From Staff Reports
“Salvador Dali and the Divine Comedy, Part II: Purgatory,” currently on display at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University, is the second installment in a three-year celebration of Dali’s series based on Dante Alighieri’s poetic masterpiece.
A reception will be held Saturday, April 15, from 3-5 p.m. at the museum, featuring guest of honor Dr. Frank Barham, an ETSU alumnus and donor of the Dali prints.
In addition, a lecture titled “From Flesh to Spirit: Dali’s Visual Transmutation of Dante’s ‘Purgatorio’” will be presented Tuesday, April 18, from 4-5 p.m. by Dr. Josh Reid, an assistant professor in the ETSU Department of Literature and Language.
“Purgatory,” the second section (or canticle) of Dante’s 14th century poem, is an allegorical telling of the climb Dante makes up Mount Purgatory.
The mountain has seven terraces, corresponding to the “seven deadly sins.” As “Purgatory” begins, Dante is still guided by the Roman poet Virgil until Beatrice replaces him for the last four subsections, or cantos.
Within the 33 cantos, Dante discusses the nature of human sin along with moral and political issues of the Catholic Church. As in the first and third sections – “Inferno” and “Paradise” – Dali illustrates the “Purgatory” section in his surrealistic style, blending the sensual and sinister to frightening effect.
Barham donated 95 of the 100 prints of Dali’s “Divine Comedy” series to ETSU in 2014, and has since donated an additional print to complete the “Purgatory” section.
Barham graduated from ETSU before earning his medical degree from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. After practicing medicine for some time, he earned a master’s degree in health services administration from St. Francis University and worked as a hospital administrator. Later, he earned another master’s degree in medical humanities, majoring in bioethics, at Drew University, where he also studied for a doctor of letters degree in ethics.
In addition, Barham has published two books, “Saving the World One Dog at a Time” and “The Religious Right is Wrong: The Ethics of Religion.” He also expanded his interests to sculpture, and he found representation at 14 commercial galleries. His sculptures are also part of the collections of the Fine Arts Museum of Long Island and the New Orleans Museum of Fine Art.
Barham, who now lives in the Center City district of Philadelphia, sought a permanent home for his Dali works when the time came to downsize his collection. He decided ETSU’s Reece Museum seemed like the perfect place because of his personal ties to the university and the region.
The exhibit, reception and lecture are free and open to the public. For more information, call the museum at 439-4392. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 439-8346.