“The crib of Padre Kino” by the Venetian artist Luigi Ballarin at the Mart in Rovereto – Carlo Franza’s blog

It will remain exposed until 8 January 2023 in the entrance hall of the Mart, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, “The crib of Padre Kino” created by the Venetian artist Luigi Ballarin. It is a large canvas (3.60 x 2.40 m) which interprets the narration with which Venerable Father Eusebio Chini, Noneso di Segno and Jesuit missionary at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries in New Spain, today Mexico and Arizona, is recognized as one of the “founding fathers of the State of Arizona”, he could have told his Native Pimas the mystery of the Nativity and the Holy Family.

The work on display. – A hut made of skins, typical of the tribes of the native Pima people; Mary and Joseph in the costumes of those parts; a bison instead of an ox and a puma instead of a donkey; three Indian chiefs in their colorful clothes who replace our Magi Kings; the Indian women carrying the woven baskets to the Sacred Hut; some youths in full tribal dance in flamboyant holiday costumes; the men who proudly exhibit the ceramics produced with their hands; the children playing… and, in the background, the Padre on horseback, the Kino who has come from afar, who scans the sky following with attentive eyes the course of the comet which he was able to study during the sea voyage with which he reached the New Spain then. And over there, on the right, lost in the blue of the night and barely distinguishable among the shadows of the gigantic saguaros of the desert of Sonora, here is the profile of the mission of San Xavier del Bac (Tucson, Arizona), one of the twenty-four built by the Trentino missionary during the his overseas apostolate.

“The original “germ” of the Faith is contained, after all, in the birth of a migrant newborn in a distant land together with his parents, yet welcomed by the poorest people but also by the wise men of the world of the time as an important Son – explains Mauro Neri in his critical text – A sign of hope for the weak and confirmation for the grown-ups. Today the shapes and chromatic harmonies of Luigi Ballarin enter the secular temple of modern and contemporary art in Trentino to tell the Nativity of two thousand years ago by spreading the same simple tones on the large canvas and arousing the same magic that must have captivated the hearts of the Pima in listening to the narration of their father Kino. His friend Franco Panizza understood this very well, and promptly took action to ensure that it was Father Chini himself who wished all the visitors to the Mart in Rovereto”.

A call to simplicity – Faced with this Sacred Representation set in the arid heart of the most terrible desert in the world, which however makes the images of the many cribs of our childhood re-emerge in each of us, we are projected two thousand years ago to relive that same surprise, that same amazed enchantment what the men and women of Bethlehem had to experience in following the comet star in the sky and arriving in the presence of an event that cannot fail to touch the imagination of today’s women and men. “Kino’s, through the art of Luigi Ballarin, is a reference to the simplicity of a positive, smiling, calm and maybe even a little silent Christmas – concludes Mauro Neri – The silence of reflection on what is happening around us; the silence of our heart in the face of the hundred and hundred wars that agitate the peoples of the Earth; the silence in the face of the infinite joy of a mother and a father who can’t take their eyes off their newborn son; the silence of amazement but also of hope. Because after all, on Christmas night we can’t help but dream that Man emerges from the darkness of the night and lets himself be illuminated by the creeping light of a comet that crosses the sky and by the figure of a man dressed in black riding his horse that invites each of us to follow him on the narrow and tiring paths, which however lead to that hut of skins that rises from the sand of the desert. Where it all began.”

Eusebio F. Chini: the Apostle of the Native Americans. “The figure of Padre Kino (Segno in Val di Non, 1645 – Magdalena de Kino in Mexico, 1711) is very current and is at ease in the halls of a museum of modern and contemporary art. We are therefore happy that the Mart has accepted ours proposal to celebrate Christmas 2022 with the large painting by Luigi Ballarin, which takes its cue from the multiple characteristics of this man from Trentino lent to the mission, but who was also a geographer and astronomer, archaeologist and mathematician, breeder and builder… We asked the Mart of Rovereto to host the memory of the figure of our father Kino for two important reasons. The first concerns our museum in Segno: those who visit it are always impressed by the quantity of paintings, mosaics, murals and statues donated by many Italian and international artists. For years, therefore, Arte and Apostle of the Native Americans have been traveling hand in hand. We also think that visitors to the Mart, thanks to their artistic sensitivity, possess the curiosity and attention that allow them to go beyond the canvases to discover and enjoy the profound reasons that create so many beautiful works of art. Well, our father Kino is just like that: a mystery to unravel, an example to imitate, a school of acceptance and sharing that today can be the levers to finally arrive at a better world. Merry Christmas 2022 and Happy New Year 2023”. (Alberto Chini, President of the Cultural Association P. Eusebio F. Chini)

Padre Kino: A Whole Life Riding the Faith. “Father Eusebio Francesco Chini, better known as Padre Kino, was born in Segno, in the Val di Non, on 10 August 1645. After completing his university studies in the Society of Jesus, he went as a missionary to the overseas lands of New Spain, in Mexico and in Arizona. From 1687 and for 24 years, the Jesuit father traveled thousands of miles on horseback to help the Indian populations – in particular the Pima of the Sonoran desert – to improve their economic and human conditions, opposing the prevarications of the Spaniards. Using the message of the Gospel, in fact, and without absolutist impositions, he teaches how to build farms, raise livestock, sow and cultivate the land by channeling water. As a cartographer he offers the scientific evidence by which he establishes that Baja California is a peninsula and not an island. He died on March 15, 1711 after having celebrated mass in the mission of Magdalena, a city which, in his honor and after the discovery of his mortal remains (1966), is today called Magdalena de Kino. In the Famedio of Washington dedicated to the Greats of America there is also a statue of him with the epigraph that reads: “Explorer, historian, breeder, builder of missions, apostle of the Indians”. In 1971 the archdiocese of Hermosillo (Mexico) started the process of beatification of Father Eusebio Francesco Chini, who in 2021 was declared Venerable. Meanwhile, since July 1992, the Father Eusebio F. Chini Cultural Association has been busy with many activities and with the management of the Museum of Segno to make the Jesuit missionary known”.(Silvia Vernaccini)

Luigi Ballarin: the colors of spirituality. Luigi Ballarin, who was born in the Venice lagoon in 1959, made “travel” the major creative stimulus of his artistic production. The orientalist Raffaela Biasi writes of him thus: «Luigi is not empty appearance, he is substance, he is modernity supported by tradition, he is man’s eternal search to understand the other from himself and to understand how man addresses himself to the so-called God, whom I would see represented here as a Grand Architect of the Universe. In 2017 he could not miss a solo show in Cavallino-Treporti, his hometown that sees him exhibiting the following year as well. 2019 is divided between Rome, Istanbul, London and Trento, where he is present with the Anselmo and Meral exhibition which kicks off the collaboration with the Trentino writer Mauro Neri. In 2021 he exhibits at the Egyptian Academy in Rome with the exhibition Under the sky of Tutankhamun. After the interlude of the pandemic, in 2022 he exhibited in Sarajevo (Magnificent architecture), in Siena (The move of the horse). In recent weeks Ballarin is in Oradea (Romania) with Glass Prayers – Crystal Fantasies, 42 paintings dedicated to the precious work of Romanian icon painters on glass and to the tireless wandering commitment of the Klòmeri, the itinerant vendors of the Val dei Mocheni. His large canvas (3.60 x 2.40 m) dedicated to the Trentino missionary Father Eusebio Chini was chosen by the Mart to celebrate Christmas 2022 and will be at the center, in 2023, of one of his art exhibitions dedicated precisely to the figure and to the work of Kino.

Charles Franza

“The crib of Padre Kino” by the Venetian artist Luigi Ballarin at the Mart in Rovereto – Carlo Franza’s blog