Lorca retrospective ‘In Word and Image’ opens

“To tell my life I would have to say what I am, and once life is the narration of what already was. My memories, even those of my remotest childhood, are, in me, a passionate present tense…”

– Federico Garcia Lorca, 1934

[PHOTO ELEMENT=1570]“In Word and Image,” an exhibit on the life and works of Federico Garcia Lorca, is a faithful reconstruction of the artist’s life in accordance with his own notion of personal history. The exhibit presents a comprehensive narrative of the Spanish poet’s numerous endeavors, artistic and otherwise.

This traveling exhibit, on loan from the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain in Washington, DC, is sponsored by the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Department of Romance Languages. Comprised of many freestanding panels, “In Word and Image” is a visually appealing and chronologically oriented ensemble of photographs and memorabilia, accompanied by the artist’s own illustrations and text. Also on display is a replica of a bust of the poet rendered by the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Carretero. Visitors can view a ten-minute video composition that includes original film clips of Lorca and background music by Manuel de Falla and Paco de Lucia, with the artist himself on the piano.

The Williams College leg of the exhibit’s international itinerary was organized by Jane Canova, Assistant Director of the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures, with the help of Professor of Romance Languages Gene Bell-Villada, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages Katarzyna Beilin and Assistant Professor of Spanish Leyla Rouhi. Several campus events were planned in conjunction with the exhibit’s ten-day run in Weston Hall.

On Wednesday evening “In Word and Image” was inaugurated with a celebration attracting nearly one hundred students, faculty and community members. After opening remarks by Beilin on “Why Lorca?,” students and local poets shared bilingual readings of Lorca’s poetry. The celebration of Spanish culture included a culinary tribute in the form of traditional tapas cuisine. As Canova eloquently described the evening, “both verse and food were devoured by an audience anxious to recreate the magic of Lorca.”

Rouhi concurred that Wednesday night’s opening was “a tremendous success.” She attributed Lorca’s legacy as one of Spain’s greatest 20th century poets and playwrights to his “deep feeling for the traditions of Spain.” He was a prolific and versatile artist “at ease with both traditional and experimental forms. He excelled at all the genres he worked in.”

On Thursday evening a lecture on the artist’s theatrical pursuits was attended by an enthusiastic audience. The lecture, “Staging Lorca’s Death: Poetic Alternatives to Destiny,” by Professor Gabriela Basterra of New York University, addressed Lorca as playwright and tragedian, specifically in regards to Blood Wedding and Yerma, two of Lorca’s major plays.

The Lorca festivities have inspired activities beyond Weston Hall. Sawyer Library’s display cases currently display to a mini-exhibit of the artist’s published works culled from the College’s own holdings.

Members of the Williams community would be well served to take the short walk to Weston (or, perhaps, allow a few minutes before a conveniently located class) to view “In Word and Image.” The sheer multitude of photos, letters, drawings and quotes ensures that everyone can find at least a few tidbits of interest.

The exhibit is a veritable scrapbook (albeit one with high production values) of Lorca ’s life from birth till his untimely death. But, as is true with any scrapbook, it is a whole lot more interesting if you know whose life you are rifling through. The greatest weakness of the exhibit is that the glut of historic particulars is not contextualized within a framework of the artist’s larger significance. For his devoted fans, the obscure artifacts would surely be of great interest. However, for those unacquainted with Lorca’s achievements, the program from his 1923 puppet show or the innumerable Spanish newspaper clippings from various conferences and performances may seem inexplicably trivial. Unfortunately, this excess of superficial memorabilia is not accompanied with an equal allotment of Lorca’s art; in fact the exhibit only includes excerpts from three of his poems.

The strength of the exhibit, its biographical detail, is an incentive for the unfamiliar to acquaint themselves with Lorca’s work. His loyal followers will be sure to relish the opportunity to delve into the intimate details of the poet’s past.

Of the many random quotations from Lorca sprinkled across the exhibit panels, one asks, “My life? Do I have a life?” The answer to these queries can be found on display in Weston lobby through March 19.