|Wishes in the Wind by David Lenz|
I'm not so much interested in the politics of artwork displays in Wisconsin, but I would like to talk about the painting.
It is done in the style of hyperrealism. It is obviously technically very proficient. When I first read the Journal Sentinel article it took me some time to realize that it was a painting and not a photograph. When I did finally realize it was a painting I spent time marveling over just how well he captured the look of snow and dirty slush.
Therein lies the problem with the painting -- if one spends more time admiring the technique of painting slush in a gutter than in contemplating the three kids at its core, then perhaps the core of the painting lacks heft?
The children at the core are simply a PC cliche. The careful gender and ethnic mix and the child-like purity in their wonderment over soap bubbles is exactly the sort of image that dominates advertising in these PC obsessed days. Look through any collection of stock photography and you'll see the same mix of diversity and smiles. The picture evokes nothing. It is, technical considerations aside, banal.
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However, an adult viewer of the illustration will know just how much resentment there will be towards the black family in the suburban neighborhood. Balanced against the children's ability to ignore race at their young age, is the fact that adults will likely poison the well with their prejudices.
It is the power of Rockwell's illustration -- the simple question to the viewer, will you come between these children or will you do the right thing?
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I suspect Lenz's Wishes in the Wind was selected by a committee. I suspect that at least once in their meetings the following was said, "we need something to represent the diversity of our State." That's what they got -- a bit of diversified fluff with nicely rendered slush. Paint on canvas can do so much more if you're willing to look at the world instead of slogans.