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Monday, March 16, 2009

1934 at SAAM

"The Farmer's Kitchen" Ivan Albright 1934

"Chicago Interior" J. Theodore Johnson 1933-1934

"Skating in Central Park" by Agnes Tait 1934

"Radio Broadcast" by Julia Eckel 1933-1934

"Black Panther" by Alice Dinneen 1934

By The Queen of Free


Women, grab your hat, your dancing shoes, your party dress and hit the streets to party hearty for if anything says “carpe diem” it is the sad woman’s painting at the top, one of many intriguing art pieces in the new magnificent show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: "1934: A New Deal for Artists."

Her mournful eyes depicted in almost 3-D fashion convey her sorrowful and empty life (or so I suppose) just before she enters the grave. I imagine her husband standing outside the kitchen window screaming something negative at his wife.

The pallor of her skin: It is grey up to her scalp, suggesting her lifelong’s work inside a cave for she is seems to be covered in soot.

Small amounts of red dominate the painting: The red circles in her dress match the red radishes in her lap which match her red knuckles which match the small circles in the wallpaper. Has her life been an endless repetition of meaningless tasks?

Her hands! The label says even the cat withdraws from this poor woman who is a horror movie in one frame.

What did she ever do that she liked to do? My former husband criticized me once for “doing what you like to do.” End of that!

So many things to think about.

The painting’s label says the artist, Ivan Albright, always drew his subjects aged, distressed, and tormented. His neighbor in Illinois was his model for the painting which is entitled, “The Farmer’s Kitchen.”

Contrast it with the vibrant, warm “Chicago Interior,” which J. Theodore Johnson lovingly (it shows) painted in 1933-1934 of his wife which faces “The Farmer’s Kitchen” from across the gallery. What were Robert Herrick's words?

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting

The paintings originated under Franklin Roosevelt's Public Works of Art Program in 1933. Withing six months of the program's announcement almost 3,800 artists created about 15,500 works of art which were displayed in public buildings, says the Smithsonian at the entrances to the exhibit. The Roosevelts selected 32 of them for the White House and Congressional members chose others from a show of 500 at the Corcoran Gallery.

"1934: A New Deal for Artists" is up through January 3, 2010. I've only been twice in a week.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former

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