City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Ryan L. Cole
The Storyteller « Back to Story

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The gulf between "artists" (and their art critics) and the general public has never been larger then today. It's a shame that to be considered an "artist" today, one has to do work that insults, irritates, annoys, is preachy, be un-mainstream political, ugly and hard to understand.

It once wasn't like that as artists looked for things like beauty, spiritual growth, helping society and looking towards a better future.

Its no wonder the lack of interest by the general public when it comes to art today. I do understand where "modern" art is coming from, but I still don't like it.
To: D. D. Todd.

"Illustration" is always art, "art" is not always, "illustrating". There's a difference.
Blake Gopnik is a blind cynic. Like the Declaration of Independence, Rockwell's paintings are not supposed to be inspirational, but aspirational. America may well not have attained the state that "all men are created equal", but we are getting there. Likewise, Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" may be nostalgic for some of us even today, but it's where we want to go. The accusation that Rockwell does not challenge us to think is to miss the subtly of Rockwell's art.
Most people forget that America used to be an optimistic place. You write: "True, his vision focused on our virtues, not our sins. But only in the self-loathing landscape of contemporary intellectual thought would that be cause for criticism." So true!!

We have lost hard work, kindly humor and a do it yourself attitude. I am hearted, though, that in my own Portland, OR, many people are going back to the trust neighbor attitudes and self-sufficient hard work that once characterized this great country.

Great article. I have loved Norman Rockwell since i was a boy, and am inspired that his work remains as potent as ever.
As I read this I have a Norman Rockwell calendar to my left. The month of September is titled Back From Camp (1940)and shows a young girl with bandaged knee who has obviously been sporty and independent - very pro-feminist. Even those shallow untalented fools who prefer to ridicule this gentle genius at least have to admit he was a brilliant illustrator. His famous painting of the grandmother and grandson saying grace at the same table as two teenage thugs in a diner says mountains. Who are the brave ones?

Click on the link to the WaPo and read the comments. Nuff said!!
Thank you, Ryan Cole, for this article. When I taught middle school many years ago, I wanted my students to experience Norman Rockwell's vision of an America I knew, so I created a bulletin board featuring many of those famous Rockwell scenes referred to in this article. I encouraged the students in my GT English class to pick one or even several that appealed to them and write a compelling story to accompany their choice. The students all had their personal favorite(s) and we had many good sharing sessions over the following weeks. I intended to take down the display after a few weeks, but I had so many requests to keep it up, not only from my students but also those in other grades and classes who also used my room. Did I say that the vast majority of my students were Hispanic as this school was in the El Paso, Texas metro area? Rockwell's appeal to an America that once upon a time really did exist as he depicted it is timeless and meant to be shared by all who understand the true meaning of 'e pluribus unum'. D.D. Todd, please get a life and quickly. I feel sorry for you. H.VanCuren
The author obviously does not know or understand the difference between art and illustration, not does he have any grasp on the concept of kitsch. This article is unworthy of appearing in any publication with claims to seriousness of purpose and thought.
Gopnik asserts that Rockwell “doesn’t challenge any of us, or himself, to think new thoughts or try new acts or look with fresh eyes....From the docile realism of his style to the received ideas of his subjects, Rockwell reliably keeps us right in the middle of our comfort zone.”

So art must make us uncomfortable to be worthwhile? Yikes, what a narrow view Gopnik has of the purpose of art.
What Rockwell portrays is the America so many of us believe still lives with us despite all those critics trying so hard to disabuse us of that belief.
Hi Ann -- here's an article in a journal you may not be likely to see.
Come play tennis with Kitty. She and Jimmy Mills swapped a few shots last week. He's beyond remarkable.
Patrick MacKinnon August 27, 2010 at 8:34 PM
I really feel sorry for the misanthropic Gopnik who obviously got a raw deal somewhere in the past. Or,
more commonly, he is holding a grudge because his beloved parents got the raw deal.