America: Home of the free, the brave, and the artist

A short musing on American art then and now…

Happy 4th of July y’all! Independence day celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach visits, and of course fireworks has become the quintessential summer holiday. I certainly enjoy this holiday but I’ll admit with all the festivities it’s easy to forget about our nation’s tumultuous past, problematic present, and uncertain future. Dont’ get me wrong I love my country in many ways, but I feel we are overdue for a surge of patriotism. The patriotism I am speaking of does not equal supporting/agreeing with the government, but is a sense of camaraderie among citizens. As I look back on some of the most iconic examples of American art I feel something. It’s like a twinge of nostalgia, wrapped in sadness, drizzled with yesteryear, then topped with a bit of hope – a recipe for Americana perhaps? Almost all the artworks I have selected were created before I was born, but they were the ones I thought of first when I asked myself  “What are some truly ‘American’ works of art?” I then wonder am I just drawn to these images because they represent something America still is or something I wish America to be? Certainly many of these artworks are reflective of important historical moments in our country’s past, the Great Depression, the invention of canned food, the Civil Rights Movement, America’s involvement in Vietnam, and the AIDS crisis; capturing and preserving otherwise fleeting feelings of despair and rage as well as optimism and promise. It’s kind of amazing that I and America’s youth in general, who did not experience many of these pivotal events, still gravitate toward these artworks as prime examples of American art because that is not the America we know today. My big question now is, what is America today? What artist has his or her finger on the pulse of what’s happening right now? I have yet to see it, but maybe as I said before we are lacking in humanity, camaraderie, and appear to be defeated in the face of economic and social strife. Who will be the great American artist of our generation?

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2 comments on “America: Home of the free, the brave, and the artist

  1. I love your writing and I haven’t seen a few of these art pieces myself. Thank you. Rosie the Riveter had a great influence in my life and she was created before I was born too.
    Last evening I watched the 4th of July celebration in DC; it certainly spoke of patriotism; honoring what was, what is, and hopefully, what can be.
    A significant piece of art in this century has caught me; however I don’t know that you would consider it totally American; for me it does indicate transformation that is in America. Please check out http://www.saintjohnsbible.org. It is the Handwritten Illuminated Bible done by Donald Jackson of Wales and several calligraphers and artists and the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota. It’s home is in Collegeville; however it won’t be bound for 50-100 years so that it (or parts of it) can travel throughout the country. The goal was a 21st C Bible for the 21st C done with the 15C processes of art materials. The Smithsonian Institute has noted it. I’ve seen and touched it; it is amazing. So what indicates transformation? Adam is dark skinned, not white. The Twin Towers are included in the art of chaos. In the genealogy of Christ the menorah of the Jewish tradition and the gilded stamps indicate the Koran of Islam. Also, Sarah and Hagar are there; this is huge. The story of Donald Jackson’s dreams are inspiring. The site has a utube that he narrates. You can view a lot of the art and The Word there.
    Keep on keeping on. Dawn

    • Thanks so much Dawn! I certainly would consider this handwritten, illuminated Bible to be a work of art, it is amazingly detailed, and beautifully executed. I think it is very interesting that you bring this up in light of my post, because like you said, this new Bible indicates a transformation, a transformation that will hopefully reunite us as people, something I feel is needed and talk about in my post. It is clear that as time goes on it is important for us to take a look at our past, reconsider our present, and make changes to better our future. I hope that this new Bible will help rid us of ignorance and hate that has for centuries divided people around the world.

      All the best,
      Lydia

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