Monroe Warshaw loves travel, history and his dog, a gentle and sweet-faced golden retriever named Pastrami. Warshaw, a New York-based dealer in Old Master drawings, takes Pastrami with him on his journeys around the world. He poses Pastrami in front of sites of historical interest, puts a historically appropriate hat or headdress on her head and snaps picture of his loyal friend.
A collection of Warshaw’s Pastrami photographs can be seen at the Hartford Public Library’s Albany Branch. The exhibit is loosey-goosey: Hundreds of unframed prints, some curling at the edges, hang from clothespins on a series of strings in a room filled with chairs, tables, boxes and other library things.
That casual and approachable presentation is intentional, Warshaw says.
“If you find a photo you really like, you can take it off the wall and keep it,” he says. Librarian Jenna Bivona periodically checks the room to fill empty spaces with new prints. She has done this daily since the show opened May 8, because who can resist a picture of a dog in a hat, especially if it’s free?
Warshaw has been all over Europe and the United States.
“Taking the photos helped me to learn what is unique only to that place,” he says. “Every place has something special when you travel.”
Pastrami has never balked at wearing a hat or sitting still for the pictures, he says. “She loved the attention and she loved the treats.”
Among the photos Warshaw has taken: Pastrami dressed as a ghost in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; in New Orleans as Blanche DuBois; wearing a dark, somber lady’s hat at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; in a dunce cap in a one-room schoolhouse; wearing a lettuce leaf in the agricultural capital Salinas, Calif.; wearing a 15th-century style cap in front of a historic church in Germany; in a gondolier’s hat in Venice; in a black Jewish men’s hat with sidelocks attached at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass.
At museums, Warshaw does spoofs of the artworks or artists. In front of an Andy Warhol self-portrait, Pastrami wears a straw wig with Warhol-esque wild hair. At Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman” sculpture, the dog wears a red tam with a spider on top. In front of a Cindy Sherman portrait, she wears a headpiece similar to Sherman’s. In front of a Frida Kahlo exhibit, she wears a Kahlo-like topper.
Some hats were handmade by Warshaw, who once worked at his parents’ bridal-veil business. Some were rented from costumers or bought in second-hand stores. Warshaw often bought hats he didn’t yet know how to use. “I wait until I find the right place to use it the one time I’ll need it … what is appropriate for wherever I am taking the photo,” he says.
Not all of Warshaw’s photos are funny. Some offer a sad commentary on history. One photo, in front of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, shows Pastrami in the helmet of a Spanish conquistador. He said he got some pushback from people there over that headpiece. “They [the conquistadors] are who enslaved and killed the Indians while searching for the Seven Cities of Gold,” he said. “But it’s history. I want to tell the history of the world with hats.”
PASTRAMI TRAVELS TO HARTFORD is at Hartford Public Library’s Albany Branch, 1250 Albany Ave., until June 16. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org.