Everyone should go see the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. Despite the incredible egoism displayed by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who allowed their private collections to be presented on 7th St. NW, the exhibit offers a peek into an America I can only read or pester my parents about.
But still, a question is unanswered in the exhibit, and you won’t find the answer in the film on view here, which amounts to two ridiculously famous/rich/iconic/full-of-themselves directors talking about how Rockwell affected them. Great, way to give back to the arts and appear humble, guys. You need more screen time, fellas, no one knows who you are.
So what question is unanswered? Well, Critics have said the world Rockwell depicts never existed anyway, it was more an illustration of the American ideal, though plenty argue he depicted the “Real America.” Which is what exactly? Homogeneity?
Rocksteady: Where is the diversity? It’s all white people, Norm, though a handful of paintings depict African Americans. Even in 1790 19 percent of Americans were of African descent. Don’t tell me there weren’t Latinos, Asians and African-Americans in the 60s. I’m not angry the pictures present a white-washed America, but I would like to know why.
It is painfully obvious, especially viewing the art amid the diversity of D.C., that Rockwell made no attempt to view the world through a different ethnic lens than his own. And who wouldn’t want to know why? Certainly the many black people I saw perusing the exhibit would be interested, as is this lily-white writer.
The Smithsonian exhibit is a great collection of Rockwell’s art, but it raises more questions than it answers. It is incomplete, and the only thing I learned from it is that spending a few minutes with Lucas or Spielburg would be extremely painful.