That's Italian!

Artist loks back on his Sicilian past in new exhibit.

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Scrapbooking and digital cameras have revolutionized the family photo album, giving families everywhere the means to document, disseminate, and sugarcoat scenes from their lives. In The Italian American Family Album, which opens today at Case Western Reserve University’s Greenhouse Art Studio, artist Tom MacPherson skips all the fluffy stuff and focuses on hot-button issues like cultural identity, assimilation, and discrimination.

The Italian American Family Album artfully compiles MacPherson’s memories of growing up in the home of his grandmother, who emigrated from Sicily in 1896. He essentially transforms the gallery into her living and dining rooms, circa 1940s. The work is interactive: Visitors are welcome to snack on MacPherson’s favorite childhood cookies and listen to Italian music. There’s also an “Ancestral Excavations” area, which includes more than a dozen paintings based on old family photographs. The pics -- which feature MacPherson’s relatives -- include background info about various kin. All of the paintings are done in egg tempera -- the very same method employed by Renaissance masters like Botticelli back in the day. “Egg tempera is infinitely associated with Italy,” says MacPherson. “So I’ve been able to depict my family in a look that says Italian.” The installation also includes video interviews with MacPherson’s grandmother and cousin, who discuss arranged marriages, prejudice, and the Great Depression. “This installation is more than just an art show with paintings on the wall,” he says.
Saturdays, Sundays, 1-6 p.m.; Mondays, Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Thursdays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Starts: Oct. 14. Continues through Oct. 25, 2007

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