New York State Fair Landscape (Temple of Fantasy)



Underscoring the fantastical and commercial character of state fairs as a kind of heterotopia, you can see this old lithograph at the History of the New York State Fair exhibit in the Grange, just behind the Dairy Products Building. In this image, the fairground represents a counter-real little place, a wonder nestled in the larger landscape dominated by hills in the distance and by Lake Onondoga. Note the figures grouped together in an intimate knot in the foreground. The image bears a strong resemblance to illustrations in which Bedouin or European travelers occupy the foreground overlooking exotic, pastoral oriental landscapes. Here, of course, the empty landscape a soft green marked not by desert ruins but by signs of industrial “progress.” The poster was printed in 1859 by Harvey E. Pease in the Temple of Fantasy, an Albany institution described here at its website as an “upscale ‘Five and Dime,’ where…families could purchase fancy goods, toys, household items, children’s books, and games.” The finely painted details add charm to the overall composition.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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