative is Michael Gambino, a young artist born in New York and living between Varese and Brescia, in northern Italy, whose intriguing mixed media practice might have been a nod to his Science and Biology studies; add to that his diploma in visual arts from the Milan’s Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and you can get a glimpse of the multiple layers in his oeuvre. But Gambino’s interests also seem to go well beyond what he learned at these schools - his intricate artworks suggest topics such as geography, literature, politics, history. They are bound by a particular visual language characterized by color and a kind of recognizable dispersity.   


Michael Gambino, L'Italia


Upon a closer look at Michael Gambino’s works, we realize that they gradually (and metaphorically) break down to fragments of a familiar shape. We then conclude that these are actually condensed mosaics consisting of differently-shaped and colored butterflies, swarming in and out of a central figure that varies in subject and meaning. The insects are made of cut-out paper and are typically pinned onto the canvas, giving it three-dimensionality and, possibly, the sense of life, and death.

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Indeed, lepidoptera have been present in works of artists for centuries. We can find their earliest depictions in the caves of the Pyrenees and the walls of Crete some 4 millennia ago. In Ancient Greece, butterflies were widely used in popular culture due to the connection that was made between them and the human soul, so much so that they used the same word for both. A butterfly also seems to be the perfect example of the strong and ever-evolving human spirit, growing from a caterpillar to a glorious free creature - this transformation encouraged humanity to believe in the afterlife and resurrection as well, and the possibility of our souls to ascend to heaven. Their depictions throughout the history of art have been numerous, from the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Hieronymous Bosch, to Damien Hirst and now Michael Gambino. The dialogue between modern and contemporary art is truly important for many contemporary artists, if you are curious about it read more on our article dedicated to the american artist Bill Viola and his connection with Michelangelo Buonarroti: "Bill Viola / Michelangelo. Life Death Rebirth" at the Royal Academy of Art.


Michael Gambino, King of Space - Shakespeare


Dynamic and static at the same time, the butterflies of Michael Gambino come together to form different paths and environments for themselves. Proposing a different look at the world and its parts, the artist gives life to ephemerality that uses the natural world as the point of departure, but also arrival, and this perhaps is where his curiosity for biology and science come in handy. Gambino’s habitats become beings in a still-life frame, populating continents as we know them, or coming out of books like living thoughts. He continues the tradition of using the butterfly as the symbol of regeneration while at the same time paying homage to natural phenomena such as bioluminescence. Just as his canvas lights up, the artist tells the story of the ability of some animals, such as fish or fireflies, to emit light radiations and produce energy. It is this force of life that nurtures Michael Gambino’s creativity, a constant flux of vitality and power that ultimately binds all aspects of our existence.

Of course, what almost immediately comes to mind seeing these artworks is the Butterfly Effect, associated with the work of Edward Lorenz, an American meteorologist and mathematician. According to this theory, two events that occur at considerable distances in time and space between them can still be unexpectedly and quite connected, as if having an inevitable influence on each other. For Michael Gambino, this applies to the very world we live in and its recurring events, its society, our ways of living.


Michael Gambino, Nebula 2


But it is perhaps the many exhibitions that this artist was invited to show his works in that testify best to his versatility and ability to tackle different subjects with the same intensity - for example, the 2013/2014 show split between Washington, DC and Milan that gave a look at the nutritional habits of humans. “Are we what we eat? - Sustainability and Art” featured art created by students and professors of The Academy of Brera, among which Gambino, and the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Another exhibit gathered artists to mark the civil rights battle by the Kennedys, in which they showed their visions of justice and social equality. Another still in Ravenna, Italy highlighted young artists who are exceptional at executing mosaics.

All this only comes to reaffirm Michael Gambino’s consistency and dedication to the arts, as we follow his flying-still companions on a trip through our universe and the many hidden corners of it, unveiled before our very eyes. We are only even more excited to see what comes next in the portfolio of this talented individual.

Stay Tuned to Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.