Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Historical Sense

About the same time that Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia was apologizing for neglecting to mention slavery in his Confederate History Month proclamation, the Virgina Museum of Fine Arts announced a new acquisition: Street Corner by Phillip Evergood. The painting is evidence that not everyone in Virginia is an atavist.

The way cultures remember their history stamps their character. The war still festers in the souls of those southerners who truculently fly the Stars and Bars. Urban Yankees, however, pay relatively little attention to the Civil War. Indeed, many are descended from immigrants who arrived some fifty years afterwards. Even African Americans find more to relish in the Civil Rights Movement than in the war against slavery. If there is a watershed moment for northerners, it may well be the Depression of the 1930's, when America discovered it could not survive as a great nation without a social conscience.

But back to the painting. Clearly it is from the Depression. It startles us with its raucous jumble of city dwellers. There is energy here, but not momentum. The people move in various directions, while a black man stands still, his back to all. Newspapers are strewn about, one with "War" in its headline. Two workers occupy the center space; their size and strength is assuring. A baby takes in the assembly with delight. We are on the cusp. Events are about to unfold that will galvanize this group. Evergood, who came from a well-to-do family, sensed the latent energy of the nation's streets. His painting demonstrates the era's yearning for a more perfect Union.

Click on the picture for a closer look.


DUTA said...

History repeats itself - only this time the baby in the 'social realistic' street picture of Evergood is not symbolic of Hope for a bright future.

Americans will probably be facing in the near future two main options: civil war and/or massive emmigration to other places, perhaps the original places of their ancestors - the immmigrants-builders of 20th century America.
That's my 'historical sense'.

TallTchr said...

With respect Duta, I don't share your pessimism. You might want to read this article by Thomas Friedman to understand one reason for my belief in America's future http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/opinion/04friedman.html

We make lots of mistakes, and our politics get nuttier everyday, but I don't think a civil war is in the offing. If anything, radical voices on the left and right have prompted a new migration to the middle.

Paula Slade said...

Out of the middle comes voices of reason.