Two recent works in the exhibit modernize the story without diminishing it. James Janknegt's colorful triptych begins with a left panel showing the prodigal in a modern big city sitting next to garbage cans. The middle panel centers on the father in a blue coat rushing to greet the desperate son, while others carry to the prodigal a similar blue coat and a pair of boots. The right panel shows the older son so angry that he's broken the neck of his guitar.
My favorite recent work at the exhibit is a collage by Texan Mary McCleary, whose materials include painted foil sticks, wire and even lint: "I like the irony of using materials that are often trivial, foolish and temporal to express what is significant, timeless, and transcendent." (Isn't that what God does with our short-lived frames?)
Her "Prodigal Son" (1996) displays figures in Western garb, boots and all, on a flat terrain under a big sky. The father and the prodigal are reconciling as they sit on metal folding chairs, surrounded by numerous family members and friends -- but almost all of them are eating barbecue and partying, not noticing God's redemption amid this commonplace scene.
I left the museum and walked south, where New York Leather Weekend, filled with prodigal events such as an outdoor fetish festival, was beginning.
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