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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November Paintings

Happy Thanksgiving, 1954, Alfredo Rodriguez
There's something about the month of November that gives me the "blahs." I suppose, most notably, it's the weather--cold, dark, damp, dreary, dead leaves everywhere, and me too dead tired to do anything about them. Even the thought of a Happy Thanksgiving meal with all the in-laws and "outlaws" gathered around the TV watching football...blah. I like turkey once in a while as much as the next guy but not well into December. I don't hunt. I don't even own a gun. And Christmas shopping in November will do nothing to make that holiday come any sooner. Moreover I've never done a Thanksgiving painting in my life. I started one once. It's still just a pencil drawing on white canvas and has been for some twenty years or more.

November in England--landscapes to make one shiver.
In looking around for November art I have the feeling that other artists are not overly fond of the eleventh month of the year either. Even folk artists, who seem to glorify in memories of the "good ole days" of every month now long gone seem to like very much the golden trees of October and the snow-covered trees of December, but can't find much happiness in recalling the naked trees of November. Maybe they're prudish. Folk artist, Bonnie White (below) doesn't seem to mind.

Thanksgiving, Bonnie White
In growing up, my mother's side of the family always got together at my aunt's house out in the country for thanksgiving. I suppose there was a certain amount of nostalgia involved, but the primary reason came down to the fact that rabbit hunting season began around Thanksgiving. Loaded down with turkey, shotguns, dogs, boots, heavy pants and coats, while hoping for a light snow to make tracking easier, they would trek off out into the woods in an effort to keep the Easter Bunny population under control. (There were virtually no wild turkeys in Southeastern Ohio back then). I can't remember what we kids did, but if more recent Thanksgivings are any indication, we probably slept off our turkey and trimmings.
Turkey Country, 2010, Ryan Kirby

I suppose I really shouldn't speak disparagingly of Thanksgiving despite the fact that, like so many of our holidays anymore, it has been turned into a celebration far removed from the thematic ideal of its founders. Over seventy-five years ago, Norman Rockwell (below) struggled to illustrate his "Four Freedoms--Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. Of all those, he claimed to have struggled most with the final one (below). Only the Thanksgiving holiday meal came even close to striking the right chord. As we gather around the roast turkey this year, Rockwell's and Roosevelt's Four Freedoms would make a good place to begin in giving thanks.

Thanksgiving has changed more than a little in the past
four-hundred years.
And finally, there comes the wildest, most raucous, holiday of the whole year. Only in America would half the population instantly turn from giving thanks to God to clawing tooth and toenail to demonstrate their shopping prowess and greed. We call it Black Friday, a name probably coined by some cashier at Walmart. Only in America would there arise a controversy when the celebration of that day begins to tread upon the toes of the day before it, as in "black Thursday night." Only in America would major retailers provide their employees free stockroom Thanksgiving meals to entice them to desert their families on their day of thanks. The painter, Tom Sanford (below) says it better than I. With all due respect to Halloween, and the early Christmas decoration bedecking the stores since before Halloween, many consider Black Friday the ugliest holiday of the year.

Black Friday, 2008-09, Tom Sanford
Late November


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