CANVASS 44: Mother Hunger, Art and Perspective and President Obama

“The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell

“Mother hunger — to be one or have one”

                                                    ~ Toni Morrison

… the desire to protect and be protected…  to be seen as a human worthy to be celebrated… admired…forgiven…

It’s not about celebrating one over another. It’s about equal protection for a chance to get it right… or to get it wrong…

I think President Obama got it right when he honored the bravery of a six year old girl named Ruby Bridges by hanging Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” in the White House. Many thought the President got it wrong by choosing to highlight such an “ugly” part of American history. I see the image of Ruby shielded by several U.S. Marshalls and my heart aches and swells with pride. I guess we all have a right to choose what we will never forget…

Perspective…

Here we are in 2012, and some of the American media seems to have a tough time celebrating certain people’s achievements… Sometimes it is just the tone of the reporter… sometimes it is the persistent questioning of mental strength and preparedness… as if to diminish the hard work and mental toughness en route to becoming an Olympic champion twice over… (Thank you Gabby Douglas).

I understand that because Great Britain was the host country of the Olympics, the American media was keen to follow and celebrate their team’s wins (mainly when the American teams were not in medal contention)… however, as a multi-national patriot, I felt something else was going on… An air of exclusion that I have unfortunately grown accustom to…

Who do we readily accept as our heroes? And if someone who looks like Gabby Douglas (or Serena Williams) is that hero… do we explain it away by saying they are exceptions and not the rule (quite different from being exceptional, mind you)…? When the American flag fell during Serena’s medal ceremony, I felt a slight twinge of anxiety for how some would interpret it as a bad sign… But Serena’s response made my heart soar:

“…it was probably flying to come hug me because the flag was so happy.”

                                                                                                             ~ Serena Williams

The flag was not the only happy one, Miss Williams. (And while I’m celebrating Serena’s win, I’d like to congratulate some of my other favorite Olympic athletes… Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Allyson Felix, Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Samuel Mikulak and Usain Bolt).

The problems we all live with… we may not agree on what they are or how to solve them, but I can say this… I believe President Obama is the right one to deal with the problems of America.

Having a colorful past is about as American as it gets. (And just an FYI to Team Romney… America’s “shared heritage” expands well beyond the borders of Great Britain…). I designed my first multi-national symbol for my mom’s “seoul food” eatery… but it seems to have resonated with many people… so I designed a few more variations. I am posting it on CANVASS 44…to represent all multi-nationals who support President Obama.

Representing the change in America that  has been here all along… From left to right: Americans from Cape Verde, Israel, Canada, Ghana, Japan, Korea and China. More to come…

A portion of proceeds from all merchandise on the CANVASS 44 store will go to the re-election campaign for President Obama, Partners in Health and the BVSJ.

Please share your art with us in support of the President via twitter @CANVASS44.

Thanks for reading!

~ Onjena

#sayitLOUD #registertovote #neverforget #spreadLOVE

ABOUT RUBY BRIDGES & NORMAN ROCKWELL

Ruby Bridges Hall now serves on the board of Norman Rockwell Museum and founded The Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences. She commended Rockwell for having “enough courage to step up to the plate and say I’m going to make a statement, and he did it in a very powerful way.”

Norman Rockwell received letters of both praise and criticism for depicting such direct social commentary in his painting “The Problem We All Live With.” Rockwell continued to revisit the theme of civil rights in several other of his illustrations from the period.

*A very special shout out to @problemwthat for encouraging me to share my American story.

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CANVASS 44: Barack Black Eagle: He Who Helps People Throughout the Land by Bunky Echo-Hawk

“Barack Black Eagle: He Who Helps People Throughout the Land”

Artist Bunky Echo-Hawk painted this piece live at the Native Nations: Uniting for Change event during the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Earlier in the year, Huffingtonpost featured this painting with about 10 other pieces describing the works as “bizarre.” Hmmm… “bizarre” or simply misunderstood? The “re-imagination” of popular figures, whether historical or fictional, is actually not that bizarre…

Take a look at the varied representations of Jesus… brunette…blonde… brown eyes… blue eyes… wooly hair… flowing locks… “swarthy”… white skin… If you ask most people what the founder of Buddhism looks like, most would describe a smiling jolly and bald Chinese man.

And no, this “bizarre” phenomenon is not limited to religious figures… Have you seen an American movie in the past few years or, oh wait, since Hollywood began producing movies, be it original or remakes? Ironically, the most recent “backlash” against the “re-imagination” of a character was aimed at a young character named “Rue” in “The Hunger Games.” (FYI. It wasn’t Rue’s characterization that was wrong, but the imagination of many of the viewers/readers…).

I can feel the eyes roll… How fitting that I reference religious figures and Hollywood when Obama has been “accused” of being a fake messiah and a “celebrity.”

What I see is positive change… a shift in deep-rooted underlying assumptions that are being challenged more frequently and by many different voices. I read an article in February about the “Linsanity” phenomenom by Yellow Peril that described Jeremy Lin as an “Asian Obama.” Robert Deniro recently came under fire for a joke about it being too soon for a “White First Lady.”

Thank you Bunky Echo-Hawk, for sharing your perspective on how our heroes can capture our collective imaginations…

Bizarre? No. Assumptions challenged. Yes.

And what exactly is “flesh-colored” anyway…?

Proceeds from the sale of Barack Black Eagle prints will be shared with Organizing for America and NVision. NVision is a movement  that is “committed to the development of Native youth leadership and traditional and contemporary expressions of art, culture, education, and media from a Native core and perspective.”

Thanks for reading!

~ Onjena

#sayitLOUD #registertovote #neverforget #spreadLOVE

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Bunky Echo-Hawk is a multi-talented artist whose work spans both media and lifestyle.  A  graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts,  he is a fine artist, graphic designer, photographer, writer and a non-profit professional.  He is  also a traditional singer and dancer. Throughout his career, Bunky has merged traditional values with his lifestyle and art.

He has exhibited his work in major exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally in NYC, Chicago, Denver, Santa Fe, and Frank- furt, Germany, to name a few. His poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies throughout the country, and his plays have been performed and produced across the nation. Bunky is also an advocate and an educator. He travels extensively, creating live works of art for auction.

Through his art, Bunky has raised thousands of dollars for several national non-profit organizations. Additionally, he speaks at conferences, conducts workshops, and teaches both art and writing. In 2006, Bunky co-founded NVision, serving as Executive Director until 2009. NVision is a nonprofit collective of Native American artists, musicians, community organizers, and nonprofit professionals who focus on Native American youth empowerment through multimedia arts. Bunky is a 2008 First Peoples Fund Business in Leadership Fellow, a 2008 United States Artist Fellow nominee, a 2008 Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellow nominee, and a 2008 Boulder County Multicultural Award recipient.