Walking into the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery, visitors may have to physically refrain from drooling. “Is that over-sized, custard-filled tart–overflowing with glazed sugar–real?” the aforementioned visitors’ taste buds might ask.

Unfortunately, no–the giant, delicious-looking tart on the wall is merely a meticulously detailed oil painting created by Italian artist Luigi Benedicenti.

Born in the northern city of Turin, Italy, Benedicenti has been exhibiting work in his native country since the 1970s. In 2003, he began showing his work in the U.S.

Though technically his paintings classify as still life of Italian desserts and nude women, the word only loosely describes Benedicenti’s work.

The Italian artist has played a pivotal role in the evolution and modernization of the genre. The term “realismo extremo” frequently comes up in descriptions of his work, indicating that his paintings are so detailed; they almost transcend the meaning of “realistic.” Unlike most still life, his art evokes a highly sensory and sensual response (thus the drooling).

GALO spoke with Benedicenti about how he is inspired and how he resists the urge to eat the delicious desserts he paints.

GALO: What is it about Italian desserts that has inspired you to paint them?

Luigi Benedicenti: Depicting pastries is my very personal interpretation of the contemporary still life genre.

GALO: Do you also bake the real life desserts before painting them?

LB: Even if I am not a bad cook – without false modesty, I consider myself to be a good cook – I do not bake the pastries I depict. They are traditional Italian pastries, prepared by professional bakers who sell them in their shops. Unfortunately, as I suffer from diabetes, I cannot eat them after taking photographs, but I can assure you that I have never had any problem in finding volunteers for such a task!

GALO: Do you see yourself fitting into the “realismo extremo” style?

LB: I would like to highlight that this definition is sometimes reductive of my daily challenge that is to convey the same feelings that the observer could experience only by “living” or “touching” the things I represent. In this way, my pastries, a dish of pasta or a fruit, are intended to stimulate the senses and the taste buds; my nudes, in which I highlight some details of the skin, are intended to exalt both the sensuality and the gracefulness of the female body, but at the same time to induce the observer to make sure of the temperature of the body itself. To conclude, through my paintings I want to fuel into the beholder a tactile feeling, a sensory feeling that can involve him completely.

GALO: In 2008, you exhibited La Dolce Vita at the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery. Now, three years later, you are back with Decadenza Dolce. What’s different this time?

LB: In the past three years my intention has been to explore new interpretations of reality through the creation of new composition. My aim was to search for something “more real than real.” I want to improve reality, make it better through a more precise graduation of light and color, which create shapes and highlight details which would otherwise go unnoticed or that would not be perceived in all their strength.

See Luigi Benedicenti’s exhibition at the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery through December 3. For more information, visit http://www.bernarduccimeisel.com.

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