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Friday, July 20, 2012

Picket Fence...the American Dream

Picket Fence   oil/canvas   40 x 30 x .75
is a notion that has been around a long while...the desire to own a safe and happy place of one's own...a place to be and a place for family.  The woman in this painting is my maternal great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Pitchford Black Kannard.  The reference photo shows her in front of a log cabin home with, yes indeed, a picket fence out front.  The children in the photo are not relatives....they are her children with her second husband.  My great-great-grandfather (her first husband) Adam Black did not return from the Civil War. She was pregnant when he went off to war.  The picket fence dream hasn't changed much.  The notion of what constitutes that dream has changed drastically however.  The average American home was 983 square feet in 1950, the year of my birth.  In 2004, that average had climbed to 2,349 square feet, an increase of 140%.  Since then we have seen the advent of garage mahals, Hummer houses, starter castles and McMansions.  It appears that we have become greedier and greedier, moving from a "being" mode to a "having" mode.  Even Don Draper in the popular series "Madmen" cannot understand his wife's serious emotional problems since he has provided her and their children with just about everything a person could want.  Being.  Having.  A continuum along which we must all declare a point.  Erich Fromm's book The Essential Fromm:  Life Between Having and Being is a good place to start.

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