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If Dante were a “sneaker- and hoodie-clad slacker” living in contemporary New York—instead of a medieval poet exiled from Florence, Italy—would his “Divine Comedy” begin at a corner bodega and descend into the bowels of the subway? And would Dante’s journey to the afterlife be as relevant today as it was in 14th-century Europe?

Join celebrated artist Sandow Birk as he details his five-year journey to rewrite Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in American vernacular and illustrate it with more than 200 drawings and paintings set in today’s urban America. The project culminated in three leatherbound, limited-edition art books, “Inferno,” “Purgatorio,” and “Paradiso,” which were later published in trade editions and exhibited across the country. Mr. Birk will also explore his creation of an award-winning, feature-length film adaptation of Dante’s “Inferno” (2007), made with paper puppets and toy theatre sets.

This is the third talk in Cornell’s “Visions of Dante” symposium held in conjunction with the Johnson Museum of Art’s “Visions of Dante” exhibition, timed to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. Mr. Birk’s drawings and paintings are part of the exhibit.

“Visions of Dante: A Central NY Humanities Corridor Symposium” was held on Saturday, October 16, 2021, at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, in conjunction with their exhibition “Visions of Dante.” The symposium was cosponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor, a unique regional collaboration between Syracuse University, Cornell University, the University of Rochester, the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium, and other liberal arts schools and colleges in the central New York region.

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