Wednesday, November 26, 2008

History timeout

Kenneth C. Davis, the author of Don't Know Much About History, opines in a Times column that the first real Pilgrims to land in America were from France (Calvinists) who landed in sunny Florida circa 1564 rather than the Mayflower Pilgrims who landed off the cold Massachusetts coast about 50 years later. Included in the column are some fascinating but little known facts about this country. As far as the French pilgrims were concerned, they were summarily slaughtered by a party dispatched from Catholic ruled Spain whose leader after the bloody massacre proclaimed that 'I do this not as to Frenchmen but as to heretics.'
Starting with those massacred French pilgrims, the saga of the nation’s birth and growth is often a bloodstained one, filled with religious animosities. In Boston, for instance, the Puritan fathers banned Catholic priests and executed several Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Cotton Mather, the famed Puritan cleric, led the war cries against New England’s Abenaki “savages” who had learned their prayers from the French Jesuits. The colony of Georgia was established in 1732 as a buffer between the Protestant English colonies and the Spanish missions of Florida; its original charter banned Catholics. The bitter rivalry between Catholic France and Protestant England carried on for most of a century, giving rise to anti-Catholic laws, while a mistrust of Canada’s French Catholics helped fire many patriots’ passion for independence. As late as 1844, Philadelphia’s anti-Catholic “Bible Riots” took the lives of more than a dozen people.

Photo from a recent visit to see the oil paintings of Vincent Desiderio on display at the Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea. The show runs from Nov 20 - Jan 3, 09.

From their brochure: A highlight of the exhibition will be a 39-foot triptych entitled Quixote, 2008 (oil on canvas: 107 ¾ x 458 in., 273.7 x 1,163.3 cm). The center panel depicts the elongated shadow of a bicycle wheel along an abraded concrete floor flanked by a piano wrapped in movers’ blankets ascending into a Magritte-like sky and a hanging carcass before a bullet-ridden pink and green tile wall. The floating piano of the left panel is painted with a deadpan humor reminiscent of a Buster Keaton film, while the right panel, inspired by a slaughtered animal in a Hermann Nitsch performance, pits what could be a butcher shop in Sarajevo with a Lacanian sense of lack. Defying easy interpretation or a strict linear narrativity, Desiderio’s complex paintings engage the viewer on multiple levels: one is immediately attracted to the beauty and technical virtuosity of Desiderio’s technique while simultaneously tantalized and perplexed by their mysterious nature.

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