Say “Buongiorno” to Donatus

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“Principal Episodes in the Life of Christ” at Most Precious Blood Church. Photo originally published at Il Regno.

A new exhibit featuring the work of Solofra (AV) native Donatus Buongiorno is set to debut this April in New York City.

“The Art of Immigration” will be held from April 11 to May 11 at the Rectory Gallery of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street. The exhibit will feature Buongiorno’s works, including pieces from private collections and secular images. Buongiorno’s work can also be seen in the form of 38 murals depicting stories of spiritual salvation and immigrant life at the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood at 109 Mulberry Street– this is also the church where the National Shrine to St. Gennaro is housed. Most Precious Blood is also the Sister Church of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.

Donatus Buongiorno was born in 1865 in Solofra (AV), Italy, and studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Naples. He emigrated to the United States in 1892. Upon arrival, he worked on privately commissioned portraits while working by day as a designer in a wallpaper factory. By the early 1900s, Italian-American Catholic Churches throughout the United States began commissioning him to paint murals and other church decorations. His works also appear in Boston, Mass., Brattleboro, Vt., and in other New York locations. He returned to Solofra in 1908 to work on the restoration of La Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo.

In addition to murals and portraits, throughout his life he made easel paintings that he sold out of his studios in New York and Naples. He also served as a dealer for other Italian artists whose works he imported into the US and sold in New York, San Francisco and elsewhere.

“We gaze upon these pictures from a distance, measured by the passage of time, and find ourselves mystically connected to the people of this disappeared world,” said Msgr. Donald Sakano, Pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in a press release. “These fine paintings remind us of who we are and inspire us to see the world around ourselves as a beautiful place to live and work.”

For more information on the exhibit, go to www.donatusbuongiorno.com
or call Bill Russo, Producer at (347) 933-3337. For a full listing of events surrounding the “Art of Immigration” exhibit, click here. For more information on Donatus Buongiorno, visit http://www.donatusbuongiorno.com.

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A Scarf of Solidarity

53283405_10218384678113030_147508285254139904_oI have to admit, when it comes to knitting or crocheting, it is something I enjoy doing, but I am notorious for starting projects and taking months to finish them, thanks to a busy schedule.

I refused to let this be the case when I got a Facebook message from my friend Giuseppe Silvestri of Unpli Irpinia (Unione Nazionale Pro Loco d’Italia). He mentioned that for International Women’s Day on March 8, Irpinian women from around the world were asked to knit or crochet a pink scarf as a way to call attention to the fight against breast cancer. These scarves would then be linked together as a kind of virtual “hug” for those fighting the battle and they would then try to submit the entire project to the Guinness Book of World Records.

What my friend did not know at the time of his message was that 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of my grandmother, Anna Mascaro Longo’s, passing from that horrible disease. My mother was 10 years old and, because medical technology in 1958 was so different than that of today, she remembers that Nonna suffered terribly. I often talk about how proud I am of my Nonno Joe, Anna’s husband, but never really got the chance to show how proud I am of my Nonna for her bravery. It has been told to me by several people that when she knew she would die, her only concern was her children, my mother and her brother, Jay. As her granddaughter, how could I not be proud of Nonna’s strength of character and want to somehow honor her? I had wanted to run the Race for the Cure and participate in other breast cancer-related initiatives, but nothing ever felt “right.” Until now.

I pulled myself together and quickly crocheted a scarf for my Nonna. It’s not as long as I wanted it to be (I am a slow crocheter!), nor was it perfectly done (I am still learning!), but I wanted to make sure she was somehow a part of this beautiful initiative. Every woman who has fought or who is fighting this disease deserves to be a part of it and by the sheer length of the scarf, I truly believe each one was.

The overall length of the “Scarf of Solidarity” was roughly nine-and-a-half miles, which beat the previous World Record of 9 miles for a handmade scarf, which was set in India. The scarf was unveiled on March 8 in Lioni’s Piazza Vittoria as part of local activities for International Women’s Day. Besides the official World Record declaration, women that day wore pink in honor of women fighting breast cancer. A commemorative pink bench to raise awareness of violence against women was also unveiled at Avellino’s train station, where women were able to board a train to Lioni to see the scarf.

In case you were wondering what it looks like, here’s my scarf in honor of my Nonna Anna. It may not have arrived in Italy on time, but I am thankful that Nonna was still a part of this day!

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The Art of Tombolo

One of the most striking traditional art forms I saw while in Irpinia was that of “tombolo,” a form of lace making that requires special needles, a skilled eye and a lot of patience.

In the town of Santa Paolina, nicknamed “the town of tombolo,” the old tradition is alive and well– in fact, there’s even a type of school where the town’s elderly women teach the skill to anyone who would like to learn, ensuring that the centuries-old art form lives on.

Tombolo was born in Campania during the Middle Ages as a way to embellish a priest’s vestments for celebrating Mass, but it quickly spread to nobility wishing to show off their status. In Irpinia and in the area surrounding Salerno, tombolo work developed into an extremely detailed and delicate art form– variations of which were even brought to the United States by immigrants from the region, including by my great-grandmother! The name comes from the instrument used to create the delicate pieces of lace– here’s one as it is being created with the tombolo instruments from the website, Irpinia Focus:

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Are you interested in learning more? I strongly suggest you reach out to Giuseppe Silvestri at Unpli Irpinia— his association is dedicated to preserving the artisan traditions of Irpinia (as well as other history and culture) and he will be happy to introduce you to a tombolo class next time you’re in Italy!

Until next time… a presto!