Folklorist Joseph Sciorra discusses the aesthetics and uses of contemporary Italian-American presepi (crèches) in New York City. The domestic presepio is not a mere manger scene but the Nativity situated in the Lilliputian landscape of an Italian hill town fashioned from cardboard buildings and grocery bag mountains. Bricolage and festive intensification define the aesthetics of New York presepi, with scores and sometimes hundreds of figures filling the diorama. The inexpensive plaster and plastic figurines are not museum quality collectibles but are part of an ephemeral artistic assemblage and theatric presentation constituting a holistic creative entity. For New York Italian-Americans, the presepio is enlivened by narrative and performance in the service of Christian pedagogy, autobiography and family history, and the strengthening of community affiliation.
A holiday reception celebrating the opening of the Westchester Italian Cultural Center’s annual display of Presepio Napoletano will follow. Must register and prepay. Limited seats. Members: free; Non-Members $25