Friday, December 18, 2015

New Work; Zoot Suits and Carey McWilliams

The Situation
image size 12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"
acrylic painted papers on wc paper
Anyone else out there plagued by indecision and self doubt? Yes? Oh, good. I was worried it was just me!

The above piece was finished today. The black, gray and white scenario with some color added was a challenge for me. The contrasts are so strong but the neutrals are a good foil, in my opinion, for the more saturated color. I aim for restraint!

Subject Matter:
Embracing the idea of what you want to make, no matter what, seems to be the rule of thumb for me these days. The above piece is based on an essay that I read by Carey McWilliams, journalist and activist, now deceased.  Many considered him to be a Socialist, and many thought he was a Communist. He wrote and worked during much of the twentieth century, his work touching on many subjects, both political and social. What held my attention this time was an essay he wrote about the Zoot Suit riots which occurred in 1943 in Los Angeles, during the War. L.A. became a microcosm for the rest of the country which experienced similar rioting against immigrants and other marginalized members of society. I have been learning about the history of California and Los Angeles in particular, which I know nothing about. (If you don't know anything about your own state's history, check it out.) This essay fits in with a lot of what I have been learning. 

****Rich just walked into the studio and said that the people were asleep, standing on some cobblestones with a chalkboard in the background. It doesn't pay to take yourself seriously around here. Read on!

As far as the symbols that I selected, I'll just say that I tried to choose things that I  thought might represent some ideas and facts: people, clothing, authority figures, night and day, taxi cabs, and the ubiquitous presence of the sun/moon. I tried to select shapes that might also reference the letters L and A. The title itself refers to what politicians and authority figures termed the "problems" in Los Angeles at the time. It was  "the situation" that was spiraling out of control.

I really am not making a pointed statement about anything. And I am sure this piece won't appeal to people. But I made it. I would add too that I never purposefully try to offend people. Honestly, I just don't. But, I end up doing it sometimes. The original subject matter that this piece is based on is serious and painful still to this day. We still have the same social problems as we did in 1943. I don't know what to say about that and I surely don't pretend to understand it. But I wanted to make a piece about what I learned. That has to be OK. 

I sure hope everyone had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  1. Brilliant! I keep watching you get more and more into your discoveries and I am loving them all.
    The N's are perfect for the heads.
    The unrest we see going on is deeply disturbing.
    Unfortunately I have no cure.
    I sure hope someone does.

    1. Julie,

      Thanks! I admit that I have been enjoying tying my ideas together with the painting. I am not always sure of the direction in which I am headed but I keep trying to go forward and maintain momentum:)

      Much of what is happening in our country now is so discouraging to me. Are we just doomed forever to repeat our actions of the past? I just don't know anymore:)

      And on that cheerful note, thank you for your comments and observations. I love that you visit!

  2. Interesting, Libby. I think your introduction of color to the neutrals is very effective. I don't know if it was intended or not, but when I looked at your figures at first I thought they might be "fencing." I think fencing might go with the subject as society seems to fence in and fence out that which is deemed different. It all makes me angry and sad at the same time. I hope we humans can find tolerance and acceptance towards one another one day.

    1. Carol,

      They could be fencing! I went back and forth on that imagery. I sort of thought they looked like they might be beating the hell out of each other! That is the trouble with imagery right? Did I fail to get the right point across and if so, does it really matter?

      We seem to just repeat history don't we? I don't have an answer.

      If I don't talk with you have a good holiday. Thanks again for the visit.

  3. Dear Libby your passion for this world's ills is making your art outstanding. What a great work. I agree with Carol- it does look like your figures are fencing. There is dynamic movement and my eye travels automatically following the yellow pieces. It is always wonderful to see your work. Have a super day.

    1. Debbie,

      Fencing it is! LOL:) I really have to work on that imagery. But, that is OK. I was a little nervous about the subject matter-I am just not that kind of artist-but it felt like if I was careful enough I could sort of touch the edge of things.

      Thank you for your observations and your visit. Talk with you soon!


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