Are we living an Edward Hopper painting ? Hopper’s works of loneliness and isolation take on a greater significance during the pandemic.
On this Flag Day, I wanted to honor the flag with this poem by Johnny Cash.
Ragged Old Flag I walked through a county courthouse square On a park bench an old man was sitting there I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down He said, naw, it'll do for our little town I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it He said, have a seat, and I sat down Is this the first time you've been to our little town? I said, I think it is He said, I don't like to brag But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key Sat watching it writing say can you see And it got a bad rip in New Orleans With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams And it almost fell at the Alamo Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag On Flanders field in World War one She got a big hole from a Bertha gun She turned blood red in World War Two She hung limp and low a time or two She was in Korea and Vietnam She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam And now they've about quit waving her back here at home In her own good land here she's been abused She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused And the government for which she stands Is scandalized throughout the land And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin But she's in good shape for the shape she's in 'Cause she's been through the fire before And I believe she can take a whole lot more So we raise her up every morning We take her down every night We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right On second thought, I do like to brag 'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag
(Images Courtesy Smithsonian.com, US Govt and War Archives Websites)
The Statue of Liberty Soliloquy BY Jim Johnson Give me your poor, your mouth breathing, your drooling Give me your tired masses. I have floors to clean, tables to set, guests to feed. Give me preferably your Scandinavians. I have shoes to shine. So hurry up now, give me your Blacks. I have laundry. Give me a few Orientals. I have flowers, lawns to trim, fruit trees. How about some Latinos. I have boats to unload. Give me some Irish then. I have minerals to mine. Give me any from the slag heaps of Europe. I have this thin soil to till. So send me some serfs. I have trees to cut. Finns will do. Just give me your workers, your farmers. Give me your all. I exclude no one ? not even democrats. Socialists, communists, intellectuals excepted. I have so much work to do.
This tribute to both immigrants and labor was written by 2008 Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson.
Patrick Martinez was born and raised in Los Angeles, with a multicultural heritage – he is Filipino, Mexican, and Native American. This gives him a unique persepective and outlook – something that he has translated into his artwork – all of which show that his figers are firmly placed on the pulse of his city and the nation.
He captures the essence of the city and its forgotten nooks and crannies – neon signs from convenience stores, bakeries, and barber shops that tell desparate stories, funeral wreaths for sale on street corners, a shocking pink bogainviilea peeking out from over a fence – all these show up in his mixed media work – and convey messages about forgotten streets and overlooked people.
Martinez has taken very ordinary neon light signs seen in local shops and bars and turned them into meaningful works of art. In one, the neon sign reads, references German (anti-Nazi) pastor Martin Niemoller’s (1892 – 1984) well known quote: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
Only an immigrant, especially one that has left home in a rush can understand the value of baggage. The exhibition Baggage Claims at the Orlando Museum of Art explores the role of baggage in our lives – baggage is the only thing all our immigrant parents brought with them when they came to this country.
South African artist Dan Halter’s large world map made of cheap woven plastic bags – which serve as baggage to many poor people throughout the world -shows more people are displaced today than at any time in world history; all they have is the baggage they left their homes with. Refugees from Syria are travelling through continents with their baggage, and with the emotional baggage of leaving their homes under such sad circumstances.
Here a pile of suitcases wait patiently on the floor waiting to be picked up by the owners. Almost all pieces of art in this exhibition were on the floor – as though they had just been left there briefly by the traveler, while taking a break from carrying them.
Cuban artist Yoan Capote’s Nostalgia is a brick filled suitcase – perhaps reminding us of the dangerous voyages the people of Cuba have taken across the seas at the risk of drowning to the bottom of the sea with their heavy baggage. Indian artist Subodh Gupta showcases a common piece a luggage used by the weary traveler – a rolled up mattress that can be unrolled for sleeping on, when the traveler gets tired.
Portable City Chinese artist, Yin Xiuzhen, shows a suitcase which carries an entire beloved city. Pieces like this make one realize how difficult it is for immigrants and refugees to leave their hometowns, not knowing if they will ever see them again. The bright and cheerful color of the suitcase shows how much the artist loves her city.