I know I said it last week, but the NOISE of this election cycle is (like everything else in 2020) unprecedented. With the news changing constantly, the hospitalization of our president, a COVID outbreak in the White House, the news, discussion and social media are shouting with various analyses and opinions. I hear stories of married couples unable to speak due to opposite political opinions.
It’s all a bit much.
It got me thinking about how to reach people and rise above the noise; the power of visuals and how art can provoke an emotion and catalyze action. It can attract, envelope you or reflect you. It can also reach across miles and time and drive home a message.
When I was young my parents had a coffee table book with all of the artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings illustrations he did throughout his career. While derided by some in the art world as too commercial and not serious enough, Rockwell gained such a following for capturing American life on his magazine covers (see his picture above), that when he did have something to say, his widespread admirers took him seriously.
I didn’t know this, of course, when I thumbed through the book over and over again. I loved examining all the details and facial expressions Rockwell captured so well. But the one painting that stuck in my mind, and provoked a deep discomfort and sadness was Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live,” which depicts a young African American girl being escorted to school by US marshalls. Everything I needed to know as an 8 year old about the Civil Rights movement was in that painting. The horror I felt at the depiction of a little girl my age trying to go to school amid slurs and hatred was palpable. It taught me way more than I could have learned in a traditional history book because it immediately provoked an empathy and disturbance that I still feel when I see it as an adult. The painting served Rockwell’s intended purpose - it’s powerful.
I began thinking about the power of art and the ability of strong visuals to provoke feelings, grab attention and generate connection. Before the onslaught of countless memes that put the powers of visuals in the hands of regular Joes/Jennifers with the ability to go viral within seconds (the fly on Vice President Pence’s head, anyone?), campaign posters were one of the most concrete ways to capture the voter’s imagination and backing.
This week, to cut down on the verbal noise and clutter landing in your inbox, we’re offering you some of the most intriguing, inspiring, silly and cringeworthy (President Ford as The Fonz fits that bill) political campaign posters from the many years of American presidential campaigns.
Let us know which one is your favorite!