Sunday, September 6, 2020

Don't Matter How Raggly The Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together

Yesterday, we took the opportunity to visit Newfields and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Our bank offers free visits to certain museums on the first of the month and Newfields and its grounds was one of the largest to visit in the Indianapolis area.  

It was our first museum that we have been able to visit in Indy, and it was great to be able to explore.  African, Asian, and Mediterranean art, Fashion and Design.  A special exhibit on Edward Hopper and his artwork of hotels in particular.

The piece that jumped out to us, though, the one that had the greatest impact was the piece of art shown above.  A representation of the flag by Thornton Dial.  Entitled Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together, Dial created the piece in 2003 out of mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, found metal, plastic twine, wire, Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray pain on canvas on wood.  

It's still unmistakably the flag.

The piece was set off in a separate room, used to highlight the purpose of art.  It was placed on the back wall of the room, and viewers were asked a prompt to start their evaluation of the art.

How does it make you feel?

There was a table with pencils and card stock for visitors to write and submit their responses.  The museum evaluated responses and the placed them on the side walls of the room.  The responses ranged from anger and disappointment with the country, to pride, to conflicted emotion.

Jamie submitted, as did Avalyn.  I did not, it took a little longer to come together.  My response is below.


This is us.

This piece of art is wholly symbolic of us.  Of U.S.(A.).  Of these United States of America.  Our history, our reality, and our future.

This isn't the version that we like to present of ourselves.  It's not the shining, exceptional, "Greatest Country in the World."  This isn't the perfect flag marking our national religion.

This is our reality.  A flag closer in relation to the war torn, battle scarred flag at Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key, than any we fly today.

This is a flag soaked in blood, born in blood, overpowering the white innocence of our ideals and blue perseverance of our character.  It reminds us of our struggles.  Of the conflicts of our past and the conflicts of our present.  How they pervade all aspects of our history and heritage.

A flag cobbled together from the common, from junk, hanging together by a thread.  In which there is still beauty, so long as it holds.

This is a flag that reveals why people both stand in reverence to the ideals of the nation and kneel in protest when we fail to uphold them.  A flag we would all do well to consider.

This piece does what art is supposed to do.  It moves us.  It makes us think.

It grows us by forcing us to reckon with it. To wrestle with it.  To be uncomfortable.

To hold a mirror to ourselves and say:

This is us.

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