Friday, April 28, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (3/5): "Town Creek, Clinton, Missouri"

Above: "Town Creek, Clinton, Missouri," an oil painting by Harry Louis Freund (1905-1999), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture has a biography of Freund. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (2/5): "Death of a Giant"

Above: "Death of a Giant," an oil painting by Stuyvesant Van Veen (1910-1988), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. From 1945 to 1979 Van Veen "taught painting and drawing at the City College of New York" ("Stuyvesant Van Veen, Muralist, Is Dead at 77," New York Times, June 3, 1988). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Deal Tree Art (1/5): "Reforestation"

Above: "Reforestation," a mural study painting by Hollis Holbrook (1909-1984), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1940. Holbrook graduated from the Massachusetts School of Art in 1934, the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1936, and then went on to become a faculty member at the University of Florida's Art Department ("A Guide to the Hollis H. Holbrook Papers," University of Florida Smathers Libraries). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the left-hand side of the mural study.

Above: A closer look at the right-hand side of the mural study. Reforestation was big during the New Deal, with the CCC planting several billion trees; and other work programs, like the WPA, planting tens of millions of other trees.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Broken Pipes and Mass Robberies: The San Francisco Bay Area Needs a New Deal

Above: "San Francisco from Russian Hill," an oil painting by Ray Strong (1905-2006), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The San Francisco Bay Area has many problems that another New Deal could solve or mitigate. For example, it's aging water infrastructure could be replaced by WPA-type workers and/or with PWA-type funding, and most of its homeless encampments could be replaced with work camps where residents could receive shelter, health care, good meals, social services, public works job experience, and a modest paycheck. And many, no doubt, would eventually regain their footing and independence. During the New Deal, there were camps for unemployed women, transient camps for homeless and outcast workers, and CCC camps for young men who had been hopping trains and wandering around the countryside looking for jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Area is also having problems with its teenagers and young adults, for example, dirt bike gangs that cause traffic and harassment problems; and, this past Saturday, up to 60 youths committed a mass robbery on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART).

From 1935 to 1939, Anne Treadwell was the director of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California. The NYA was a New Deal program that hired millions of struggling young men and women across the country, to perform various public works jobs. In the 1990s, during an oral history interview, Treadwell spoke about the benefits of the NYA and CCC: "I have thought over and over that we should have a program of that sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing. There was nothing like that in those days. I mean, youngsters didn't feel they were totally abandoned or that nobody gave a thought to what they did with their lives. It seems to me that was an extremely valuable thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."

Over the past many decades, we've tried trickle-down economics, mass incarceration, cutting the social safety net, deifying the rich, and also the demented philosophies of Ayn Rand - a philosophy that can be summed up as: "Don't give a sh%t about anyone but yourself." Instead of doubling-down on these failed policies, which congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration are attempting to do, isn't about time we tried something else... like another New Deal?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Preschoolers in New York City have been drinking lead for the rich

Above: A New Deal-financed waterworks project in New York City, ca. 1933-1939. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

As Donald Trump's Ayn Rand-administration is trying to figure out the best way to cut infrastructure spending, kick poor people off Medicaid, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and increase the number of military adventures across the globe, preschool children in New York City (and across the rest of the United States too) have been drinking lead, a neurotoxin that causes permanent brain damage (see, e.g., "City pre-K programs also have high lead count in drinking water," New York Post, April 19, 2017).

Meanwhile, super-wealthy Americans are laughing at us, enjoying record wealth, and drooling over the tax breaks they're sure to receive from their Republicans in Congress. Worse, they have millions of Americans dancing around like marionettes, crying out "We can't afford it!!" whenever a solution to a domestic problem is mentioned. And many of the marionettes also cry out in adoration: "Job creators! We love you!!" At their swanky parties, the millionaires & billionaires must be giggling: "Good Lord, we send their jobs overseas, use our cash to turn their government against them, attack every social program that helps them... and still they worship us!"

Things were different during the New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow policymakers created many work and construction programs that modernized America infrastructure. For example, WPA workers in New York state installed 1,200 miles of new water lines, 1,600 miles of sewers, and built or improved 266 utility plants (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 136). Why? Well, among other reasons, they believed that clean drinking water, and the efficient removal of wastewater, was important to the nation's health, especially for children.

We could do the same thing today with the nation's lead problem--replacing water mains, connection lines, and old plumbing--if we had the will, and if we had a good understanding of American history. 

Unfortunately, and to the contrary, America has embraced an Ayn Rand-fueled system of economics (trickle-down economics) that has "helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world" (Bruce Levine, "How Ayn Rand Helped Turn the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation," Alternet, December 10, 2014). This embrace of selfishness has been disastrous for America's children, as evidenced by rampant child poverty, high infant mortality rates, and the routine delivery of contaminated drinking water to their developing bodies.

Hopefully, someday in the not-too-distant future, Americans will turn away from the malevolent rule of millionaires and billionaires, and once again work towards a government that is truly for the people. The health of the nation's children depends on it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (5/5): Landscape with lighthouse

Above: This oil painting of a landscape with a lighthouse was made by Tode Brower, while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. There doesn't seem to be much information about Brower on the Internet; however, a few sources list his lifespan as 1898-1974. I found a newspaper obituary for January 18, 1974 that reads: "A former resident of Plainfield, [New Jersey], Lorenzo D. (Tode) Brower, Jr., 76, died Wednesday... in the Veterans Hospital in Albany... He was an artist and made his home in Bearsville... He served in the Coastguard in World War I... He and Mrs. [Jo Cantine] Brower have exhibited their work in Woodstock galleries ("L. Brower Jr.," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), January 18, 1974). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A closer look at the lighthouse section of the painting.

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Deal Lighthouse Art (4/5): "The Clouds"

Above: "The Clouds," a drypoint on paper by Lawrence Kupferman (1909-1982), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco, "Kupferman worked as an artist for the WPA in the 1930s, developing a strictly realist style that depicted Victorian houses and other detailed architectural images. Around 1943 Kupferman began to integrate more expressionistic forms into his works. He soon moved completely away from recognizable subject matter and definitively became an abstract painter." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.