Saturday, January 2, 2016
New Deal Art: "Back of the Yards," and timeless misery
Above: "Back of the Yards," an oil painting by Mitchell Siporin (1910-1976), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. The painting "emphasizes the misery that workers across the country experienced during the Great Depression." To some degree, however, it is a timeless depiction of misery. For example, consider the record number of children who are homeless in America today. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, "A staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless in America each year." This homelessness is caused by "the nation's high poverty rate... lack of affordable housing... continuing impacts of the Great Recession... racial disparities... the challenges of single parenting and... traumatic experiences" ("America's Youngest Outcasts," November 2014). Meanwhile, the richest 400 Americans are adding tens, even hundreds of billions of dollars to their personal fortunes every year; and showing us great big smiles, completely oblivious to the misery they've created for so many (see, e.g., "For most workers, real wages have barely budged for decades," Pew Research Center, October 9, 2014, and "Worse Than Stagnant: Wages Fall for Recent College Grads," NBC News, June 5, 2015). Amazingly though, many voters continue to worship the super-rich, praising them as "job creators." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.