Thursday, December 17, 2015
New Deal Art: "Realization"
Above: "Realization," an oil painting by Joseph Vavak (1891-1969), created while he participated in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. I don't know what Vavak's motivation was, but this painting makes me think of the millions of Americans for whom the "American Dream" will never come true: The college graduate mired in debt and making pathetic wages at a job outside of his/her chosen field; the homeless person labeled as worthless; the unemployed person considering suicide and criticized by society as "lazy"; the parent working two jobs but still unable to take a vacation and still unable to provide a good life for his/her child; and so on. The person in the painting above seems to have "realized" something like this. Of course, it could also be something like the loss of a loved one, or abandonment. Or, perhaps Vavak intended his painting to be open to multiple interpretations.
On a more positive note, let us hope that some future generation of Americans will embrace President Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights, so that such despair will be less widespread. Roosevelt told the American people:
"We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. 'Necessitous men are not free men.' People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being."
(Image above courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)