This is a Happy Thanksgiving card for the many nice folks who come to the Archaeology in Tennessee blog to read and comment on our main posts. Once upon a time, I worked in an art museum and gained a deep appreciation for painting and sculpture. My heart abides with the fascinating light of Vermeer and the seascapes of Frederick Church. However, odd as it might seem in contrast, I have always loved the folksy 20th century paintings of Norman Rockwell. Just a few years ago, a rather vicious art critic in New York City remarked that Rockwell’s art was not particularly good because it documents a delusional American past that never really existed anywhere in the United States as a matter of cultural and social reality. After reading his review, I looked up thoughtfully and commented to the air molecules above my head::
You must spend most of your time in New York City. I gather that you have rarely gotten out onto the American landscape and actually visited people in the small towns of the early and middle 20th century United States—now have you?
Today we know Rockwell painted at least some of his situational scenes from photographic snapshots he had taken—because the photographs have been found and can be directly compared to the paintings. What Rockwell actually captured in his many paintings, like those he did for the Saturday Evening Post, might not have always been observed life situations in small towns, but they did capture the pure essence, heart, mind, soul, and spirit of small town America and most of the American people. In my opinion, this is why his art was so well received in the small towns and backwoods areas of the United States, and it is the reason his art endures.
What does Norman Rockwell and his art have to do with this Happy Thanksgiving card to you? Well, an old Chinese proverb says:
It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.
On this particular Thanksgiving Day in 2016, more than anything else, I am thankful that light is always more powerful than the darkness that surrounds us. That light will inevitably win out over even the bleakest darkness we encounter in our lives here on Earth. That being the case, our Thanksgiving card to you is a short photographic essay using seven classic Norman Rockwell paintings. Please think of each painting as a small candle lit in the midst of our current darkness. Know who you are. Draw some hope from each candle, and never let any person steal your hope or your rights as an American citizen. Stand firm against all the clouds of darkness, and have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend. (Please scroll down to see the paintings.)
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship
Freedom from Want
Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You
U.S. Marshals Escort Ruby Bridges to her First Grade Class in New Orleans
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep