Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #12 - Fallingwater

Fallingwater, Bear Run, Pennsylvania, Frank Lloyd Wright, Designed 1935, Built 1936-39

Good grief! Where do you start? Entire books have been published about this magnificent work of architectural genius. Wright was a born architect and never strayed from his course, even when he had hard times (which he did - boy, oh boy, did he ever). He was a singleminded man, designing, building, and teaching. Any city around the country that has a building of his design touts it. But Fallingwater is one of his iconic works (alongside the Guggenheim in New York City in this blogger's humble opinion).

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 - 1959 - he lived to the ripe old age of 91!) was born and raised in Wisconsin. From an early age, he had an interest in architecture. His architectural apprenticeship was in the firm of the famous Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan, who is considered to be one of the fathers of modern architecture. Their working relationship came to an end when Sullivan found out Wright was working on commissions outside the contractual agreement they had for his employment. Wright went out on his own and designed houses in the Chicago area. He developed a new style of architecture known as the Prairie Style. Prairie Style homes have these features: low-pitched roof, overhanging eaves, horizontal lines, central chimney, open floor plan and clerestory windows.

He might have been a great architect, but he would have been on the front cover of the gossip magazines because he created a scandal when he left his wife for the wife of one of his clients and then proceeded to travel around Europe with her. This kind of behavior almost destroyed his career, but his talent compensated for his lack of a moral compass, and he kept getting work. He built a home and studio for himself and his lover Mamah Cheney, Taliesin, but karma caught up with him. In 1914 an unhappy butler set fire to the house when Wright was working in Chicago and seven people were killed, including Mamah and two of her children.

Wright married twice more, but by 1928 he was deeply in debt. His last wife, Olgivanna proved to be an important partner in helping him get his life back together. She helped him create a school at Taliesin (which is still in existence today), and for $650 per year, architecture students could come live, study and assist Wright. It was one his student's parents that commissioned Fallingwater. This project restored his architectural reputation and led him back into the fame and fortune arena. It became his most famous residential project and to this day is a marvel in design and beauty. Not only did he establish a unique American school of architecture, he also left more than 400 buildings behind that he designed.

Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., the son of a successful department store owner in Pittsburgh, became a fellow at Taliesin, met Wright, and found they shared an interest in designing model communities. Their relationship led to the commission of this home on a plot of land that had been a summer camp for the employee's of Kaufmann's department store, Bear Run. Vacation time became a big luxury for the employees, and Kaufmann and his wife decided to build their own vacation home on the site. They told Wright they wanted their home to have a view of waterfall, but did not expect him to build the house into the falls! This was an extremely radical idea and the engineers he worked with thought he was nuts. But like many artists tied to their vision, Wright prevailed and the work proceeded. In the end, there were some structural problems with the design, but Fallingwater is a major tourist attraction for Pennsylvania and I for one want to see it!!

Interior of Fallingwater

One of the important factors of Prairie Style, and the reason for the open, horizontal design, is to incorporate the building into the landscape that surrounds it. Fallingwater is the ultimate example of this aesthetic goal. The house is built over a 30 foot waterfall, magically rising above the stone and water and it looks as though it is floating. This floating appearance is a result of the cantilevered blocks of concrete (supported only on one end). These cantilevered blocks also create a strong horizontal line in the design of the house. Vertical elements, chimneys and mullions (window dividers), are also worked into the design, and are built of local stone. The vertical line contrasts with the strong horizontal nature of the cantilevers, but using stone as the material keeps it visually connected to the surrounding stone of the landscape. Open spaces and glass keep it light and integrate the inside and outside spaces in a natural way. It is truly a beautiful and magical place.

Frank Lloyd Wright

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #11 - Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, Gordon Kaufmann, Nevada-Arizona Border, Concrete, Commissioned by Bureau of Reclamation, 1931-36

Herbert Hoover commissioned this public work as the Secretary of Commerce under President Harding in 1922 and it was named after him. He had a background in civil engineering and with the help of the committee designed a dam that was unprecedented between Arizona and Nevada. It's job - to harness the power of the Colorado River and manage water resources for Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming! Woah!! This thing is massive!! The concept was massive as well - it is an anti-gravity concrete dam. DemiDec says, "It combines the structure of an arch dam, the open end of which faces downstream, with the massive heft of a gravity dam." When it was completed in 1936, it was for a bit the tallest dam in the world. And, check out the new Hoover Dam Bridge that was just completed - it's a new wonder of the world as well!!

Godon Kauffman (1888-1949) was an English architect who was asked to consult on the aesthetic look of the dam. The engineers had been really focused on the function of the structure, which wasn't looking too great. Kauffman redesigned the dam to incorporate the streamlined aspects of Art Deco design. No small feat because the dam rises 726.4 feet from the base from the highway to its crest. An additional 40 feet rise from the towers and the ornamentation. There were four main areas of the dam: the intake towers, dam crest, power plant and the spillways. The dam has a strong vertical line in the intake towers at the top (which are essential to powering the plant). The entire structure is massive, powerful but elegant and stately. It's purpose was to provide flood control and provide water for seven states as well as generate electricity. President Roosevelt held the dam up as a symbol of progress. It buoyed the public and people thought that if this massive project could be created, there was hope for the country to pull out of the economic crisis.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #10 - Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, New York City, NY, 1931

The Empire State Building was created by the architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. They founded their firm in 1929 in New York. In spite of the Depression, commissions for skyscrapers were still flowing in and they were in demand; they had made a name for themselves developing Manhattan office buildings and designing the 10-story Reynolds Building in North Carolina. The Empire State Building's creation came to symbolize not only the city but the era.

Tallest buildings in the world

1,239 feet from the street (the pinnacle adds 203 feet), the Empire State Building dominates the Manhattan skyline. At one time it was named the Eighth Wonder of the World because it was so tall. It is the tallest building in New York City, and at the time it was built was the tallest building in the world. But man's desire to keep building higher and higher (ever read any history about Gothic Cathedrals?) was stronger and it lost that status. Currently, at 2717 ft tall, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is the tallest building in the world.

As other skyscrapers of the time, it is supported by a steel frame with the exterior facade comprised of equal parts of stone and glass. The stone is a light gray Indiana limestone and granite with vertically oriented windows running the length of the building creating a vertical effect. The surface is broken with setbacks , kind of like smaller blocks are stacked one on top of another. This provides a slimming effect of the building as it rises higher and higher and cuts down on the visual weight of the structure. More light can move around it, keeping the building looking lighter as well as more light getting to the other buildings.

Unbelievably, the building was built in one year, forty-five days with the labor of lots and lots of men (up to 3,000 working at a given time, many of whom were immigrants). As was customary during this time, there was a photographer, Lewis Hine, that was present to document the process. He played two roles: document the work in progress and help shape public perception. Though immigrants had a back seat role in society at the time, Hines highlighted their participation in the building of this great structure.

For its inauguration, President Herbert Hoover pressed a button from the White House and hundreds of miles away, and the Empire State Building lit up. It was a strong symbol of the future and despite the financial crisis, proved that great things were still possible. It was a big building to fill, and for some time people called it "The Empty State Building", but by the late 1940s it became profitable. People now, as when it first opened, would ride to the observation deck and look out over New York, the city that never sleeps.

Portrait of Lewis Hine

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #9 - Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, Ansel Easton Adams, 1941, Gelatin silver print, 36.9 x 48 cm (14 1/2 x 19 in.), The Art Institute of Chicago

Who doesn't love the work of Ansel Adams!?! So vivid, beautiful, even though you know he is shooting a real scene, his work looks hyper-realistic because of the crisp clarity of his picture. It was his destiny - he fell in love with Virginia Best whose family owned a photography studio in Yosemite National Park. He had a unique opportunity to have access to equipment, a darkroom and an incredible area of the country that defined his aesthetic eye. He was a pioneer in the field of photography and preferred working with a camera that had large format film (8" x 10" negatives). One thing that makes his pictures so exceptional is the contrast (or difference between the light and dark areas of the image). He is able to get the whitest whites right alongside the darkest darks, which adds to the drama of his scenes. In order to control the contrast precisely, he developed a technique called the "zone system" which allows the photographer to adjust the level of exposure in different areas of the photograph. His love of precise photography led him to a group of seven California photographers that were dedicated to "straight photography" - they were called Group f/64, named after the smallest possible opening of the aperture of a cameral lens (the part that lets the light in). When the aperture is adjusted to this setting, it produces a picture that has very sharp focus, with the foreground and background equally crisp and sharp. Their mission was to shoot without manipulating the image using cropping or special effects.

This aesthetic had a contemporary ideology behind it. Just like the art and architecture of the time, "straight photography" was interested in simplicity, objectivity and realism. Adams was interested in photographing the glory of nature and hoped that his pictures of the national parks would spur politicians to protect them and keep them pristine. He also became a part of the nature preservationist organization, the Sierra Club, and later became the director. What a great pairing - he could use his pictures to promote the mission of the club. He worked with the Department of Interior in 1941, then was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue with his work of photographing the parks. It was through this continued work and exposure that Adams lifted photography from a journalism tool to the status of fine art. He has been one of the most famous photographers of all time.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico is a serene landscape with a huge sky. In painting, perspective is shown by blurring the background detail in order for it to recede into the back, but the mountains in this photo are crystal clear even though we know them to be far away. Adams perspective is flat and emphasizes the contrast between the light and dark that create abstract shapes in the landscape. In the foreground we see different buildings nestled around the few trees in the landscape. This moment captures the setting sun - you can see the crosses of the churchyard gleaming in a brilliant white as the moon rises over a bank of clouds.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 print

Once the negative is developed, additional prints can be made. Because printing a photograph involves chemicals and light, many variations can be made to manipulate the image. Ironically, though Adams didn't want to manipulate the image in the original shooting of it, he was not opposed to manipulating subsequent prints of the negative. Adams developed several prints of Moonrise, and each print has a difference in contrast. Compare the photo at the top of the post with the one just above this text. This is one of the places the artistry of photography comes in. Playing with the contrast, Adams could change not only the appearance of the photo, but could also alter its mood. Color is a big element in visual media - removing the color to black, white and shades of gray allows the viewer to focus more on the composition and the subject of the photograph. It helps distill the image down to its very nature. Black and white photography has been very popular in fine art photography because of its simple and direct nature.

The circumstances surrounding Adams shooting this particular scene are described by the artist:

We were sailing southward along the highway not far from Espanola when I glanced to the left and saw an extraordinary situation - an inevitable photograph! I almost ditched the car and rushed to set up my 8x10 camera. I was yelling to my companions to bring me things from the car as I struggled to change components on my Cooke Triple-Convertible lens. I had a clear visualization of the image I wanted, but when the Wratten No. 15 (G) filter and the film holder were in place, I could not find my Weston exposure meter! The situation was desperate: the low sun was trailing the edge of the clouds in the west, and shadow would soon dim the white crosses. I was at a loss with the subject luminance values, and I confess I was thinking about bracketing several exposures, when I suddenly realized that I knew the luminance of the moon: 250 c/ft2.

The perfect photo required not only the correct equipment, but ultimately the eye of the artist seeing the image in the flash of a second. Nature's cycles do not wait, and photography is ultimately about capturing light on film. Adams, though he had been out working for the government that day, did not bill the government for the photograph. Somewhere in his mind his intuition was acute. This image would become one of his most famous and popular images and he was ultimately able to profit from it. He also had full rights of the image and could control how he developed and used each print.

I lived in New Mexico as a young girl in the early 1960s. This print captures the nostalgia of that special part of the country and supports the slogan still sported on the New Mexico automobile license plate - "Land of Enchantment".

Ansel Adams Self-portrait, 1936

Sunday, November 21, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #8 -Contrasting No. 331 East 39th Street with Chrysler Building and Daily News Building

Contrasting No. 331 East 39th Street with Chrysler Building and Daily News Building, Manhattan, Berenice Abbott, November 8, 1938 Art Institute of Chicago

New building materials, steel, glass and chrome, in the 20th century led to the rise of many new skyscrapers. Steel was an incredible new material, and allowed for lighter walls which then allowed for glass to be utilized in new ways. Elevators became a more reliable technology and allowed for buildings to be built higher and higher. Architectural styles used in buildings that were built from World War I until the 1930s are known as "traditional", after that time they were considered to be "modern". These new materials created the modern aesthetic - one that was not only new but would also showcase these innovative materials. The Bauhaus was in full swing in Germany and one architect, Le Corbusier, was the champion of the International Style.

The cityscapes were changing rapidly; Bernice Abbott took note and set out to document the changes. She studied in Paris and was a darkroom assistant to Man Ray, a very famous portrait photographer and Dada and Surrealist artist. He trained her in his methods, and soon she was shooting for herself and mounting her own shows. Rather than take pictures of people, she decided to take portraits of the buildings that were appearing in the city. New York was one of the most dynamic places for new skyscrapers at the time, so that's where she settled down. She realized that her goals were in tandem with the WPA/FAP, and submitted a proposal to document the historical changes being made to the New York City skyline. He proposal was accepted.

Look at the building that is named only by its address - its windows are boarded up, posters cover the doors and windows on the street level. It appears to have been a residential building. It was unremarkable, except to Abbott it spoke of the problems during the Depression - evictions, people fleeing in search of a lucrative opportunity, an example of urban decay. The new buildings, the Chrysler Building at the far left and the Daily News Building to the very left of No. 331 East 39th, are beautiful, new, named and renowned within the city. This contrast between the old and new is not necessarily a political statement. Much like Walker Evans, she is merely capturing the image of the change and bringing it to the viewer's attention.
Bernice Abbott

Saturday, November 20, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #7 - Migrant Mother

Migrant Mother, Nipoma, California, 1936, Dorothea Lange, printed later, Photogravure, 30.4 x 23 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago

OK - a little more background detail. FDR's New Deal programs are in place and at work. Among the tasks of the Resettlement Administration's mission was to provide loans to farmers, set up camps for migrant workers, work on soil conservation and reforestation programs, and document all of this work under the RA's Historical Section. Photography was a fairly new technology and was really efficient at documenting the problems of the Great Depression. Roy Stryker was appointed the head of the Historical Section of the FSA and was in charge of directing the imagery that would capture the story. His photographers, such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, travelled around the country capturing the details of people as they moved through this extraordinary life situation. He was the consummate promoter in that he knew how to use the images in magazines and newspapers to show people what was going on across the country. This work of his produced an enormous body of documentary photographs of the Great Depression.

Dorothea Lange suffered polio at the age of seven, but survived the disease and went on to study photography in New York City. When she moved to San Francisco, she set up a successful portrait studio but eventually began to document life on the streets of San Francisco. It wasn't too much of a leap then to begin taking pictures for Roy Stryker who recruited her to the Historical Section in 1935. This began her work documenting migrant workers in California. Her work is some of the most compelling photography of the Great Depression, and this photograph, Migrant Mother, is iconic of the time.

Like Shahn's Riveter, Lange crops into the image tightly. The mother and her three children fill the frame. The composition is powerful - the mother's face is full of anxiety; she is deep in thought, her brow furrowed. She clings to her children as the cling to her. Their faces are turned away or only partially revealed. The are worn and dirty, gaunt and miserable. This image of a mother caring for her children in a world of misery is a universal one and produces a visceral response in the viewer. Here is her quote about taking this photograph:

"I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to bury food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

That migrant mother was Florence Owens Thompson. Listen to an audio file of her talk about that time.

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #6 - Negro Barber Shop Interior, Atlanta

Negro Barber Shop Interior, Atlanta, Walker Evans, 1936, Gelatin silver print, 22.1 x 18.3 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago

Walker Evans worked through the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and toured the Southern United States for a year with Roy Stryker. We've seen artists so far that used their art to illustrate social injustice (Rivera, Shahn, Biddle), but Evans wanted his work to be "pure record, not propaganda...no POLITICS whatsoever." Stryker had an agenda for Walker to follow, but Evans was deliberate and careful about his shots. He was looking for images that would engage the viewer and make them think, without giving them a political agenda or viewpoint.

Evans broke from the FSA in 1936 to work with James Agee on a commissioned article about white sharecropper families in Alabama. They were on location for several weeks compiling the story and the images that were to accompany it. It was published as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Walker's imagery was contemplative and objective and his style established a new way of supporting Agee's passionate text through illumination, not illustration. He was fired from the FSA in 1937 but "Evans had already established his fame as a documentary photographer. He had the honor of being the first solo photographer to have an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1940 that funded his projects." (Thanks DemiDec for your great art resource!!) He eventually became a staff photographer at Fortune magazine and worked there until 1965. He went on to become a professor of photography at Yale University until his death in 1975. He was one of the most important photographers of this time because he had a keen, unimpassioned eye and inspired other photojournalists to shoot without opinion or emotion.

This black and white photograph is full and empty at the same time. The scene is carefully constructed - chairs wait for customers, linen ready to be used, hairdressing tools at the ready. And yet, there are no people in the shot. People are not even reflected in the mirrors. One mirror reflects black emptiness, the other filled with an image of a full shop. The shop is in an old space - chipped paint on the back wall, worn leather chairs - there's a sense that it's been patched together to fit the space. The documentary style of Evans captures all of these details in a high degree because he used a large-format camera.

The barbershop is a communal and intimate space. Men are groomed here on a regular basis. Relationships are formed. Social discourse takes place - the are free to talk about life, work, sports, politics. During the 1930s segregation was in place and black men were required to frequent their own barbershop, not one that white men went to. Evans shows us that environment, without people and without judgment. He presents richly detailed images that are direct and interesting inviting the viewer to interpret what is happening. Check out more of his work from this major retrospective exhibit of his work that was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Friday, November 19, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #5 - Muse of Music, Dance, Drama

Muse of Music, Dance, DramaGeorge Stanley, 1940, granite, 22'H x 220'W, Hollywood Bowl Association

George Stanley was a sculpture and sculpture teacher at the Otis Arts Institute in Los Angeles. His public sculptures are local landmarks of the city. With all that public exposure, he is known for his role as co-designer of the gold statuette known as the Oscar. Stanley's fountain and sculpture Muse of Music, Dance, Drama is a fitting monument in the city that has become an icon in the culture of entertainment.

Muse of Music

It achieves its height by following the curve of a hill which acts as a retaining wall outside the amphitheater. The overall design is very geometric. Flat panes contrast with a curved central pier and water cascades down concentric tiers. It is against this structure that the three muses stand - clean, elegant and solemn, they embody not only the history of Music, Dance and Drama, but also the Art Deco style. The figure at the top of the fountain is the Muse of Music, playing a harp that echoes the shape of the central pillar. As in early Greek sculpture, her figure has little detail and her face little individuality.

Greek Kore

Muse of Dance

The muses of Dance and Drama are in niches on either side of this main sculpture. Dance has a bent knee referencing the important contribution the Greeks made to sculpture, the contrapposto pose.

Kritios Boy

And Drama holds a tragedy mask in front of her face and a comedy mask across her chest alluding to the unpredictability of theater (and life!) - one minute you're down, the next minute you're up, especially in Hollywood! The style of Art Deco is known as an anonymous aesthetic because you do not see the individual style of the artist. The Hollywood Bowl is still a major venue for music, dance and drama performances. The city of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Bowl Association commissioned the work and collaborated with the WPA to fund it. The city is caring for this treasure and in 2006 made a restoration of the monument by repairing the fountain, the lighting system and replacing tiles. With such a location and tradition, the muses must look fabulous, dahling!

Muse of Drama

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #4 - The Riveter

The Riveter (mural study, Bronx, New York central postal station), 1938, Ben Shahn, tempera on paperboard, image: 33 x 14 3/4 in. (83.8 x 37.5 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum

Here's another connection with Diego Rivera! It was a small art world during the Great Depression! Ben Shahn (1898-1969) was a can do kind of artist - he cleaned paint brushes for Rivera when he painted the Rockefeller Center mural, took pictures for the FSA in California and painted his own murals in a government-sponsored model community in New Jersey. He came from a Jewish Eastern European immigrant family and through perseverance made his way to Brooklyn. His main style of art is social realism, a style that featured the hard life of the working poor and criticized the social structure that causes such problems. His first major work, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti was spawned by Shan's sympathetic leanings for the defendants as a liberal immigrant himself.

His career included not only working with Rivera, but also with Walker Evans, a well known photographer that taught Shahn about working with cameras. When he was not awarded some mural proposals, Evans recommended Shahn to another government agency, the Resettlement Administration. Traveling through the South and Midwest with his love and companion, Bernarda Bryson, he documented the life he saw, but photography was not to be the medium of choice for Shahn. Photography was a study for his paintings. He continued getting commissions, including a mural at the Bronx Central Postal Station.

The Riveter was a study using tempera on paperboard for the "Resources for America" mural cycle at the Bronx Central Postal Station. The compelling composition uses the vertical space to box the workman into a compressed space. You can think of it as though you had put a photo into Photoshop and cropped tightly down on the subject. This compressed scene focuses on one worker. The environment he is in, which you see little of because of this close up study, seems to be a factory. There is a lot of ambiguity to the painting - what city is he in, what kind of factory is this, what is he working on? By keeping the details vague, this one workman symbolizes factories and workers all across America doing the same type of work. The face of the worker is not complete enough for clear identification. Even the color palette of coveralls and skin color blend together so you're not sure what ethnicity he is from. The white gloves provide a focal point with a red power cord leading from the machine. It looks like an artery not only in color but in the placement of the composition and serves as a symbol for industry being the heart of the American economy.

Shahn won this commission out of 189 submissions. Perhaps because his composition combines the universal with the realistic and his ability to represent such an important aspect of American life - industry. It represented every man and was easy for any viewer to understand. During this time of the Great Depression, his painting did not focus on the unemploymed, but the employed by putting the worker on a pedestal and making him the heart of American industry.

10/11 Academic Decathlon The Great Depression Art Selection #3 - Tenement, Mural Study

Tenement (mural study, Depart of Justice Building, Washington, D. C.), 1935, George Biddle, tempera on fiberboard, 40 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (102.9 x 80.0 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Biddle (1885-1973) was born into a wealthy family who expected him to become highly educated and establish a law career. He got a law degree, but traveled to Paris (the art capital of the world at that time) and enrolled in a famous art school, the Academie Julian. After serving in WWI, Biddle began his art career. On a trip to Mexico in 1928, he met Diego Rivera. They proved to be valuable networking friends, each recommending the other for work in each other's countries. Franklind D. Roosevelt was a former classmate of Biddle. George wrote him a letter, and was able to get his ear about painting murals in the Department of Justice. He got the commission and dedicated the rest of his life to public art. In the first mural of a five-panel series Biddle did for the federal government, he contrasted just and unjust societies. The final panel, Tenement, depicted the private lives of poor Americans. This art thrust the struggles of America's poor right in the face of the government.

Tenement is a single wall that's divided into three areas. His cut-away view of the inside of the apartment building shows immigrants and poor families going about their daily lives. The left section is a vertical section showing the outside of the building with bars on the windows and laundry hanging to dry. Utility poles lean left and right suggesting disorder in this urban environment. An old woman is in the foreground of this section and holds an axe and some firewood. This figure and it's placement tie into the figures on the right side of the composition that are inside the building. He compositionally connects both inside and outside with these figures. The people inside are working, playing or taking care of their family, but all have dull, unemotional expressions. It's as though they are just going through the motions of daily life.

The crowding, barred windows, and forlorn expressions suggest their homes are just lonely prisons for them. They are tired but enslaved to the poverty they endure day to day. By placing this mural in the Department of Justice, Biddle hopes to show the people that are making decisions some of the people they affect. "He underscores this point by including two quotes in the mural. At the bottom of the right-hand field, Biddle paints a plaque reading: “brandeis: if we would guide by the light of reason we must let our minds be bold”. The quote is from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856–1941). It joins another quote that appears at the beginning of the five-panel series, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience,” attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841–1935), who had just retired from the Supreme Court in 1932." (Quote from the DemiDec Art Resource Guide - thanks DemiDec for what you do for Academic Decathlon!!)

The first quote is imploring the viewer not to turn away from the hard images of poverty. And the second quote grounds in the subject matter that Biddle has chosen. He is challenging the notion of just law and visually states that it is not enough to have the law of Justice. Justice must also mean helping all by improving the lives of people in their society. Pretty in your face, huh? And all under the wing of a public art vehicle. He radically changed the course of Depression-era art.

George Biddle at work on his mural Society Freed through Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice Building., Washington, D.C., 1936