Professor explores family, culture in Italian-American Exhibit

Professor Thomas MacPherson's artwork captures American immigrant culture in his exhibit, "Tom MacPherson: Italian American Family Album," currently displayed in the Lederer Gallery in Brodie.

His memories and familial culture shine through paintings, photographs, collages and furniture displays, complete with guides that describe each piece's subject and purpose.

The exhibit focuses on the concept of memories, as seen in its subject matter. Old family photographs, as well as MacPherson's artwork, sit in weathered frames, emphasizing the idea of looking into the past.

"Italian Gothic" features his great-grandparents, and "Cosmo Barone in Paradise" features his Uncle Tony who, according to MacPherson, "made his living as a bookie and was arrested several times for illegal activities."

The portraits are based on black and white photographs that MacPherson has re-created into vibrant paintings, adding his own skillful touches to their respective subjects.

Much of the artwork was rampant with religious and cultural representation. For example, "La Mia Vida," features a saint in the background of a female figurehead.

In addition, MacPherson was careful to show how his family was affected by social customs as well as social change, especially in terms of marriage. Placed adjacent to each other in the exhibit are "The Arranged Marriage" of MacPherson's grandparents and "The Mixed Marriage," a piece that portrays the wedding of MacPherson's Catholic mother and Protestant father.

One of the most striking works entitled, "Stop the War, I Want to Get Off," depicts a portrait of soldier and a low table. Displayed on the table is a letter from the soldier and an authentic news article clipping explaining how he gained a purple heart.

The gallery was complete with an aged buffet table where recipes for Italian Wedding cake and cannoli were left for viewers to browse and bring home.

An aged desk was set against the wall with directions: "Look in the drawers and open the books. They are filled with fading memories."

One piece entitled "St. Joseph's Alter" was donned with white lace, candles and remnants of Italian food.

MacPherson's addition of these objects to the "Italian American Family Album" forced his observers to interact with his exhibit via the addition of such welcoming objects as sofas and a dining room table.

Sophomore Sarah Regner thought the exhibit "was like a life-size scrapbook."

"Italian American Family" will be open from Jan. 20 until Feb. 21 from 12:30 until 3:30 p.m. at the Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery in Brodie Hall.