Monday, July 30, 2018

The billionaires won't stop the flames

Above: This 1909 artwork by Udo J. Keppler "shows Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, fighting alone against a raging forest fire, billowing finger-shaped clouds labeled 'Timber Grab,' 'Land Graft,' and 'Greed.'" (The word "Puck" in the artwork refers to a magazine that ran from 1871-1918.) Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

After Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues gave enormous tax breaks to the rich, and after the rich used those tax breaks to engage in an orgy of stock buybacks (to make themselves richer still) the new wildfire season is upon us - nearly a hundred large fires burning up natural areas, homes, and communities. The fires are also killing people and creating unhealthy air.

We've been shown, consistently, that a lack of manpower is a major reason why these fires grow out of control (see, e.g., "More Manpower Sought for Calif. Wildfires," Washington Post, July 25, 2006, and "Wildfires continue to wreak havoc across the west," Los Angeles Times, September 12, 2017).

But the warnings and reports have fallen on deaf ears. 

Instead of heeding these warnings, a significant portion of the American public is still convinced that millionaires & billionaires will deliver us to the Promised Land, via their magical investments and whimsical philanthropy. "So," they plead, "we must give them more tax breaks!" To these people, public investment in the common good is nothing more than "wasteful spending." Another significant portion of the American public doesn't want to think about current events at all - they just want to be left alone with their social media & smart phone binkies.

And so, the small remaining portion of the American public that does understand the importance of the common good is greatly outnumbered... leaving the fires free to kill and destroy. 

Above: The federally-funded Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in northern California, 1933. Between 1933 and 1942, the CCC engaged in a massive and highly successful fire presuppression and firefighting campaign, all across the country. Since the CCC ended , however, America has decided that pampering the wealthy is the better way to go, for example, letting them have round after round of tax cuts; letting them pollute our atmosphere to their heart's content; and letting them take control of our government - converting it from a budding democracy to a hate-based plutocracy. Is it any wonder then, that our climate is getting hotter and our wildfires are becoming more deadly and more destructive? Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Pray to them all you want... but the billionaires won't stop the flames.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A right-winger frets: "I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education." The jaw-dropping, slavish mindset of conservatives.

Slavish: "showing, expressing, or offered in a spirit of humility or unseemly submissiveness."

--Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Above: A WPA healthcare clinic in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1936. During the New Deal, Americans benefited from new health clinics, new hospitals, immunization campaigns, funding for more medical research, and much more. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The terror of free healthcare

Virginia Kruta, an associate editor at the conservative Daily Caller, recently attended an event where congressional hopeful and Democratic Socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez spoke, and "saw something truly terrifying." Kruta writes:

"I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation's founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage. I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education. I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a 'living wage' was a human right. Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government’s job to make sure that those things were provided... I left the rally with a photo - in part to remind myself of that time I crashed a rally headlined by a socialist, but also in part to remind myself that there, but for the grace of God, go I." (Emphasis added.)

This is a truly jaw-dropping statement. Because Kruta seems to be saying (among other things) that her children don't deserve healthcare and education. Now, presumably, what she means is that they have to work for it. But that's problematic because millions of Americans work hard but receive few if any health benefits, and don't earn enough to pay for additional education (they must forgo such education, or go into debt for it).

Our history of "free stuff"

Kruta emphasizes America's founding and history to pooh pooh the idea that government should provide or facilitate healthcare, education, and a living wage. But the U.S. Constitution promotes and provides for the general welfare (preamble, and Article I Section 8). Also, the United States has a history of giving out "free stuff" (as conservatives like to say) for example, land grants to homesteaders in the 1800s. Many conservatives have benefited mightily from the free land that was given to their families - they just don't know it (or, for political purposes, don't want to discuss it).

Additionally, the government provides law enforcement and national defense. Does Kruta fear these things as well? Does she consider the U.S. Marines to be godless communism, since the government provides it? Why are conservatives fine with receiving "free" national defense, but not "free" healthcare?

(Of course, nothing is really free, since all Americans pay taxes. Even those who don't pay federal income tax pay withholding tax, sales tax, fuel tax, property tax, bridge tolls, road tolls, DMV fees, etc.) 

Government as alien being

Interestingly, Kruta, like most conservatives, speaks of the U.S. government as if it were some sort of adversary. Or at least, some sort of entity separate from the people - like an alien from outer space, an extraterrestrial. But in America, government is supposed to be We the People. And if government is We the People, why is it wrong for We the People to provide or facilitate healthcare, education, and a living wage for We the People

On the show Fox & Friends, Kruta expressed the routine conservative despair over how general welfare things would be paid for. Like most other conservatives, she sees the government throw hundreds of billions of dollars at the Pentagon, like a drunken sailor, and she sees round after round of tax-cuts-for-the-rich (Reagan, Bush, Trump), and she sees the rich getting richer and richer and richer... but still asks, "Golly gee, how would we possibly pay for Medicare-for-All??" 

Question: Are these people being purposefully deceptive... or are they really and truly the ignoramuses they appear to be?  

The slavish nature of the conservative mind

This whole episode reminds me of a conservative I used to work with. His attitude, essentially, was that he wasn't as good as rich people and had to work very, very hard to curry their favor, in order to get better wages and benefits. He also felt that rich people wanted the non-rich to do good, and if government just got out of the way, it could happen. And, like Kruta, he didn't seem to mind the fact that the rich, by birthright, easily obtain essentials like healthcare and education, while the rest of us must struggle for it (recall that Kruta told us that she used to have a hard time of making ends meet).

Middle and low-income conservatives have a slavish mindset. They accept the American caste system without question. They work hard to impress the rich, in the hopes that the rich will bestow favor upon them. When people like Kruta reject the notion of a government of We the People helping We the People, they throw themselves (and the rest of us) to the malignant mercy of billionaires and Corporate America. You see, billionaires and Corporate America are completely uninterested in the plight of the middle-class and poor. They are only interested in profit and their own luxury (which is why they've sent so many good-paying American jobs overseas these past many decades: cheap labor = more profit).

Will conservatives ever wake up to their gullibility and naivete? Probably not, and their slavish devotion to the people who don't give a rat's ass about them is harming us all. Our wages are not keeping up with inflation; our retirements are doubtful; our climate is getting hotter and hotter; and we're increasingly fat, depressed, and suicidal.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

New Deal Alaska Art (5/5): "Ebb Tide, Juneau" and "Blanket Design of the Haida Indians, Alaska"

Above: "Ebb Tide, Juneau," a painting by Marianne Appel (1913-1988), created while she was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1939. Appel also painted a mural for the Post Office building in Wrangell, Alaska, ca. 1941-1943, again through the Section of Fine Arts. She then went on to have a successful art career as an illustrator of children's books and as a puppet maker for TV shows like The Muppets (see, e.g., "Marianne Appel," Wikipedia). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Blanket Design of the Haida Indians, Alaska," a 1939 WPA poster by Louis Siegriest (1899-1990). During World War II, Siegriest designed camouflage for the Army Corps of Engineers ("Oral history interview with Louis Siegriest, 1978 June 21," Smithsonian Archives of American Art). Today, the Haida and Tlingit nations of Alaska have united to "Preserve our sovereignty, enhance our economic and cultural resources, and promote self-sufficiency and self-governance for our citizens" ("Our Mission," Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) and "to respect the sovereign rights of smaller Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) tribes in Alaska" ("About Us"). The Indian Reorganization Act was signed by President Roosevelt in 1934 and, among other things, promoted self-government and land protection for native peoples (see "Indian Reorganization Act, 1934," Living New Deal). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, July 20, 2018

New Deal Alaska Art (4/5): "Native's Shack, Ketchikan, Alaska" and "Raven and Frog" totem pole

Above: "Native's Shack, Ketchikan, Alaska," a painting by Ferdinand Lo Pinto (1906-1980) created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to a biography on AskArt, Lo Pinto was one of 13 artists sent to Alaska by the WPA, to do 70 paintings. Lo Pinto also did illustrations for The WPA Guide to Alaska, as well as set designs for the WPA's Federal Theatre Project. There doesn't seem to be a lot of information recorded about his later years; however, his name appears in many old newspapers from Pennsylvania (where the biography on AskArt says he moved to in the 1950s), and they indicate that he remained very active in the art community, for example, being named as co-director of the Baum Art School in Allentown ("Baum Art School Board Elects 3 New Directors," The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), January 18, 1969). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Raven and Frog" totem pole, Saxman Indian Village, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, ca. 1939. This totem pole was restored with the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New Deal Alaska Art (3/5): "Mail Delivery North" and "Black Fish" totem pole

Above: "Mail Delivery North," a sculpture by Edmond Amateis (1897-1981), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1941. This is one of four related sculptures--the others being "Mail Delivery South," "Mail Delivery East," and "Mail Delivery West"--that Amateis created for the exterior of the U.S. Post Office building at 900 Market Street, Philadelphia. According to the website "Association for Public Art," this sculpture depicts a "parka-clad Alaska native" and his dog sled team, in the "arctic North." The Wikipedia page for Amateis states that he was president of the National Sculpture Society from 1942 to 1944. Photo courtesy of Gray Brechin.

Above: The "Black Fish" totem pole at Saxman Indian Village, Tongass National Forest, ca. 1939. This totem was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New Deal Alaska Art (2/5): "Alaska Snowshoe Mail Carrier" and "Chief Johnson" totem pole

Above: "Alaska Snowshoe Mail Carrier," an aluminum sculpture by Chaim Gross (1904-1991), created while he was in the New Deal's Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, 1936. This sculpture is in the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building (headquarters for the EPA). According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum: "Like many other artists, [Chaim] benefited greatly from the support of the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project. In the late 1930s the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture commissioned him to execute several works for federal buildings; these helped to establish him as a major contemporary sculptor" ("Chaim Gross"). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Carol M. Highsmith.

Above: The "Chief Johnson" totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska, ca. 1939. This totem was restored by native Alaskans, with the support of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

New Deal Alaska Art (1/5): "Waterfront, Alaska" and "Sun and Raven" totem pole

Above: "Waterfront, Alaska," a painting by Austin Merrill Mecklem (1894-1951), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1939. According to a biography on Find A Grave, "Mecklem first studied at the University of Washington, then worked in the Treadwell gold mines in Juneau, Alaska for two years to pay tuition to the San Francisco School of Fine Arts." Image courtesy of the Newark Museum, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: The description for this 1939 photograph reads, "The 'Sun and Raven Pole' of the Tlingit Indians restored by Indian CCC workers at Saxman Indian Village, Tongass National Forest." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: This photo shows the "Sun and Raven" totem pole before it was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

As working class wages continue to stagnate or drop, a born-into-wealth billionaire is creating a fascist Supreme Court that will terrorize the working class for decades. Welcome to right-wing America.

Above: A WPA worker receives his paycheck in Detroit, 1935. During the New Deal, both wages and real wages rose dramatically (see here and here). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Today's Real Earnings Summary, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that compensation for most working class Americans is continuing to stagnate or drop: "Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.1 percent from May to June... [and] From June 2017 to June 2018, real average hourly earnings decreased 0.2 percent [for most workers]." ("Real earnings" are wages as compared to the price of goods and services.)

It seems that deregulation and tax-cuts-for-the-rich, fueled by Trump & Republicans, are not doing much for the working class - despite Trump & Republican lies to the contrary. Instead, deregulation and tax-cuts-for-the-rich are making the rich richer and our environment hotter and dirtier.

Even worse, Trump--a man born into great wealth--is creating a fascist Supreme Court before our very eyes (fascism is a governmental set of acts and policies that favors private wealth over democracy and the common good). Trump's new nominee, Bret Kavanaugh, has consistently favored big business over workers (see here, here, and here). He will fit in perfectly (as in, perfectly evil) with the other plutocratic justices on the Supreme Court (Alito, Roberts, Gorsuch, and Thomas).     

Funny thing though: working class Trump & Republican voters don't seem to mind stagnant wages or fascist jurisprudence. It seems they're willing to let their quality of life stagnate or deteriorate, if that's what it takes to get back at "the other." Years ago, a black woman I worked with said her uncle once told her, "White people are willing to throw each other under the bus, if that's what it takes to hurt black people." It seems her uncle was quite right.

Trump & Republicans are experts at setting the working class and poor against one another while the rich continue hoarding all of the nation's wealth and opportunity. For example, as Trump's supporters point their angry fingers at immigrants (some legal, some not) from south of the border, large corporations are using their tax breaks to engage in an orgy of stock buybacks instead of increasing wages and benefits. This makes wealthy executives & shareholders even more wealthy, while doing nothing at all for the working class. But again, Trump supporters don't seem to mind. They simply will not hold rich white people accountable, unless their last name is "Clinton."


Monday, July 9, 2018

Rural Internet Access in America: A quagmire of private sector indifference, anti-government Republicans, milquetoast liberalism, history amnesia, and self-immolating votes

Above: The description for this photograph reads: "Rural electrification in the U.S. This modern American building houses the offices of the Middle Tennessee Electric Corporation in the Eastern U.S. This is a farmers' cooperative group which organized to bring electricity to farms and homes in the country on an economic non-profit basis. They secured a loan from the U.S. Rural Electrification Administration to build their distribution lines and other facilities. This cooperative group distributes power from a government-owned power plant to more than 6,000 members. Headquarters like this often become the social centers of their communities. In addition to offices and storage for maintenance trucks and supplies, such buildings may include an auditorium for membership meetings and other functions, an electrified demonstration kitchen, and conference rooms." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

There is an interesting and in-depth article on ThinkProgress today about the lack of good Internet access (or any access at all) in rural Kentucky, and how it's hindering economic development and job opportunities. And, of course, the problem is not limited to Kentucky. Many rural areas in America struggle with substandard Internet access.

Considering history, this article, as well as other articles from the past many years, it seems to me that there are five main roadblocks that are keeping this problem from being solved:

1. Private Sector Indifference:

Because rural areas are sparsely populated, private industry is often hesitant to invest. The profit just isn't there, at least not in the short-term - and short-term profit is what wealthy executives & investors are primarily aroused by.

2. Anti-Government Republicans:

Republicans are in charge of most of the U.S. government - the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, and most state governments too, including Kentucky's. And Republicans are vehemently opposed to domestic spending. They throw money at the Pentagon like a drunken sailor, hand out tax breaks to the rich like candy, and then constantly try to cut domestic investment. In Kentucky, there is an Internet initiative called "KentuckyWired." It's made some progress, but anemic federal support (as well as private sector obstructionism) has caused problems. 

3. Milquetoast Liberalism:

The modern Democratic Party, a party vehemently opposed to its New Deal roots, often pooh poohs big ideas and grand plans. They tell us that change takes decades and decades, and so we shouldn't set our hopes too high. This was seen during the 2016 Democratic Primaries, where Bernie Sanders was raked across the coals by the Democratic Establishment for his lofty goals, such as massive infrastructure spending (which we've done before) and free public college (which we've done before). During the primaries, journalist Kevin Drum scolded Sanders, but admitted: "I'll grant that my pitch--and Hillary's and Barack Obama's--isn't very inspiring. Work your fingers to the bone for 30 years and you might get one or two significant pieces of legislation passed."

Not inspiring indeed. Imagine if New Deal policymakers had had such a timid, defeatist approach. There would be no Social Security, no SEC, no FDIC, young children would still be working in the mines, we would only have half the infrastructure that we do today, and many rural areas would still have no electricity.
4. History Amnesia:

We've seen rural investment problems before. Decades ago, for example, private industry did not want to bring electricity to rural America because they didn't see the profit in it. But, with the advent of the New Deal, things changed. The will of the people won out and New Deal policymakers created the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA), as well as other large programs--like the federal Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the federal Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)--to bring electricity to neglected areas. And it worked. Today, tens of millions still get their power from the investments of the federal REA, TVA, and BPA. 

Unfortunately, when an electorate has history amnesia--and Americans are infamous for not knowing their history--lessons like the REA are lost, and people become gullible to rhetoric like "private sector innovation!" and "government is the problem not the solution!" And this gullibility forces them to deal with pathetic infrastructure, like poor Internet access, for years on end, as their political "representatives" tell them to hold on, just a little longer, for tax breaks for the rich, plus "private sector innovation!", to improve their quality of life. It's a farce - a farce made possible by history amnesia. The fact is, with each successive round of tax cuts for the rich (JFK, Reagan, Bush Jr., and now Trump), and with each embrace of "private sector innovation!", our quality of life diminishes more and more - stagnant wages, fewer benefits, more debt, more precarious retirements, deteriorating infrastructure. History amnesia ensures that we don't understand the roots of our problems.

5. Self-Immolating Votes:

Tied into all of the above, is the habit of many Americans to vote (or not vote) against their own self-interest. Kentucky, for example, is a deeply red state. They have put into office (again, by either voting or not voting) anti-government Republicans. Their congressional "representatives" are Republican, their state legislature is Republican, their governor is Republican, and they overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. So, on the one hand, they need better infrastructure, but, on the other hand, they consistently vote for anti-government, anti-infrastructure Republicans. This is self-immolation. Of course, the Democratic Establishment isn't helping matters much with their uninspired, milquetoast, scaredy-cat approach to politics and governing.

But to illustrate just how insane it is for Kentuckians to support Republicans--by voting or not voting--consider that (a) the Republican Party is largely supported by the Koch brothers, and (b) a Koch-funded group has opposed KentuckyWired by saying: "We don't consider a core government function to be providing broadband."

Above: A poster promoting the benefits of the Rural Electrification Administration, for example, light. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Summary of the Absurd

So, let's sum this up: (1) Kentuckians need better infrastructure, like Internet access; (2) the private sector is not overly interested in providing Kentuckians with good Internet access (or other infrastructure); (3) Republicans are generally opposed to government spending on domestic needs, like infrastructure; (4) an influential conservative group, funded by the notorious Republican Party megadonors, is opposed to government intervention on the Internet issue (which puts Kentuckians in a trap of both private sector and governmental indifference); but (5) Kentuckians are perpetually voting for Republicans anyway (or abstaining from voting, thereby capitulating to Republicans just the same). 

Read that again... very slowly, very carefully. Let the absurdity of the situation fully sink in.

If you want to know why we have so many problems in this country--problems that go on for decades and decades--look to the Internet debacle (and attendant issues) in Kentucky. It's a fantastic case study, showing how citizens can be tricked into sacrificing their own quality of life... to millionaires & billionaires who have prioritized vanity & decadence over the common good.

"Deteriorating infrastructure impedes Kentucky’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace."

--American Society of Civil Engineers, 2017, "Infrastructure in Kentucky"

Saturday, July 7, 2018

WPA cemetery work

Above: A WPA-built retaining wall, at a cemetery in Toledo, Ohio, ca. 1936, constructed to prevent the loss of grave sites due to erosion problems. All across America, WPA workers repaired and improved cemeteries, and also recorded & inventoried headstone inscriptions. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "God's Acre," a painting by Julian Levi (1900-1982), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Judy Zemnick: The WPA artist who was attacked by a polar bear

"All I want is to get back to my artwork."

--21-year-old Judy Zemnick, a few weeks after being attacked by a polar bear at the Brookside Zoo in Cleveland, Ohio ("Girl Clawed By Bear Undismayed..." La Grande Observer (La Grande, Oregon), November 8, 1938).    

Above: In this photograph, we see artist Judy Zemnick (right front, with watch or band on wrist) on a WPA ceramics project in Cleveland Ohio, ca. 1938. Photo courtesy of the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: On October 26, 1938, 21-year-old Judy Zemnick was sketching animals at the Brookside Zoo in Cleveland, Ohio (now called the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) and became a little too passionate about her work, went past an iron picket fence, and sat on a ledge overlooking a polar bear enclosure for a better view of the animal she was drawing. After swatting at her several times, the polar bear grabbed hold of her and dragged her in. For 15-20 minutes Zemnick was mauled. Two other WPA artists tried to stop the bear by throwing stones at it, and zoo workers were finally able to remove her from the enclosure ("Cleveland Painter Mauled Before Beast Is Driven Off," The Akron Beacon Journal," October 27, 1938). Photo from The Salem News (Salem, Ohio), October 28, 1938 edition, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Zemnick on January 3, 1939, a little over two months after her encounter with the polar bear. Zemnick nearly died from the attack. She was in critical condition from loss of blood. Her scalp was nearly gone, her face and throat cut, and she ended up losing an eye. Clyde Henderson, a 33-year old teacher in the area, and a friend of Zemnick, gave the blood that saved her life (see The Akron Beacon Journal article cited in the previous caption). Meanwhile, the WPA pledged to pay her medical bills, pay compensation during her recovery, and even allow her to work overtime to earn a little more, once she was back at work ("Girl Clawed By Bear Undismayed..." La Grande Observer (La Grande, Oregon), November 8, 1938). This was generous, considering that she shouldn't have been sketching where she was; and it's another example of the good spirit of the New Deal vs. today's more harsh and unforgiving form of government. Photograph by Acme Photo, scanned from personal copy, and used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: While in the WPA, Zemnick created several sculptures highlighting the transportation history of Ohio. They are now incorporated into a multi-panel history display at the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). The sculpture above shows American Indians and a canoe. Photo courtesy of the AMHA.

Above: Zemnick's WPA sculpture of the Northeast Ohio Railroad. Photo courtesy of the AMHA.

Above: Zemnick's WPA sculpture of the Ohio Erie Canal towpath. Photo courtesy of the AMHA.

Above: Judy Zemnick made this model for a 3-4 foot concrete sculpture of a squirrel, to be placed at the Valleyview Homes housing project in Cleveland. Photo courtesy of the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: Zemnick's squirrel was included in a recent restoration project, carried out by LAND studio and the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority. Photo courtesy of LAND studio, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the affordable housing at Valleyview Homes. Zemnick's work was part of a larger WPA effort to make Valleyview aesthetically pleasing. According to a website set up by Cleveland State University: "The project cost nearly $3.5 million and featured playgrounds, a community center, and craft shops. Local artists commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created numerous murals and other pieces of art, which were placed in various spots throughout Valleyview." Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

What became of Judy Zemnick?

I wasn't able to find much about Zemnick's life after her years in the WPA, i.e., after 1940. Did she marry? Did she continue pursuing an art career? If not, what did she end up doing? However, information on the websites and indicates that she lived from 1917 to 2007 and spent most or all of her life in the Cleveland area (the 1917 birth year corresponds with information that Zemnick was 21 when she was attacked by the polar bear in 1938).

Every once in a while, someone will email me about an artist I feature on my blog. Maybe someone who knew Zemnick will run across this blog post and provide information. Or (perhaps more likely), we'll never know what became of this young, talented, and ambitious WPA artist - whose legacy lives on in these few remaining artworks.

"Tell everyone I want to live."

--Judy Zemnick, October 1938, as she was lifted and carried out of the polar bear enclosure ("Cleveland Painter Mauled Before Beast Is Driven Off," The Akron Beacon Journal," October 27, 1938).

Monday, July 2, 2018

New Deal Art: "The Welder"

Above: "The Welder," an oil painting by Lee Frederickson, created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration, the Grohmann Museum, and Stanley Staniski Photography.