In This Case: One More Snow Day
March 20, 2014
Spring arrives today! And most people can't wait to shed their layers and bask in the sweet sunlight. But I happen to like gray skies, bundling up with a big coat, and maybe even a snow day late in the season (I got my wish this year, here in D.C.). The arrival of spring sadly indicates that summer, sunburn, and humidity are all right around the corner, at least in my mind! It marks the time of year when I try to slow down the end of winter, and cozy up with my sweaters and scarves as long as I can.
This explains why instead of daydreaming about spring, today I am wearing a sweater and admiring the winter-themed artworks in the museum. There's certainly a reason snowy winter landscapes inspire so many artists, photographers, and Instagrammers! Here in the Luce Foundation Center, American Art's open storage area, sculptors, glassworkers, folk artists and painters have all captured many different winter scenes, from the snowy woods of New England to the snow-capped mountains of northern New Mexico. And my absolute favorite winter depictions are up on the fourth floor in case 38a, filled with snowy American scenes from the 1930s.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs of the 1930s included efforts to employ artists, with programs such as the Public Works of Art Project and, later, the Federal Art Project, notably the first national federally-funded programs to support the arts. Employed artists were challenged to paint "the American scene." I think 1934 winter artworks in case 38a achieve this, capturing the dire tone of the decade while also showcasing hard work and the American spirit.
At first glance, the human figures in these paintings are hard to make out and seem small and insignificant compared to the winter landscapes and elements that surround them. This may reflect how many Americans felt during the trying times of the Great Depression. But we also see smoke leaving the factories of Georgetown Waterfront by Rowland Lyon, and Waterfront—Brooklyn by Harry Shokler. On a smaller scale, Dacre F. Boulton's Winter shows a man simply shoveling snow near an alley. We see subways roll through the icy city bridges of Chicago in Nicola Victor Ziroli's Bridges in Winter, and cars bend around the white-covered streets of Lloyd Goff's Suburban Apartments. In these artworks, America on all fronts is still moving and it's conceivable that these paintings actually idealize the concept of "the American scene," expressing the hopeful, hardworking qualities of the American spirit. We also see the gorgeous snow-covered trees, streets, and buildings of American cities and neighborhoods, and any snowy landscape automatically makes me feel nostalgic.
Even though spring has officially arrived, come visit these wintry snowy scenes in case 38a of the Luce Center if you, like me, are a winter soul. And stay cool!
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