Divine inspiration is rarely a happy state. The 10th Century Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen experienced what she referred to as “the shade of the living light,” which would plunge her, for days at a time, into a realm of apocalyptic dreams and visions. Suffering from these attacks all her life, she came to understand them, at the age of 42, to be visio, or messages from the Divine.  It was a terrible burden, that destroyed her body and left her with a lingering dread of the unknown. The attacks would commandeer all five of her senses at once, but Hildegard would awaken, surrounded by her sisters in the order, with mysteries to share. And share she did: she became one of her century’s most prolific writers, illustrators, and composers of religious music. All things were connected by a lifeforce that she called viriditas, literally translated from Latin as “greenness.”

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


Beachscape painter Linda Richichi, by comparison, claims to hear what she calls the muse, speak to her with human language. Sometimes it tells her when a painting is complete, and other times it provides her with a fresh direction. Once, while Linda was sitting with her niece for a portrait, she claims to have downloaded a feeling of love from Mother Mary. “This painting doesn’t want to be you, anymore,” she hesitantly told her young model, “this painting wants to wear a veil.” Her niece, predictably, was shocked, but Richichi was profoundly moved by the experience.

It must be said, Richichi is a much more peaceful figure than the tragic Hildegard von Bingen. Her visions of coastal viriditas are imbued with a therapeutic quality, and Linda herself seems to experience nothing so much as delight when perched in front of her easel painting plein-air. Rather than a greenness, her paintings are alight with hazy blues and pinks, emotional waterscapes filled with dizzying perspective shifts. You may find her in any number of Sarasota’s most scenic locations, taking in the morning air, observing the ways that the light has changed the character of water, of palm trees or the sands. She sometimes smiles when she paints, and she only works inside when the weather forces her to do so. She has an easier time speaking with her brushes than she does her voice.

The work itself is markedly abstract. Thick brushstrokes and idiosyncratic color choices make the paintings read like a brighter and more optimistic J.M. Turner. Some are peaceful, while others carry more than a hint of sublime terror. A few of them appear to be from landscapes outside of Earth’s atmosphere. When asked about the motivation behind a particularly deep and cloudless ocean vista, she takes out a sheet of paper filled with what can only be called spirit writing. A series of arabesques crowd the base of a column that juts across the page. Beneath the mysterious figures, Richichi writes, “There’s a place of higher consciousness and the muse helps us to know this place.” Lucky for the art going public, Richichi is here to translate those higher realms for we mortals.

Linda Richichi  art exhibition will run from opening night, January 24 till February 5.