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Greetings Art Lovers,
We’ve been planning today’s release of Sharon Sieben’s skeletal ode to Norman Rockwell for months now. The timing is significant for two reasons.
Last Monday was Día de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday that brings family and friends together to pray for and remember friends and family members who have passed away. In the Mission District of San Francisco (where Paperwork is headquarterd), we saw the streets fill with elaborate costumes and skeletal symbols as people paraded down the main avenues.
Sharon’s painting takes inspiration from Dia de Los Muertos. She told me, “As an Arizonan, you can’t help but fall in love with the beauty and mystique of Dia de Los Muertos. It’s an incredibly festive time that honors departed family members, and it inspired me to paint skeletons celebrating life.”
At the bequest of some clients, Sharon began to paint famous subjects in this fashion, including this reinterpretation of Norman Rockwell’s famous “Triple Self-Portrait.” The work is one of Rockwell’s most famous compositions. Steven Spielberg owns a sketch of the piece - I hear it hangs proudly in his office.
Rockwell’s “Triple Self-Portrait” at left. His study photograph for the piece on the right.
Rockwell passed away on this day in 1978 at the age of 84. Over the course of his long career, Rockwell produced more than 4,000 original works. Despite his public appeal and prolific ouevre, he could never escape the scorn of the art world. Artists and art critics alike derided his work as overly sentimental and banal.
In recent years, however, Rockwell’s stock has risen. As David Kamp recently wrote, “Rockwell had a knack for the direct hit, the image that would connect with the widest possible audience.” In this moment of American malaise, Rockwell’s painted vignettes “draw us back to the quotidian, dialed-down pleasures of American life before it got so out of whack.”
Although I’m too young to recognize the world Mr. Rockwell painted, I must confess his America has won me over.
The White House’s recent addition of a Norman Rockwell painting has prompted a serious discussion of civil rights. Rockwell’s 1963 painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” shows a young girl on her way to first grade after the school board mandated the desegregation of two New Orleans schools in 1960.
To commemorate the piece, President Obama received a visit from Ruby Bridges, the student depicted in the painting. At six years old, Bridges was escorted by Federal Marshals to William Frantz Public School as its first African American student, thereby signaling the beginning of the integration of the local public school system.
President Obama took time out of his day to meet with Bridges and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum in order to discuss the painting, which has become an icon in the civil rights era.
She described the experience to ABC News: “Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.”
The painting will be on display in the West Wing of the White House outside of the Oval Office until October 31st. Another Rockwell painting depicting the Statue of Liberty donated to the White House by Steven Spielberg in 1994 hangs in the same room.
See Bridges visit with President Obama and discuss the painting below: