Sunday, October 22, 2017

Josephine Sacabo: "Barking at God--Retablos Mundanos" at a Gallery for Fine Photography

The Brazilian author, Clarice Lispector, once said she could speak "a language that only my dog understands." Later, exasperated by her literary exertions, she said "...all that's left for me is to bark at God." Today many people caught between their cellphones and the histrionic 24/7 media cycle feel equally exasperated by the tsunami of verbal and visual noise erupting all around us. For well known photographer and longtime French Quarter resident Josephine Sacabo, a recent rash of graffiti on the old Quarter's walls posed a disruptive contrast to the serene streets around her Mexican home in San Miguel de Allende, where traditional religious images, called “retablos,” set the tone. She wondered if, and how, those contrasting modes of urban expression, one ephemeral, the other eternal, could be reconciled. Her elaborate Barking at God photogravure montage series was the result of her investigation.

Angel, left, depicts a Spanish baroque winged figure poised for takeoff on some holy redemptive mission, but its radiant form appears ensnared in a maze of scrawled graffiti that could impede its progress like a flock of geese suddenly sandbagging a Boeing 747 on takeoff. Apparently angels, like the rest of us, are affected by random atmospheric factors. Blasphemy features baroque seraphim, saints and cherubim navigating a churning void studded with obscene words like a flotilla of Catholic sanctity adrift on a churning sea of darkness, but Virgin and Child Between the Walls, above, evokes a miraculous emanation of the Holy Mother glowing amid the graffiti of a gritty Decatur Street wall. Illumination, top,  depicts Saint Scholastica unfazed by the graffiti flames that engulf her in a scene emblematic of what Sacabo calls “the dueling iconographies of the two places I call home. I have no final judgment to make on the subjects. Each expression is presented with it's consolations and it's cruelties. They are what they are and I hope the viewer finds something in them that speaks to what they themselves may have experienced, needed or felt.” ~Bookhardt / Barking at God--Retablos Mundanos: Hand Colored Photogravures by Josephine Sacabo, Through Dec. 31, A Gallery For Fine Photography, 241 Chartres St., 568-1313.