Monday, October 24, 2011

The Beauty of the Laborer

Artists have forever found workmen fascinating for painting, sculptures, and murals. Diego Rivera and the Social Realist exalted labor and the laborer in their murals. Van Gogh studied the farm land and the varying play of light illuminating French men and women harvesting hay. Even when I hear Brando's cry, "Stella"!!! (from Tennessee William's play, A Street Car Named Desire). I can see the working class Brandon, muscular, rough and ready. The play was a study in culture clash, and the raw drama riveted our attention to the differences of classes. Thomas Hart Benton highlighted the American worker and labor movement. There is an innate beauty in labor. The sinewed muscles, the stance of the body, the dirt and sweat of wrestling with the land, and the creation that results from the laborers work. The perfect art model!


Red Harvest by Vincent Van Gogh


I have been enamored by construction workers, roofers, yard men, paint
rs, steel workers, and welders for a long time. On the way to work for many years I traveled across a bridge between two cities, one I worked in and one I lived in. My day started early, 7am or so. And my day would often end at 4 or 5pm, taking me across the bridge at the same time most construction trucks were taking workers to their jobs. Men were draped in different poses, half asleep, in open truck beds. The morning light playing on their hard hats, bandanna's, and leather tool belts was beautiful. The grittiness of faces sculpted by hard work and the environment engaging. Some days it rained, or the wind whipped strongly across the bridge, and some days it was ungodly hot with the sun bearing down on the tired workers that often fell asleep before they could get home.

Murals of the Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera



I was waiting in the car for a friend to pick up dry cleaning recently when I noticed construction in process and the workers next door. As we drove in and parked I became fascinated with one worker. His worn hat with its ocean blue hard hat looking a lot like the old twirling world globes we used to have in school. The yellow sticker, that looks like a red cross from afar and his sun scarf protecting his neck that looked very Middle Eastern all drew my attention. His stance is certain and his look of intent on his job was captivating to me. The workmen's jeans giving the Levi American look with chain and keys dangling, all these images screamed, "do art, do art, do something with this!" Everything is utilitarian, a no none sense look. The blue of the hat is repeated in the fire hydrant and the yellow offsets the yellow sticker on his hat. But also the bandanna that looks like a ponytail and the neatly crafted beard and goatee with dapples of light shinning through, all make for the makings of a future art work and the beauty of labor. How it will evolve I do not know, I only know it draws me like a magnate to want to know more, to want to use these images to create. Will it be a sculpture of mixed media or clay, will it be a collage, a print, a painting?....I do not know, nor do I know when my inner artist will say it is time to start this work.
I carry a camera with me at most times and build a visual journal of images. I capture moments of life or nature or just some odd thing I would forget later, but I loved at the moment. If you are an artist you know the call of doing art, your mind says...you can not, not do this...it comes as an urge, then a command. If you ignore it and let it slip away, you feel guilty you did not heed the call and create. An artist often creates because they must!





There are colors that I just love, especially the ones nature and weathering conditions create. The chalky blue of the fire hydrant, the muted hello with a scraffito of marks that seems to be a Earthy hieroglyphics of sort. Think about the world you live in, pay more attention to the details, value the worn and used...do not think of it is garbage or refuse, think of it as tended and messages left behind. Pay attention to the workers and laborers around you...look at how they stand, how they dress, and how their work molds their character. Then go back and look at other artist and how they interpret the nature of work and workers into their art. I welcome any comment or feedback that you may have about what draws your attention, what inspires you to create, and if you have the same feeling that you can not, not do art!
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