BIRTH OF IGNORANCE
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.
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.