ARTnPicture Thisnby Russell DesmondnJames Van Dei ZeenSince Sir Philip Sidney converted thenpoet from a usefiil reteller of the truthnto a maker of creations (“he nothingnafErmeth, and therefore never lieth”),nthe world has starved for the stuff ofnallegory. The malady, in our time, hasninfected all of the arts. One hundrednyears of modern architecture’s assaultsnon tradition have failed to come up withna suitable replacement for the Classicalncolonnade as a facade for courthousenbuildings, for the simple reason thatnthere is no better way to convey authoritynthan by referring to tradition.nNew Orleanians were treated innApril and May to a rather adept displaynof traditional allegory in an exhibition ofnsome vintage photographs by JamesnVan Der Zee at Lori Yarotsky’s newnRes Nova Gallery. Van Der Zee, bestnknown through his association with thenHarlem Renaissance, was an inventivencraftsman who used everything fromntrompe I’oeil props and multiple negativesnto smeared vaseline, silver glitter,nand cotton to achieve his visionarynportraits. What is reassuring about anrevival of interest in his work is that henput all of his inventiveness towardsnconveying very traditional themes,nrather than towards the pursuit of “selfexpression,”nobscurantism, or a “personalnmythology.” There is constantnreference to the way eternal values andnthe concerns of the spirit hover justnabove our mundane lives. An old soldierndreams of the glory of battle; twonfriends share reminiscences of theirnfathers; an angel frees the soul of anprematurely deceased young boy in hisncofRn; a barefoot preacher trembles toncontain the fire and brimstone of hisninspiration. Many might find Van DernZee’s work rewarding because of hisnmodern techniques, or for the particularsnof his presentation of black dailynlife in a certain time and place; Inthought what was best about it was thenpart that was old-fashioned, and universal.nRussell Desmond lives in New Orleans.nMemories of a Home, 1930.nOn ‘Letter FromnCanada’nPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESnThe August issue carried a “LetternFrom Canada” by Jigs Gardner, annAmerican writer living in Nova Scotia.nHis analysis reminds me of what younwould get if you sent a comparablynbumptious and ignorant young Canadiannto Louisiana or Mississippi, fromnwhich he reported back that the fashionablenleft-liberalism of New York or LosnAngeles could all be explained as thenmalign influence of New England puritanism.nTo write, “there are areas, asnwhere I live, where the unemploymentnrate is 40-50 percent” is deceptive, sincenthe entire population of New Brunswick,nNova Scotia, Newfoundland, andnPrince Edward Island is less than 5npercent of the population of Canada,nnnand the Maritimes have been chronicallyndepressed since the world gave upnsailing ships for steam. The Canadianneconomy is far from being, as Gardnernclaims, “in a bad way”; it has been, innThe Economist’s words, one of thenmost successful economies of the modernnWestern industrial world.nI agree with him that the Canadiannsystem of unemployment benefits underminesnincentive and encouragesnpermanent dependency in some people.nBut again, because of his locationnin Nova Scotia, he vastly exaggeratesnthe importance of this problem to thencountry as a whole. The Canadiannunemployment rate has generally beenna couple of points above the US levelnin the Reagan years, but has beennlower than much of Western Europe’sn(never mind the rest of the world). Inbelieve that Americans are, overall.nDECEMBER 1988/57n