Renowned folklorist to give lecture at Mathers Museum Tuesday

Leonard Primiano is known across the nation as an expert in religious art.

Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Cabrini College, Primiano penned the book “Graces Received: Painted and Metal Ex-Votos from Italy.”

Primiano will speak about his personal collection at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

This lecture will kick off the museum’s exhibit of Primiano’s personal collection, “Graces Received,” which will be in Bloomington until May 22.

Judith Kirk, assistant director of Mathers,said Primiano’s prominence in this arena of art is what drew the museum to invite him to show his collection.

“We were familiar with his collection, familiar with the research that he had done and, of course, the publication,” Kirk said. “We had a connection via our ?director, who is a colleague of Dr. Primiano’s, so we were able to arrange for the loaning of these pieces.”

The purpose of the talk, Kirk said, is to enlighten patrons of Primiano’s collection about the proper way to evaluate the pieces.

“He’s coming to speak about how to read Catholic art, what really is religious art and its place within the culture of the Roman Catholic Church and sort of the meaning of the objects in contemporary society,” ?Kirk said.

Kirk said she is looking forward to hearing both Primiano’s advice and being able to see works across their different mediums.

“I’m interested in hearing about the meaning of the objects themselves,” Kirk said. “There are a wide range of materials. The objects that are sort of metallic pieces, then there are paintings.”

The paintings, Kirk said, portray certain instances in people’s lives that are sometimes challenging to grasp without the proper context.

“The paintings depict incidents in people’s lives and either describe accident, illness or seeking blessing,” Kirk said. “Understanding the iconography of the works will be very interesting to hear from someone who has collected and studied these works themselves.”

Kirk said this exhibit of pieces from Italy coincides with a smaller sub-exhibit of ex-voto pieces, which are defined in the press release as paintings or objects created as offerings in traditional Roman Catholicism.

The companion installation is part of a collection of pieces from Egypt but deals with similar religious roots.

“While we have up the exhibit of his collection we also have a very small exhibit up of some ex-votos from our collection,” Kirk said.

Kirk said she hopes patrons take away a better understanding of ex-voto art as well as an appreciation for the pieces themselves.

“I hope that they’ll learn more about the topic but also become familiar with the range of objects held in the collection, as well as the kind of materials at the museum,” Kirk said. “While they’re here, they’ll have a chance to visit our other exhibits as well.”

Kirk said she encourages people to attend Primiano’s lecture, widen the scope of their religious knowledge and encounter diverse works of art.

“There are a lot of different interests that these pieces represent,” Kirk said. “First of all, they’re beautiful in and of themselves. They’re material that depict religious devotion and adoration, and they are sort of intriguing representations of spirituality.”

Above all, Kirk said knowing how to read and examine these objects can have a profound effect on anyone’s faith base.

“Objects tell us so much about ourselves and the world that we live in,” Kirk said. “It’s interesting to see something as abstract as spirituality embodied in the objects.”

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