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Review: Barking at God — Retablos Mundanos 

Photogravures by Josphine Sacabo at A Gallery for Fine Photography

click to enlarge illumination--300.jpg

Brazilian author Clarice Lispector once claimed 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-hour media cycle feel equally exasperated by the tsunami of verbal and visual noise erupting around them. For celebrated photographer and longtime French Quarter resident Josephine Sacabo, a recent rash of graffiti on the historic district's walls posed a disruptive contrast to the serene streets around her other home, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 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. This elaborate photogravure montage series, Barking at God, is the result of her investigation.

  Angel 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 Boeing 747 sandbagged by a flock of geese 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 Walls evokes a miraculous emanation of the Holy Mother glowing amid the graffiti of a gritty Decatur Street wall. Illumination (pictured) 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 its consolations and its 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."

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