have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

(Clarence Darrow)

1987, Oil on canvas
40"X 36" / 101.6 cm. X 91.4 cm.

Collection of the artist

In 1986, on commission from the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigades, I started work on THE RETURN, a canvas commemorating the 50th anniversary of their participation in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 in defense of the Spanish Republic. While I worked in my studio at Saint Francis Xavier High School in Manhattan where I was teaching, a red-baiting campaign which eventually led to my dismissal in June of the following year was initiated. In response I produced THE BIRTH OF IGNORANCE casting my three principal accusers as Mary, Joseph and archangel in a mock nativity pageant.

William O'Leary, S.J., then Director of Guidance at the school and prime architect of the campaign, plays "Mary" wearing the traditional black dress of Spanish widows with a white lace collar representing the clerical Roman collar. The chair of the Social Studies Department, Francis X. Bambury, is cast as the befuddled "Joseph". Having posted an open letter to the faculty declaring "Fascism clearly the more desirable choice in the 1930's" at the height of the Lincoln Battalion controversy, two swastikas decorate his cape. The head of the Art Department, Francis Golden, S.J., is portrayed as a leering, black-winged angel. He holds an unfolding banner bearing the inscription Ad maiorem Ignoranciae gloriam (To the greater glory of Ignorance), a play on the Jesuit motto "Ad maiorem Dei gloriam" (To the greater glory of God). The blue and maroon of the ribbon are the school colors. The manger's mule and ox, traditional attributes, stare at the newborn Ignorance, a fetal skeleton with an open and empty skull.

Dorso: photos of William O'Leary, Francis X. Bambury and Francis Golden and a copy of the Bambury letter extolling Fascism



ROBERT COANE 2012 © All rights reserved