When I was a child, I had a book of Norman Rockwell’s
illustrations art that I used to joyously pore over. I remember even doing a report on him for school, and I had to make sure he wasn’t too much of a commercial artist to qualify.
In my previous life before motherhood and medical school, I actually went to art school and was a portrait artist. I could never even begin to touch the hem of Normal Rockwell’s garment when it came to the emotional quality he could bring to his faces, much less his exquisite technical skill. I never, ever mentioned being inspired by him in art school, however. No one else mentioned him either. I was busy discovering other portrait artists like Francis Bacon and Sigmund Freud.
There is a Normal Rockwell exhibit at a nearby art museum, and I really want to go. I was listening to a story on it on my local NPR station (you guessed that I listed to a lot of NPR already, right?) and I was stunned and impressed by their coverage of his dedication to civil rights. I was also stunned and disgusted by their explanation why none of his pieces depicting civil rights for African Americans were ever in the Saturday Evening Post; they had an official policy that blacks could only be portrayed as servants: waiters, housekeepers, etc. This was in the 1960’s.
(Another example of very institutionalized racism, and why I had the “there is no such thing as a race card” this very morning. Before I heard this story.)
I am looking forward to seeing the exhibit, especially two pieces that I had never heard of until they were described on the radio this morning. It used to mildly annoy me when they did stories about art on NPR and tried to describe the works, but I am so happy they do, now. (Obviously, it is beneficial to the visually impaired, also). Here are internet versions of two of the pieces at the exhibit: (click to embiggen)
“The Problem We All Live With”
This piece depicts four federal marshals escorting a black six year old girl (SIX!) to school in Louisiana. All the white parents pulled their children out of the class, according to the coverage. There is a tomato smashed on the wall behind her, as if it just whizzed past her head. And, the N word is emblazoned, lightly, on the wall above her head.
The second piece they described: (click to embiggen)
“Southern Justice” (Murder in Mississippi)
This hair raising image depicts the shootings in Mississippi during the civil rights era. I am fairly sure they are the shootings that lead to the movie “Mississippi Burning”. Only the blood on one of the victims is in color, and the rest of the piece is in black and white. According to the radio story today, he actually purchased a pint of human blood to make sure his portrayal was accurate.
It’s nice to find out more about someone I love (and may have been a little embarrassed for loving) and be even more in love with them.