Today while meandering with my husband through the Norman Rockwell temporary exhibit at the American Art Museum (works on loan from the private collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) I realized what I don’t like about modern art: it lacks a storyline. Artists such as Rockwell, Monet and many of my favorite Flemish artists are masterful storytellers and through their art they craft amazingly rich tales in a single frame. Modern abstract art instead typically attempts to convey an emotion [or several] or a philosophical/political statement. Frankly, I’d rather be pulled into a story than a statement.
Another powerful realization that came to me this afternoon is how much of an impact American art has the world over. One of the visitors to the exhibit signed the guestbook and provided his personal testimony to Norman Rockwell: as a child growing up in poverty in Columbia he glimpsed the bright and beautiful America that Rockwell depicted in the Saturday Morning Post and knew he was destined to be a part of it. (His father had brought back several years of the Post with him from a visit to New York City.) His mind was filled with the stories told by Rockwell’s art and he dreamed often of being in our country where one can relish the four freedoms - according to FDR these are:
The first is freedom of speech and expression.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.
The third is freedom from want.
The fourth is freedom from fear.
This young man from Columbia set his life about the goal of migrating to the States and becoming a citizen and in the 1960s his dream came true. His entire life – changed forever by the impact of an American artist. What a beautiful story.
The Rockwell exhibit is on display until January 2011. If you get a chance to make it to the Washington D.C. area before then, I recommend you make time to take in the collection.