My memorial to my great friend Aldo Tambellini is in this month’s tribune to the artist in the June 2021 Brooklyn Rail. I’m thrilled Aldo is finally getting the attention he deserves as the multimedia artist bringing the primordial energy into form.
I met Aldo for the first time on May 23, 2009 in the Pierre Menard Gallery around the corner from the artist’s Cambridge apartment. The burning sensation in my spine alerted me to the hand of destiny at work in this unexpected encounter with a commanding presence, even as my gaze was pulled into the center of the holistic aesthetic in his circle paintings propped against the wall. This was the artist body whose body of work suddenly opened the door to my inheritance.
I had stopped in the gallery on my way to a meeting of the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee. In that same space, the owner, John Wronoski, would gift me an original edition of Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century, the first feminist work in the nation. I opened it to discover the frontispiece of an Ouroboros surrounding the Seal of Solomon and her poem: The Sacred Marriage.
Opening the bicentennial at Pierre Menard Gallery on May 23, 2010, Woman in the 21st Century: Margaret Fuller and the Sacred Marriage disclosed the hidden hermeticism inspiring the mother of American literature before and beyond the decade characterized by identity politics. As centerpiece, Tambellini’s masterpiece Pregnant Woman was the ontological signifier of the genius behind the artist’s exclusivity to blackness following the complete break from his classical training: his memory of salvation of his bombed Italian village by the African American Buffalo Soldier regiment. Creating the exhibition around this ontology of blackness was just the beginning of authentic irony behind the synchronicities guiding my deep friendship with Aldo and his partner Anna Salamone. A magical dinner at their atelier in Salem, home of the American witch, rewarded me with knowledge of the mystical source of his circle motif, which would inform my writing on Tambellini, as the quest for the sacred marriage of heaven and earth.
The East Village sign for Black Gate Theater marked my adult descent into the unknown of this 21st-century icon. The surrender to this signifier (falling in love in an underground cafe at that spot) at the crossroads was the unknown passage for this daughter of the Human Potential Movement, establishing the genius of Aldo Tambellini as both origin and destination for a personal reclamation of my inheritance—the ’60s search for the kundalini experience recreated through encounter groups forming my ’70s adolescence. The adventure with Aldo and Anna bestowed a new identity within their circle beyond that of friend or critic: urban archeologist excavating the figurehead of the intermedia movement via Anna’s newly reclaimed treasure trove of long-buried artifacts encapsulating the Kundalini upheaval of the ’60s cultural revolution.
Aldo personified the ’60s rebellion against the system in his quest for individual liberty. He sacrificed the security of the institutional art world for the role of pioneer, inventing an aesthetic of the paradigm shift. In reaching back to my father’s Kundalini research for an interpretive language, I came to understand the life/death/rebirth cycle as a two-way mirror of the Tambellini circle motif culminating into the sacred marriage of heart and mind—reflected in his ultimate love match with Anna.
Aldo as the hidden hand of destiny transforming my personal quest for all-encompassing love into a professional mission granted me a parting circle gift that I will forever cherish: Anna holding up the phone so I could accompany the spirit of the great poet into the great unknown that he dedicated his life to giving form.
Lisa Paul Streitfeld
May 8, 2021