America has made significant strides over the years beginning the late 1960s to the early 21st century. One of these strides involves the initiation of the civil rights movement that aimed at enforcing rights for Black Americans to reduce the cases of discrimination and segregation by White Americans. Some of the prominent leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin King participated in this movement that began in 1964 (Iton 4). During this period, many artists joined the movement whereby they used their artistic skills to display the hardships faced by these activists and to show the need for a change in the political structure of the country. Various forms of artistic work exist such as paintings, sculptures, theatre work, and literature. One prominent exhibition is the Brooklyn Museum of Arts that tries to display artistic work by different prominent artists who use their talents to enlighten the public on the issues facing the country. This essay will elaborate in depth two unique paintings and how their use displays various themes in relation to the civil rights movement.One of the most prominent paintings is called "Witness" by Benny Andrews. The artist used oil painting together with fabric collage to cement his idea (Markus n.p). He was one of the artists that used his skills to explain the impact that the discrimination effects had on the Black Americans. One of the symbols applied is the use of a human face. In addition, the artist has managed to paint his work using different colours rather than the use of one paint. Finally, he has managed to use the theme of sadness in the paint through symbols such as tears dripping from the eyes of the subject. The artist has also managed to utilize a unique aspect of art that ensures that the subject in question does not symbolize any gender. The second painting is entitled "New Kids in Neighbourhood" painted by Norman Rockwell. He uses two unique colour- white and black- as one of the key element in the painting (Markus n.p). The painting is based in a suburb region occupied by a majority of the White population with few or no Black occupants. Another important concept depicted in the painting is the use of number variation whereby the number of white kids in the painting exceeds that of black kids. The artist also uses a white ground on the painting to symbolize a unique message that needs spreading in this era.
Using the first paint by Benny, he managed to enlighten the public on various issues that affected the Black society at the time. For instance, he used his artistic talents to show the subject as someone in great pain and tears dripping from her eyes. This art showed a theme of depression and torture that left to the Black community in tears. For instance, the Black population could not share schools and other public services with the White community due to the issue of discrimination and segregation (Hall 1242). In this case, many Blacks lived in small communities in the South while the rich White population lived in the North with good living conditions and well-paying jobs while the Blacks lived in homes under poor living conditions. Most of these Blacks worked in large plantations owned by the White people and received low wages that could not comfortably support their families. This form of torture was the reason why many Black folks cried every day in their hearts and hoping for a better tomorrow through the introduction of the civil rights movements.
The artist has carefully painted the subject in different colours rather than using one colour. This element symbolizes the campaign by the Black community that demanded a community in which every person in the country had equal rights to public services and other needs that only occurred in the white community. The use of different colours shows that every person whether white, red or black should receive equal treatment in all matters in question whether legal or political. For instance, a case held during this period that involved the murder of four Black women saw two of the suspects set free by a jury that composed of only the White population (Dwyer & Alderman 3). This incidence led to protests from the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther who protested against the discrimination of the Blacks in legal matters. Moreover, the artist has used a face that does not specify the type of gender involved. This can be used to show that suffering occurred to both men and women in the Black community. This segregation was evident with the introduction of laws such as the Insurance Act that only focussed on white collar jobs occupied by the White population and abandoned the blue collar workers that consisted of a large group of Black Americans. Most of the Black women in society had no employment opportunities as compared to the White community due to the issue of discrimination.
In the second painting, the most utilized element is colour disparities and difference in number. The painting shows a group of children, each with a unique dog pet. The Black kids are depicted as holding a white dog while the White kids hold a black dog. This symbolized shows the activists' intentions of introducing colour blindness, which is a concept whereby the American population were required to treat individuals equal with a disregard for their colour (Hall 1242). The ground is shown as a white colour, which is a symbol of peace spread by the Black community to stop the violence against their community. Many Black Americans suffered greatly with many incurring severe injuries while others died due to the action of these protests and the unwanted killings by the White Americans (Dwyer & Alderman 3).
To conclude, it is evident that the civil rights movement came to effect to assist the Black Americans in the fight against discrimination against the White Americans. This movement began in 1964 and has had prominent leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther who led the group in the fight to gain equal rights similar to those of the white community. Various artists had joined in the fight against these forms of oppression through different forms of artistic works such as painting whereby they spread their message against these oppressions. One of the paintings was done by Benny called Witness that displayed various elements such as the use of different colours that show the variety of races in America and the need to view them as an equal community without discrimination of one group. The painting appears to be in a sad state, which may symbolize the oppressions faced by the members of the Black community. The second painting depicts two groups of children, Black and White kids holding pets coloured differently from their skin to symbolize a need for equality regardless of the colour.
Dwyer, Owen J., and Derek H. Alderman. Civil rights memorials and the geography of memory. University of Georgia Press, 2008.
Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. "The long civil rights movement and the political uses of the past." The Best American History Essays 2007. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007. 235-271.
Iton, Richard. In search of the black fantastic: Politics and popular culture in the post-civil rights era. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Markus, David. "WITNESS: ART AND CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE SIXTIES"." Art in America 102.6 (2014): 153-154.
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