The artist Ben Shahn has seized my attention lately. As usually happens as I head off in a direction, this search to immerse myself in his work, and to come to understand it more completely, leads me in many new related directions. The book "The Family of Man" is one resource that has been with me forever, or so it seems. It was given to me near 40 years ago by my close friend at the time, Joyce Friedman. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/family-of-man-edward-steichen/1001894914#Overview
I have always been interested myself in painting about the human experience. This book documents, by means of insightful, inspirational, and touching photos, the similarities in life that all mankind shares, from birth to death, the joys and sorrows. It is an in depth look at the human condition in all its guises. Perhaps the book was my introduction to photos so telling about all of life, and through it the opportunity to submerge oneself in photos by "now famous" photographers, documenting, among other things, the depression, the dust bowl years, and the face of poverty. Ben Shahn numbers among its photographers, using the camera to peer into the emotions of Man.
Ben Shahn's paintings also dwell on life's experiences. They are sometimes political, as well as a personal means for him to voice his view of man's condition in a treacherous world often spinning painfully out of his control. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~am482_04/am_scene/shahninfo.html, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~am482_04/am_scene/bioshahn.html
Shahn was invited by muralist/artist Diego Rivera to work with him on his mural developed for Rockefeller Center in New York City, a mural that was consequently demolished because of Rivera's slanted political viewpoints, inspired by Communist ideas and including a portrait of Lenin. What these two artists had in common was the purpose of creating "change" that would be, in their perspective, better for society. Painting was a powerful means of promoting a point of view. I'm sure I will return to this subject in future blogs, as it's where my head is currently. So more to come...