Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Misleading Portraiture

The paintings of Norman Rockwell are held by many as the quintessential reflection of American culture. Just the artist's name invokes images of smiling families sitting around a harvest table painted in smiles and harmony. An almost palpable sense of family values and a deep and pervading love. Yet is this perceived reflection of our culture anywhere close to the reality that you have experienced?

It seems that every time I venture out to the grocery store or to the mall or to Walmart, that Rockwellian archetype is consistently set against the reality before me. Parents publicly scolding and barking at their children with unfettered tones. Swatting and spanking their young ones in a sorry display for all to witness. Foul language and completely disrespectful behavior sucking the spirit out of everyone. Where is the love, the tenderness, the parental strength and control? Where is the self-restraint? Who is the grown up and who is the child? Shouldn't our children be not only loved but respected?

I have the sense that this sort of sorry scene that plays out with a sickening regularity is much closer to reality than that captured by Mr. Rockwell's lens in the instant that is captured on canvas. I suspect that in the moment immediately before the Van Dyke brown, the cadmium yellow, and the Prussian blue were uncapped, the family was carping at each other for every petty slight under the sun. I sense that these paintings that were supposed to evoke feelings of warmth, family, and celebration, are really nothing more than misleading portraiture.