While we will no doubt be veering towards the Rothko exhibit at the National Gallery instead, D.C. is also hosting Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell From the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Revisionist American mythmakers to rival that of Rockwell, a fine article by Blake Gopnik in the Washington Post deftly unpacks this pre-packaging of "America" to Americans. He writes: "Even after all these years, high realist pictures never fail to play the magic trick of making us think that because they look so real, they must show things as they are."
That uncanny mindset of our country might be best summed up by this disconcerting quote from Speilberg, also in the piece: "I look back at these paintings as America the way it could have been, the way it someday may again be." So...something that was already delusional we might once again return to? Doesn't that just mean we already are in a state of delusion? While appropo for someone like Lucas, for a man who has seemingly been intent on re-addressing such mythologies with Schindler's List and The Pacific, it sounds off coming from Speilberg.
Rockwell has so whitewashed our psyche that even for my generation, it's hard to imagine a past that doesn't look like those damned pictures. It's become the mindset of political rhetoric as well, a return to a place that never was, even when Rockwell was painting them. Gopnik again:
In the hands of America's Favorite Artist, it stood as a willed repudiation of the new... Rockwell panders, in his very substance of his pictures' making, to his public's fear of change. Rockwell's greatest sin as an artist is simple: His is an art of unending cliché. The reason we so easily "recognize ourselves" in his paintings is because they reflect the standard image we already know. His stories resonate so strongly because they are the stories we've told ourselves a thousand times."