Padre/Father/Baba/Pate Pio: Strange Sculptures by Sislej Xhafa

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

padre/father/baba/pate Pio, 2003              Sislej Xhafa

rom a private collection in Asiago, Italy, this enormous sculpted head is by artist Sislej Xhafa from Peja, Kosovo. Known for creating works of art that investigate and comment on the phenomena of tourism, this huge expressive head was originally installed in San Lorenzo, Italy — a location that receives thousands of visitors every year. 

The head is an enlarged portrait of a Catholic priest, known as Padre Pio (1887-1968), who lived near San Lorenzo in a small town called Pietrelcina. Famous for bearing the stigmata (bodily marks/sores/sensations that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus), Padre Pio was canonized (declared a saint) by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Revered both during his life and after, shrines to him set up in both San Lorenzo and Pietrelcina invite massive pilgrimages. 

The tremendous sculpture (300x400x300cm) is hollow with a huge hole cut into the back of it. The idea was that visitors on pilgrimage could literally ‘get inside’ the padre’s head, where they could light candles to him and reflect on his pious life.