A Selection of Photographs From the Festival of the Most Holy Crucifix (Festa del Santissima Crocifisso)
New York, January 8, 2008—The Italian American Museum of New York is proud to announce a new exhibition on the “Castle of Eufemio,” an exhibition of photographs by artist/author Blaise Tobia, will be on view at the Italian American Museum in New York City from January 16 to March 16, 2008. The photographs and accompanying texts present the extraordinary festival in the west Sicilian town of Calatafimi—a three-day expression of religious devotion, civic pride, generosity and one-upsmanship that thoroughly exhilarates and exhausts its populace.
Tobia has a special relationship with the town—all four of his grandparents were born there and many relatives remain. He had already extensively documented Calatafimi photographically during numerous visits before his first experience of the festival of Il Santissimo Crocifisso (the Most Holy Crucifix) in May, 2004. (The once-triennial event now takes place only every seventh or eighth year.) During the festival, the town opened itself up in a very special way; these images offer remarkable glimpses into its social and cultural life.
Calatafimi is best known for its remarkable 2,500 year-old treasure, Segesta, perhaps the best preserved Doric temple in the world. Additionally, in 1860, it was the site of Garibaldi’s first battle for Italian unification, so every Italian school child has heard of it, and streets throughout Italy are named after it. The town name Calatafimi is Arabic for “Castle of Eufemio,” referring to the tragic figure Eufemio I, the legendary self-proclaimed first king of Sicily, who inadvertently opened up the island to the Saracen conquest in 827 AD.
Like many southern Italian towns, Calatafimi has been weakened by more than a century of emigration; its population once topped twelve-thousand but is now barely half that. From about 1910 to World War II, a large concentration of its emigrants lived in the Knickerbocker Ave. section of Brooklyn, where they recreated many of the town’s social and cultural structures. An exact copy of its marble-relief patroness Madonna was sent from Sicily to the church of St. Joseph on Suydam Street in appreciation of the support the Brooklyn community had sent back home.
Most of the prints in this exhibition are enlargements of the photographs in Tobia’s recently issued book Castle of Eufemio – a small Sicilian town and its extraordinary festival, published by the Achilles Press in association with the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia. Signed copies of the book will be available at the show’s reception on Thursday, January 24 (6-8 PM) and at an artist’s presentation and discussion on January 31 (6 PM), when Tobia will be showing additional images of western Sicily, the discussion is co-sponsored by the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College/CUNY.
Blaise Tobia is a Professor of Media Arts in Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media, Arts and Design, in Philadelphia. He has exhibited and published widely; his most recent one-person show was at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. In October, 2006, he was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome.
More on the book and its author may be found on the Web at
The Italian American Museum is the first museum dedicated to preserving and presenting the cultural and social contributions of Italian Americans to the American way of life. The exhibit, Castle of Eufemio is free and will be open to the public from Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment (212.642.2020) at 28 West 44th Street, 17th floor between 5th and 6th Avenues. Major funding for this exhibit has been provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the Columbus Citizens Foundations. Please visit our website www.italianamericanmuseum.org.
January 16th through March 16th, 2008
Opening Reception Thursday, January 24th at 6 p.m.
Artist Led Discussion, Thursday, January 31st at 6 p.m.