Elvis sighted in Colchester

COLCHESTERElvis Presley died August 16, 1977, but of course, he is more alive and adored now than ever before. Sociologist Matt Wray writes that, The veneration of Elvis includes elements of Southern Pentecostal and ecstatic religious practices, as well as the collecting of relics (recordings and memorabilia), the display of icons and images, pilgrimages to Elvis sites (Graceland and the Tupelo Birthplace, as well as Las Vegas and Hawaii), and the special phenomenon of Elvis impersonation. Now Connecticut artist Salvatore Scalora pays homage to the King with his worshipful and spellbinding The Veneration of the Dead Elvis art exhibit at Saint Michaels College until the end of this week. For Scalora, Elvis in death has assumed a special place in the iconography of popularized saints. Scalora was born in Siracusa, Sicily, and has had a life-long affair with religious/mystical images. His earliest memory of seeing art was at the Church of Santa Lucia, Siracusas patron saint. As a young child, he was awed by statues of Santa Lucia holding a plate containing her two eyes, of Jesus with his pulsing sacred heart, and of Saint Sebastian experiencing arrow-wounded ecstasy. With simple pens and brushes, Scalora has transformed a single portrait of Elvis into 60 fascinating, intricate, vibrant, colorful portrayals. In one picture, Jesus is emblazoned on Elviss forehead. In another, the sacred heart covers Elviss eye. In a couple of other images, Elvis spits fire or is it blood? Elvis wears a geodesic headpiece in one work, and something bright green oozes over him in another. Scaloras pens scratch, tear, and scar the surfaces of his canvases. He thinks of his surgery-like art as a post-mortem examination and testing of the romanticized Elvis martyr. He figuratively digs down deep into Elviss flesh. According to Scalora, each surviving image provides further proof to me of Elviss enduring iconic presence in a post-Elvis world. Other post-Elvis worlds may feel the same way. Although Lou Varricchio will probably never discuss the topic in his Seeing Stars column appearing in this newspaper, the headline in the Sept. 20, 1988, edition of The Sun proclaimed Statue of Elvis Found on Mars. Why the other-worldly adoration and adulation? In her fine, concise 2003 biography Elvis Presley, Bobbie Ann Mason describes her visit to Elviss Tupelo birthplace a few months after Elviss death. She was mesmerized there by a glitter poster glitter spilled on felt paper, forming the shape of Jesus, with a Bible verse. In the glitter, she could imagine Elviss sequined jumpsuit. The glitter poster, Mason said, was a little bit of fancy in a drab world. And it embodied immense hope. Embodying immense hope and great beauty, Salvatore Scaloras The Veneration of the Dead Elvis will be at Saint Michaels Colleges McCarthy Arts Center Gallery until Friday, April 25. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.to 5 p.m. Get there before Elvis leaves the building.

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