We all witnessed a bit of history pass through Red Rooster’s doors yesterday, as artist Philip Maysles stopped by to install his new exhibit of his work. This new 5-piece collection on Red Rooster Harlem’s walls was inspired by the great American artist Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With.” As explained by Philip, he had seen Norman’s painting in 2005 at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and noticed a connection between the painting and the school kids that were touring the museum at that time. He wondered “to what degree have we been able to transcend those same racial issues today?”
From that point he delved even more in Rockwell’s work and history and learned that during Rockwell’s tenure at the Saturday Evening Post, he was only allowed to portray African Americans in subservient jobs. This demand of him was completely against his own beliefs since at the time he was also donating to the NAACP and supporting the civil rights movement. Because of this stark contradiction, the degrading task grew heavy on Norman and caused him to seek therapy for his dissociation. After his therapy and was complete, Norman left his position at the Post and his first painting was “The Problem We All Live With,” which tells of the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African American student to attend a desegregated school in New Orleans in 1960. Every day Ruby was escorted to school by two US Marshals and sat in a classroom by herself with her own teacher, so while the school was desegregated, there was still no interaction between her and the other students in her school.
Philip’s first painting is inspired by the actual painting hanging in the Houston Museum and the guest book alongside it for comments from those who have seen it. The next is a painting of Lucille Bridges, one of the daughters of Ruby Bridges who was a victim of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and through her evacuation to Houston, Texas, was able to first see the painting inspired by her mother, Ruby. Another painting is a self-portrait of Norman Rockwell as Ruby Bridges, which speaks that there is a Ruby in each one of us. The final two paintings are inspired by the actual making of the original painting, where a model was used, Linda Gunn, who was accompanied by her father David Gunn, who was actually the first African American to teach gym in a New England Prep School. Each painting is related and interwoven in such a way that draws upon the experience of not only the subjects of the paintings (like Ruby, Lucille, Linda, and David) but also of the painters themselves (Norman and Philip) and their own experiences with race in the US.
We would like to encourage everyone to stop by the Red Rooster and check out Philip Maysle’s new hanging pieces that we are currently proudly displaying in the restaurant. You are also welcome to leave a comment in own our guest book beneath Philip’s “After ‘The Problem We All Live With.’”
For more information about Philip Maysles, please visit here.
For more information about the art at Red Rooster, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)