Monday, January 4, 2016

Who was that crossing the Delaware?

You all know this painting, even if you don't know the artist:
Washington Crossing the Delaware
Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware,

It was a real treat to see the original restored painting on a not-too-recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City several years ago.  But have you seen, or do you recognize, this painting?
I saw Roger Shimomura's painting Shimomura Crossing the Delaware for the first time in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., more recently.  It shocked me; on the one hand I thought it was a parody, but on the other hand even I could see some symbolism (the dark clouds here instead of Leutze's splotches of sun) indicated that humor was not the artist's goal.

Further research and reading revealed more about the artist and his message.  An informative post from the National Gallery itself explained that Shimomura was investigating his identity as an Asian American in the painting, and the challenges that that identity posed.  That identity was certainly informed by the fact that he and his family were forced to move to an internment camp in Idaho during World War II.  I found another interesting post on this painting here.

Why the sudden interest in this painting?  I just saw that the National Gallery is hosting a guided discussion about the painting later this month.  It's during the school day so I won't be able to attend, but I'll look to see if the Gallery posts a video of the event later this month.

In the meantime it might to fun to assign students the task of re-imaging another iconic work that tells about their own culture's experience in America.  This might be appropriately timed when we're discussing the surge in immigration during the Gilded Era.

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