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February 18, 2007

Hagiography at the library!

Since when is "hagiography" on par with pornography? We're not sure, but we know it when we see it.

The controversy over the Brooklyn Public Library’s possible censorship of the Footprints art exhibit now turns to Jay Kaplan, director of the Brooklyn Public Library’s programs and exhibitions. According to The New York Times, Kaplan “called the rejected painting of Mr. Goldstein 'hagiographic.'” This makes us wonder if Kaplan has taken a casual glance at the current Footprints exhibit.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines hagiography as "biography of saints or venerated persons." Wikipedia's explanation begins by stating plainly, "Hagiography is the study of saints."

Hanging in the main gallery of the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is the most blatantly hagiographic portrait of the entire original "Footprints" collection, the oil painting of Joseph Pastore by Claire Wieting (click image to enlarge). Pastore, a 62-year-old retiree, is a 40-year resident of Dean Street and a plaintiff in the eminent domain lawsuit against the City and State of NY and developer Forest City Ratner. Earlier this month, his photo ran on the cover of the commuter daily AM New York, where he was featured with three other property owners who have held out against Ratner's attempts to take their property for the arena-housing complex called "Atlantic Yards."

Portrait of Joe
In Wieting's 16"x20" portrait, Pastore's face is lit, even though he stands in the shadow of the stoop. However, Pastore's eyes are left shrouded within the shadow of his brow. It appears as if his face is illuminated from within.

By abandoning the laws of physics, the painter makes a point. The gemütlichkeit of the stoop, an icon of Brooklyn's neighborhoods, is juxtaposed by the man who, casting his own light, is other-wordly (possibly saintly in his stance against the project?), but whose eyes, the keyhole to his soul, remain unseen and thus unknowable to those who do not walk his path. [Note, the actual keyhole to Pastore's front door can be seen in the painting.]

At this point, we're wondering how the portrait of Pastore managed to slip past the sharp-eyed deciders at the library.

For a representative of the library to call Sarah Sagarin's portrait of Dan Goldstein "hagiographic," but to ignore the portrait that quietly venerates Pastore is short-sighted spin at best, and has probably served to exaggerate any hagiographic significance of Goldstein's portrait, which will be hanging at Le Salon des Refusés de la Bibliothèque de Brooklyn begining Thursday, February 22.

The Footprints exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library, including hagiographic content, is running through April 21.

Posted by lumi at February 18, 2007 7:45 AM