Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Visions of the Afterlife in the Catholic Tradition
curated by Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier
April 20 – June 30, 2019
Opening Party: Friday April 26 (more below, tickets here)
Featuring artworks by Mark Dion, Phyllis Galembo, José Guadalupe Posada, Jacques Callot, Shannon Taggart and works spanning the 17th century to the present from the collections of Stephen Romano Gallery, Evan Michelson, Eva Aridjis and Eye's Gallery and much more!
In the Catholic worldview, when the body dies, the soul of the deceased is sent to a location in the afterlife to await the final judgment, at which point it will be reunited with the resurrected body. The souls of the unrepentant who have perpetrated the gravest sins are sent to hell, while the most stainless—saints who were martyred for their faith—are delivered straight to heaven. The majority of people, however, are sent to a place called purgatory. In this liminal space—a sort of temporary hell—souls are purged of their sins until they have attained the purity necessary to enter heaven and reside with God.
The idea of purgatory is a contentious one. Originally developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it rose to popularity in the fourteenth century in response to the mass deaths wrought by the Black Plague. Disagreements about purgatory contributed directly to the birth of Protestantism. One of Martin Luther’s major points of contention in his Ninety-Five Theses of 1517 was the Church’s use of indulgences—papal grants promising to shorten or cancel a person’s time in purgatory. Once sold as ubiquitously as lottery tickets, profits were used to fund various projects including the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Since that time, the popularity of purgatory has gone in and out of fashion. Today, it is visible only in rare bastions of belief, such as Naples, Italy, and parts of Latin America. The concepts of heaven and hell, however, continue to thrive in the Catholic ethos.
This exhibition explores Catholic visions of heaven, hell, and purgatory —via art, artifacts, and material culture drawn from The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections and the greater Morbid Anatomy community—, tracing how they have manifested in various places and shifted and changed over time.
“Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Visions of the Afterlife in the Catholic Tradition” and the Morbid Anatomy Library are free and open to the public at the Fort Hamilton Gatehouse on Saturdays and Sundays, 12 –5 PM, from April 20 to June 30. To visit outside of these hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information and visuals please contact Stephen Romano at email@example.com