Throughout my time at Crystal Bridges I have been stunned by the amount of information that is buried within these pieces. From imagery, symbolism, propaganda to different historical contexts, the content can be dense. Each day I am learning more and more from my coworkers and through independent research. My time at Crystal Bridges has given me an understanding of how to interact with the art and allowed me to walk the galleries in a new light. I want to help you with a highlight series of fun facts that can make an artwork much more interesting.
The artwork I want to highlight today is the Rosie the Riveter piece by Norman Rockwell.
- Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon during World War II when men left for war and women took over their factory jobs. Rosie continues to be a symbol for feminism.
- Rockwell was commissioned to do this piece for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. He leaves no subtitlty in his portrayal of America’s place in the world. If you look closely beneath Rosie’s foot there is a Nazi magazine. At the top of Rosie’s head there is a Halo.
- It’s interesting how this piece is a symbol of feminism, but the only feature of Rosie that resembles a woman is her face. If you examine her from her neck to her legs it is very masculine.
- Rosie’s pose is the exact same as Prophet Isaiah’s in the Sistine Chapel (besides the sandwich).
- The Sandwich= trying to push a new way of eating during WWII
I can then go on to ask: well what does Isaiah have to do with all of this? Who is he? What is his story? Now, I have looked into this, but I wouldn’t have if someone didn’t show me this comparison. Art isn’t always obvious. The story the artist is painting isn’t coming in instruction form.
In the Rosie the Riveter piece, I could continue to dig deep on what Rockwell is trying to say. There could be comparisons of the wire on the riveter to a snake. The thing about art is sometimes things are literal and sometimes art is just a way to get people to think and discuss. To compare their knowledge on history to what could be happening. One thing I find particularly interesting is, Rockwell portrays America as saints. There are religious nods throughout Rosie, but if we think back to WWII we can’t forget about the thousands of Japanese-Americans being persecuted and put into camps and also the atomic bombs we dropped. In Crystal Bridges, the curators placed the piece Hiroshima by Janet Sobel right next to Rosie. While many might not understand this subtle sting, it is one to bring attention to. In a time of heroism and great accomplishment, America had it’s faults.
Since Rockwell was commissioned to do this piece for mass production, I’m not sure how much artistic freedom he had, but Rosie the Riveter continues to be an iconic piece to woman across the country. Rosie has a story, just as many of the pieces lining the walls of museums. When I know a little more about a work of art, viewing it becomes more fun/
I hope this article gave you a chance to see art in a new way. Stay tuned for more!