I'm pleased to announce an exhibit in Seneca Falls, NY, featuring reinterpretations of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms by Louis Ebarb, Tina So, Chifung Wong, Lorraine Brooks, and me.
Revisiting FDR's Four FreedomsHere's a Q&A submitted in preparation for an upcoming article by Anita Chan in The Still Point Arts Quarterly:
Women's Rights National Historical Park
Seneca Falls, NY
May 5 to June 30, 2018
Why did you accept Mr. Ebarb's invitation to join this project which is purely noncommercial in nature?
I wanted to interpret the Four Freedoms from a different point of view from Norman Rockwell, i.e. non-male, non-white, non-narrative, and based on historical figures.
Was this the first time you have used art as a means of expressing a personal belief or some abstract concepts?
No, I recently did a text-based portrait of a Latino-American, inspired by Barbara Kruger and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The experience was empowering and exhilirating, and I wanted to experience that again with Four Freedoms but using a different technique.
What was the biggest artistic challenge for you?
This project had several challenges, all of which diverged from my customary art practice:
- working with a new medium (acrylic on plexiglass)
- working from photographs (I normally use live models)
- working in a series (rather than stand-alone paintings)
- working with a restricted palette (i.e. black and white portraits against a solid color background)
- working on a small scale (12x12 inches)
Do you think the project will bring anything new to your art works, e.g. in terms of subject, medium, and style?
I was able to practice using photographs as references for portraits, and also learned about plexiglass as support. The project made me aware of my ability to make a political statement through simple images.
Do you have any experience that makes the Four Freedoms concept particularly relevant to you personally, for example, have you encountered anything or anyone that makes you believe that these Four Freedoms are important?
The Trump administration actively suppresses all four freedoms among those who do not conform to its populist agenda. The Four Freedoms concept is relevant to everyone around the world today.
Tell us something about the thinking behind your 4 art works, e.g. how you chose your subjects, medium, and style. Why you think they could effectively express your idea about the 4 Freedoms.
My idea was to celebrate four women who embody the four freedoms: Oprah Winfrey, philanthropist and entrepreneur (Freedom from Want), Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer (Freedom of Worship), Angela Davis, radical feminist (Freedom of Speech), and Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (Freedom from Fear).
My composition was inspired by the graphic art of the 1960s, particularly record album covers - I've always admired the immediacy and simplicity of of this style. I used plexiglass supports because of its deep, rich colors and reflective surfaces, which would bring the viewer's image into the visual experience.
In my design, I also wanted to acknowledge contemporary African-American painters who use photo based portraiture and saturated colors to communicate larger social, cultural, and political ideas, particularly Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Njideka Akunyili, Barclay Hendrix, and Mickalene Thomas.
What do you hope to achieve with your art works in this project?
I hope to evolve into a more photo-based style that reflects current trends in the artworld. I also hope to communicate that Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms belong to everyone, not just the white middle-class.
What do you hope this project would achieve?
I hope that this project will encourage viewers to take affirmative steps to protect their freedoms in the current political climate.