Hairy Otter Pop, oil on canvas panel, 11x14 inches by Kenney Mencher

What’s important about Bonaventura Berlinghieri’s altarpiece depicting St. Francis?

Probably the main idea why we study Bonaventura Berlinghieri’s is altarpiece is because it was created in a transitional time between the Gothic period of time and the early Renaissance. Because of its placement at a pivotal time and its subject matter, which is St. Francis of Assisi, in both sets the standards as well as represents the changes that occur both physically in terms of how things look and changes in thought during that period.

The physical qualities of altar painting from before 1300 or so in Europe are heavily influenced by a style that was developed in what we call the Byzantine Empire starting as early as the fourth century, especially in Greece and the region we know today as Turkey. There are many physical and visual characteristics that this altarpiece represents.

This altarpiece was probably made on a piece of recycled what or panel. Most likely, it was assembled from a series of older pieces of furniture or panels of what that had time to petrify, another term for “age.” The reason why very old wood was used is that it was more stable than new work or greener would because it contained less moisture and the wood becomes harder and more stable as it ages.
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The panel was then coated with a series of alternating layers of a glue referred to as “gesso,” which is basically boiled animal hide which creates a type of glue or binder. Affixed to the panel with this gesso was plaster and canvas. Plaster is made usually from calcium carbonate also referred to as marble dust, and has a brilliant white sheen to it which allows for a consistent smooth surface on top of the wood that the paint can adhered to without any kind of chemical interactions occurring.
The paint used on the surface of this panel was made out of a medium, a medium is literally a type of paint, called egg tempera. Egg tempera uses a combination of water, glue, and sometimes the egg whites or egg yolks to create a kind of binder that glues particles of pigment permanently to the surface of a panel painting. If you’ve ever tried to clean a plate that has dried egg on it, you’ll know why it makes a good medium.
The pigments, also referred to as colorants or dyes, were often made by grinding up minerals or semiprecious stones. Sometimes other substances such as dyes made from plant or vegetal matter would be used as color mixed with the medium of egg and glue.
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This type of medium, egg tempera, would then be applied in small patches or hatch marks, that would be layered over time to create shading, tone, and color.

Egg tempera was the primary type of color or medium used up until around 1400 when oil paint began to be used more often.

The physical size of this altarpiece is also part of why we study it. It’s a little bit taller than 5 feet and so the central figure, which represent St. Francis, is life-size for the time. The composition could be described as bilaterally symmetrical. Which means that the figures St. Francis is flanked by an equal number of scenes or images on either side of him making the overall image appear even or symmetrical. Furthermore, the composition is subdivided on either side of Francis with three smaller scenes in which he appears over and over again.
The way in which Francis and the scenes are painted is not very realistic or illusionistic. The anatomy of the figures is stiff and un–lifelike. We can recognize that these are people however, they are not standing in naturalistic poses such as the “contrapposto” pose that we saw in ancient Greece and Rome. The proportions of the figure are slightly elongated, and the proportions of the face are also stylized or incorrect according to today’s standards of realism.

The proportions of the face for all the figures, adheres to a type of style, or visual convention, that comes from the Byzantine style. Sometimes this is referred to as “maniera greca.” Roughly translated as “the Greek manner,” the proportions of the face in the maniera greca style are that the eyes are located a little too far up in the fore head, the nose is a little too long and ends too far down the face, and the mouth is located a little too far towards the bottom of the chin.

The scenes are not very realistic in terms of the illusion of space. The buildings and the figures sizes are not in proportion to one another. There is no illusion of space, there is no background behind the figures that would contain things like a horizon line, clouds, or a change in scale as things move further back. Today, we are used to something called linear perspective. This makes all of the parallel lines and straight lines on buildings makes sense to us, however, linear perspective was not used until 1400 and that’s why these buildings look odd. It is almost as if all of the figures are standing up against the front of the picture in a single line and the buildings, the small hill in one of the scenes, are not the right sizes when compared to the figures.

There is also no light and shadow, or shading, that describe the figures for the buildings in a realistic way. There are some tonal variations or shading variations however, these are almost cartoons of what light and shadow look like and this will change about 70 years later after this altar was completed.

The background of the altar and of the scenes on the left and right sides are made with thin sheets of gold glued onto the background and have very little or no variation in them.

All of these distortions, stylizations, and rendering are part of a consistent tradition that had lasted for nearly 1000 years until the 1300s.

Moving from physical description to an analysis of the content and meaning of this altar, it’s important to realize that the unrealistic way in which this was painted is part of its meaning. When Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, began to be organized and codified in the fourth century, eventually there was a controversy concerning the use of images because of the second commandment which states that, one should not worship idols or may graven images. Basically, what this means is that, Catholics believed that it was essentially wrong to make images of religious figures because of the idea that they might be worshiped as idols. This is referred to as the iconoclastic controversy. Eventually it was decided that the creation of “icons” and religious art was acceptable because it allowed people to learn from the imagery.

As the Roman Catholic Church became more powerful, and there was a call or a demand for religious imagery, a kind of cartoon style, the maniera greca, was chosen because it was not illusionistic and therefore not like the Greeks and Romans “pagan” style of art. Probably, also because it could be mistaken for something real.

The creation of religious art and religious icons such as this altarpiece, was then seen as a way of educating people about religion, and the religious figures one was supposed to emulate. By the time of St. Francis of Assisi, some social and economic changes began to occur. St. Francis represents many of these changes in the viewpoints of Catholics at this time and so this painting of him and the scenes of his life represent many of the concepts that the common important during the Renaissance.

For example, St. Francis to stands in the center of the painting, was important reformer of the Catholic Church. He is represented here with a haircut that’s called a monks tonsure. This style of cutting a religious person’s hair was meant as a way to make them humble because it was considered to be a less attractive hairstyle than a full head of hair. In this way it would humble people involved in the church, by making priests and monks less attractive. Part of this is probably because priests and monks at this time were supposed to be celibate.

St. Francis also holds a book which is very similar to the “book of the world” or “libris mundi” that is depicted in many representations of Jesus from the Byzantine Empire. He also has wounds on his hands and feet, called the “stigmata,” which were bestowed upon him by God in honor of his religious sacrifice and integrity. People who received the stigmata were thought to be blessed by God because the wounds were in emulation of the ones that Christ received on the cross.

Francis is represented wearing a simple robe, barefoot, and a Baroque belt with three knots in it.  This clothing represents the main ideas behind the order of Catholicism called the Franciscan order he began. The main tenets or concepts are poverty, chastity, and obedience. Francis is not wearing expensive clothing and this is part of the value system he believed in.

The life and times of St. Francis are depicted almost as if they are a comic book on his right and left hand sides. The various scenes represent important episodes in which Francis acted in a way that led him to a kind of spiritual enlightenment.

Here’s a summary of the main events that led to Francis becoming a monk. Francis was born into a fairly wealthy family when she left to go fight a crusade against heretics and infidels. At one point he was taken hostage or prisoner and while imprisoned he had visions and visitations by spiritual entities that instructed him that he should “rebuild God’s house.”

After Francis was freed, as he was returning home Francis gave away his cloak and other worldly possessions. He then proceeded to give away many of his father’s possessions all in emulation of the charity and non-materialism that Jesus espoused in the New Testament.

After he did this, Francis was given the right to start a new type of “order” in the Catholic Church now called the Franciscan Order.  The main concepts being, poverty chastity and obedience but more importantly a life given to acting or emulating Jesus Christ when he was on the earth. There are other stories after she becomes a monk in which he receives the stigmata from a type of angelic creature called the seraphim. We see this in the upper left-hand corner of the altarpiece. There are also other scenes of Francis is good works circulating around him one of most notable is his sermon to the animals in the garden in which she expressed the idea that while animals may not have a soul like humans have they are part of God’s creation and should be honored and should be aware of God.

The take away from all this, and why this altarpiece and St. Francis are particularly important is that this altarpiece represents a fusion of some of the traditional imagery and art styles from earlier periods with some new radical ideas concerning religious reform that Francis brought about. The most important being that Francis advocated that all people should live and behave in such a way that they are copying or living life in the way that Jesus would.

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Calendar of events from Queer|Art|Mentorship (QAM) artists
for the month of February.

Current QAM Fellow Olaiya Oyalemi will perform at Dixon Place, Feb. 26th (details of photos by Eric Longenecker)
Bundle up and hit the streets - there's plenty of queer art to experience in February!

This month in New York, catch work by four Current QAM Fellows. Olaiya Olayemi and Sarah Sanders will both perform for Femme Fest at Dixon Place: an in-development showing of Sanders' In My Name will help kick off the first week of the festival on February 17th, 7:30pm; and a work-in-progress showing of Olayemi's ado (a remix of my name): a biomyth performance art piece will round out the series on February 26th, 7:30pm. And Raja Feather Kelly has directed/choreographed Young Jean Lee's We're Gonna Die (previews begin February 4th at Second Stage). Plus, there's still time to see Felicita “Felli“ Maynard's photographic work in the group exhibition The Now at Pen + Brush (through February 11th).

Otherwise, stay warm and catch some quality queer content from the comfort of your home as a new edition of 2011-2012 QAM Mentor Jennie Livingston's documentary, Paris Is Burning, drops on Blu-ray/DVD on February 25th, with over an hour of never-before-seen footage. Multi-year QAM Mentor Thomas Allen Harris' documentary, Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, will be available to stream beginning February 17th, as part of the AfroPop series on the WORLD channel. And check out the second season of 2017-2019 QAM Mentor Neil Goldberg's podcast, "She's A Talker," with new episodes available online each Friday.

Read about all this and much more below! 

WEDNESDAY/We're Gonna Die

WEDNESDAY: February 6th, 7:30pm
New York Live Arts

219 W 19th Street,
New York, NY 10011

We're Gonna Die: February 4th - March 22nd
Second Stage's Tony Kiser Theater

305 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

Current Fellow Raja Feather Kelly and the feath3r theory searches for the true motivations and outcome behind the bank robbery in the 1975 cinematic-drama Dog Day Afternoon. WEDNESDAY dismantles the film by re-centering the story on Liz Eden, for whom the character Leon in the fllm is loosely based, and the reason why the character Sonny conspires to rob a bank: to fund Eden’s sex change [sic]. A conversation with his Current Mentor Kate Bornstein will follow.

We're Gonna Die is a non-musical/non-play/non-concert that is not about dying. It's a celebration of the things we do, say, and sing to keep ourselves going as we hurtle toward the finish line. Through a series of stories and songs both hilarious and heartbreaking, Young Jean Lee’s We're Gonna Die, under 2019-2020 QAM Fellow Raja Feather Kelly's new direction, offers proof positive that being alive is about more than just awaiting the inevitable.

More about the show and tickets here

"Vever (for Barbara)," Dir. Deborah Stratman, 2019

"A Salute to Barbara Hammer" at Doc Fortnight 2020

Saturday, February 8th, 4:30pm


11 W 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

Before she died of cancer in 2019, the legendary artist, filmmaker, and QAM Mentor Barbara Hammer enlisted several of her friends, including Deborah Stratman, Lynne Sachs, and Mark Street, to draw upon her archive of abandoned projects and unused materials to make new work. The result is a testament to Hammer’s generosity, courage, and fierce, lifelong commitment to putting images of women, queer people, the aging, and the otherwise marginalized onto our movie screens and into our collective conscience. Part of MoMA's Doc Fortnight 2020, the program will include Stratman's Vever (for Barbara), Sachs' A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) and Street's So Many Ideas impossible To Do All.

More info and tickets here

Playwriting class + 2 live readings & Happy Hour Cabaret!

Playwriting class: February 11th - March 3rd

1395 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10128

Craft class/reading: Saturday, February 8th (crafts at 11am, reading at 1:30pm)
BGSQD at The Center

208 West 13th St.
New York, NY 10011

Gender Reveal reading series: Sunday, February 9th, 9pm

85 East 4th St.
New York, NY 10003

Happy Hour Cabaret: Saturday, February 29th, 5pm
The Lark

311 West 43rd St., 5th Floor
New York, NY 10036

2016-2017 QAM Fellow Christina Quintana (CQ) will teach a four-session class at 92Y on playwriting. In the workshop, participants will explore theatrical texts that challenge the boundaries of genre, experiment with audience invitation, and flood the stage with poetry, all the while pursuing first drafts of their own daring new plays. More info and sign up here

Additionally, Quintana (CQ) can be seen live at three events in February: reading at a free combination craft class/reading hosted by Gregory Pardlo at BGSQD at The Center (more here), reading at the Gender Reveal reading series (along with 2011-2012 QAM Fellow Aldrin Valdez!) at KGB Bar (more here), and presenting new music in an acoustic concert for Happy Hour Cabaret at The Lark (more here).

Dora Santana, madison moore, Jian Neo Chen

New Directions in Trans of Color Scholarship roundtable

Tuesday, February 11th, 6-8pm

NYU Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

285 Mercer St., 4th Floor
New York, NY 10003

Trans of color scholars, activists, and artists are radically transforming the terrain of gender and sexuality studies today. This roundtable showcases new work in trans of color scholarship, activism, and cultural production. Jian Neo Chen (Ohio State University), madison moore (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Dora Santana (John Jay College, CUNY) speak about their recently published books and works-in-progress that chart exciting new directions in the field—from theorizing trans futures, to Afro diasporic technologies, to queer fabulousness. Moderated by Hentyle Yapp (NYU Department of Art and Public Policy).

Current QAM Mentor Gayatri Gopinath serves as the Director of NYU's Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, presenter of the program, which is co-sponsored by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.

No RSVP required. More information here 

"This Is an Address," Dir. Sasha Wortzel, 2019

This Is an Address 

Thursday, February 13th, 7pm


11 West 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

As part of MoMA's Doc Fortnight 2020, This Is an Address, the 2019 short film directed by 2012-2013 QAM Fellow Sasha Wortzel, will screen with Alexe Poukine's Sans frapper (That Which Does Not Kill). Wortzel's film reflects on a time in the 1970s when the piers at the end of Gansevoort Street were a popular place for cruising and celebrating gay male life, only to become a makeshift shelter in the 1990s for a community of homeless LGBTQ+ people, many of them HIV-positive (as documented in remarkable video interviews), and, more recently, an inhospitable space thanks to gentrification.

More info and tickets here

"Go Fish," Dir. Rose Troche, 1994

Go Fish at BAM

Monday, February 17th, 7pm

BAM - Peter Jay Sharp Building

30 Lafayette Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Go Fish, the 1994 film directed by Multi-year QAM Mentor Rose Troche, will screen at BAM as part of the Valentine's Day-timed film series, Long Weekend of Love. The film balances sassy wit with incisive insight into the nuances of lesbian love and friendship. Shot in intimate, lo-fi black and white on the streets of Chicago, Go Fish simmers with playful sexual tension as it traces the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship that develops between a cool-girl graduate student and an unassuming, crunchy, granola-ish lesbian whose friends are determined to bring the pair together.

More info/tickets here 

In My Name

Monday, February 17th, 7:30pm

Dixon Place 

161A Chrystie St.
New York, NY 10002

For Dixon Place's Femme Fest, Current QAM Fellow Sarah Sanders presents an in-development showing of In My Name, a project currently in development by the artist with QAM Mentor Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. Sanders writes, "My name is Sarah Sanders. Like the press secretary. My last name would have been Schneiderman but my great-grandfather changed it to sound less Jewish. And here I am, a white, queer, ritual-craving, anti-Zionist Jew from Montana who shares a name with a white nationalist apologist. In My Name is a mostly-solo theatre piece using ritual, personal narrative, interviews, original music, and emails to the press secretary to grapple with the ways that whiteness and American Jewish identity intersect— and to ask (where) does spirituality fit into all this?! There will be challah."

More information and tickets here 

Aliza Shvarts, work from "Purported"

Aliza Shvarts: Purported

Opening reception: Thursday, February 20th, 6–9pm
On view through: May 9th

Art in General

145 Plymouth St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Multi-year QAM Mentor Avram Finkelstein is one of four curators included in Aliza Shvarts: Purported, Shvarts' first solo exhibition in New York, at Art in General. Shvarts’ performance, video, installation and text-based practice explores reproductive labor and its biological and societal maintenance through queer and feminist understandings. Read against the current climate of renewed anti-abortion laws and activism against sexual violence, the exhibition brings together over a decade of the artist’s work, as well as newly commissioned work, that complexly questions the interrelated dynamics of gender, sexuality, consent and power as they play out inside contemporary culture. Finkelstein participates in a newly commissioned 4-channel video, part of Shvarts' Disconsent series.

More information here 

Olaiya Olayemi in performance (photo by Eric Longenecker)

ado (a remix of my name): a biomyth performance art piece

Wednesday, February 26th, 7:30pm

Dixon Place 

161A Chrystie St.
New York, NY 10002

For Dixon Place's Femme Fest, Current QAM Fellow Olaiya Olayemi presents a work-in-progress showing of ado (a remix of my name): a biomyth performance art piece. The performance combines text, movement, song, and visual art to explore the pains and pleasures of a blktranswomynartist. This spiritually and erotically charged story encourages its audience/witnesses to remix themselves so that they can remix the world.

More information and tickets here and on Facebook here
Felicita "Felli" Maynard, detail of "Boi Kween," 2017
Felicita "Felli" Maynard - The Now
Current QAM Fellow Felicita "Felli" Maynard is showing work in a group exhibition entitled The Now at Pen + Brush. Maynard works across traditional analog and alternative photography processes to create artwork to further understand themselves and their ancestors. They focus on retelling stories that challenge misrepresented histories of people from the African Diaspora, the beauty of the Black body and investigating the complex identities that compromise gender and sexuality. Through February 11. More here
Sarah Mihara Creagen, "Grafting: Union must be kept moist until the wound has healed," 81 x 50in, 2019
2018-2019 QAM Fellow Sarah Mihara Creagen is featured in a group exhibition entitled The Extraordinary at Hunter East Harlem Gallery. Each of the eight artists in the show are currently in the process of gaining, or currently possess an O-1 Non-immigrant Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. Complimentary public programming will include workshops with immigration lawyers, support group meetings with other visa seekers and awardees, artist talks and tours, among other relevant events. Through February 29. More here 
Tourmaline & Sasha Wortzel -
She Persists

2012-2013 QAM Fellows Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel's Lost in the Music is a highlighted work of She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York 1919-2019, a yearlong exhibition at Gracie Mansion, curated by Jessica Bell Brown and presented by First Lady Chirlane McCray. Through February. More here
Carlos Motta - Home Is a Foreign Place
Multi-year QAM Mentor Carlos Motta is showing work in the group exhibition Home Is a Foreign Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context, at the Met Breuer. The show highlights recent acquisitions from Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, all made between 1944 and 2016. Through June. More here
Image credits (from top left): Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel, installation view of "Lost in the Music" at the New Museum, 2017; Carlos Motta, Untitled from the series "Midway upon the journey of our life/ I found myself within a forest dark,/ For the straightforward pathway had been lost," 2019
March 6th - March 29th: Interstate (by Kit Yan and 2012-2013 QAM Fellow Melissa Li, and directed by Jesca Prudencio) is a Queer Asian-American pop-rock musical about two trans people at different stages of their journeys, navigating love, family, masculinity, and finding community in the era of social media. It charts Dash, a transgender spoken word performer as he goes on a cross-country tour with Adrian, a lesbian singer-songwriter, as the activist band, Queer Malady, fueled by the allure of fame and a desire to connect with the Queer Asian community. The band’s fiercely political and deeply personal music touches Henry, a transgender teenage blogger living in middle America, who finds solace in their art as he struggles with his own identity and family. Premiering at Mixed Blood Theatre. More here