Dangerous Curves: Politics and Poetry in the Work of Blaise Tobia
by Joseph F. Gregory © 2003


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__ The analogical structure and poetical impulse that runs through all of the paired images are even found in the artist's single images such as his Giglio (Religious Procession for St. Paulinus, Brooklyn, NY, 1999). The subject of this work is the annual reenactment in Brooklyn of an ancient religious pageant commemorating the safe return from Moorish slavery of St. Paulinus, the 5th c. Bishop of Nola, Italy. The representation of the tower of the Cathedral of Nola (the "Giglio"), eighty five feet high and weighing four tons, is festooned with lilies (Giglio is Italian for "lily") and surmounted by an image of the saint. During the procession, one hundred men lift the Giglio on their shoulders and (in what is for many an act of penance) carry it through the streets. As a contemporary American manifestation of an ancient Italian cultural object and practice, the Giglio is analogous in both form and meaning to its invisible, ancient counterpart, and it is therefore implicitly paired with it along a horizontal, diachronic axis (in contrast to the synchronic pairings discussed above). And by virtue of the unifying relations across time and space established by this pairing, the Giglio stands as a symbol for the unchanging in culture, for the way in which ethnic continuity and identity are constantly replenished as an antidote to the arbitrariness and uncertainty inherent in the ineluctable process of cultural change.

 


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