November 30, 2016

"How can you tell that this is not an authentic New Deal mural?"

"For this puzzle we have altered a 1942 mural called ’Security of the Family’ in the main entrance of the Health and Human Services Building (formerly the Social Security Building) in Washington, D.C."

37 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

The image is very Soviet 1930s. Flat view, big muscles, guy holding baby, cartoon-muddy colors. Ick.

Grant said...

That puzzle wasn't difficult at all.

traditionalguy said...

Presuasion in Art and the government as the Established Church.

Fernandinande said...

Another 'puzzle':
What’s My Crime
"At the turn of the century, many Americans believed that you could tell a criminal by the way he or she looked—that all murderers looked more or less alike, that all forgers had a typical appearance."

"At the turn of the century" = year 2000 ?

Automated Inference on Criminality using Face Images
"All four classifiers perform consistently well and produce evidence for the validity of automated face-induced inference on criminality, despite the historical controversy surrounding the topic. Also, we find some discriminating structural features for predicting criminality, such as lip curvature, eye inner corner distance, and the so-called nose-mouth angle."

lemondog said...

Man holding baby while seated woman reads paper... want ads?

Lyle Smith said...

Yeah, the woman at the table is reading while the man is holding the baby. The young boy and girl may have been switched too.

bagoh20 said...

So obvious that I wouldn't even call it a puzzle. More like a statement of some sort.

Birches said...

I guessed man holding the baby.

CWJ said...

I guessed wrong. Missed the gender switch entirely. Does that mean my true feminist bona fides are (anachronistically) intact?

Quaestor said...

I was about to click the solution link, but then I looked at the baby. Hmmm... wait a minute. Birches beat me to it.

Boycott Kelloggs!

mccullough said...

The man would be off fighting in WW2 and there would be only women in the mural with the baby

Big Mike said...

Only got part of the gender switch -- man holding diaperless baby. Even in 1942 men knew better than to do that.

A to the C said...

Yeah, as previously stated,easy puzzle there. "Heteronormative" gender roles be damned, a baby that young pretty much wants to be held by mommy & no one else.

Bob Ellison -- the flat treatment of space, bulky figures, and subdued colors of the mural probably owe more stylistically to the Mexican Muralists (who were very influential at the time) than to Soviet art. Socialist Realism, as Soviet painting is sometimes referred to, featured a more idealized treatment of figures and vibrant color & composition, in the hopes of expressing just how strong,vigorous, and enthusiastic the field hands & factory workers usually depicted were. The Mexican Muralists, and many artists who followed them, were themselves influenced by or active participants in communist / socialist propaganda. For instance, the muddy colors are part of expressing the soul-crushing dreariness of life in a capitalist society (the coloring we see today could also partially be a result of of the murals / frescos being painted directly into wet plaster on the wall, & the colors deteriorating some over the ensuing years).

Sydney said...

I guessed the gender switch, too. Woman would be holding baby, man would be reading paper.

Bob R said...

I guessed gender roles before I clicked on the link to the quiz.

mikee said...

As a modern male who house-daddied both my kids during their infant years, I had to click the link to figure out what was so outrageously wrong with the picture. It did not occur to me that men are incapable of holding babies, nor that women should not read newspapers.

I guess Hillary and her supporters were correct about me being a deplorable, sexist white privileged male, because I could not see the sexism inherent in the Democrat-funded artwork from 1942.

wildswan said...

I got the role reversal but I also thought that the gap between the bottom of the sweater and the skirt was wrong - and I still think so. Sweaters went down over the hips. The man's haircut is wrong. And I don't think the working class played tennis at that time. The whole picture seems "off" and I wonder if there have been other changes in it since 1942.

Bob Ellison said...

A to the C, thanks for your comments. I keep learning a bit more, and sometimes it soaks in.

eddie willers said...

As a modern male who house-daddied both my kids during their infant years,

I'm Althouse's age and if my father had seen a diaper change board in a Men's Restroom, he would have shit a brick.

That's women's work.

Paddy O said...

The murals of Pawnee, Indiana.

"We also need better, less offensive, history."

James Pawlak said...

It, somehow, reminds me of the "art" supported by Stalin and Hitler.

Carbondale said...

The "mural" has been selectively cropped. The girl on the right, who is working on a drawing, has at her feet books stacked up and one open book. The boy is playing tennis. the seated man appears to be studying a chart or spreadsheet. It is a tendentiously inaccurate description of "gender roles".

My wife, an anthropologist and a feminist, makes the following remarks:

"a center at CUNY and a center at George Mason University hosting the site? That particular “quiz” is enigmatic as a one-off, to say the least. It needs context around it to make sense - Why alter gender roles unless it’s in the context of a broader discussion of the sort of didactic/nationalistic art that was in vogue at the time by many in artists and intellectuals?

re. the quoted claim that the Depression "reinforced the containment of feminism that had begun after the winning of suffrage” sounds odd to my ear - though it may be well-supported by Melosh’s book. I had a strong impression that the doctrine of “separate spheres” had been well institutionalized well before suffrage, as evidenced by women’s removal from academic chemistry and other departments and their ghettoization in Home Economics, which occurred a quarter century before suffrage. The original mural, in fact, showed a girl at the blackboard drawing what appears to be a diagram of some anatomical features (?) and a boy playing tennis. Is this part of the “traditional” gender roles that were being represented? Girls as the educated labor, boys as the athletes and players?

Alexander said...

Ha!

I missed the sex flip completely, because I was too busy wondering why 1942 America was producing work in a way that reminded me of Latin Communists.

Google-fu and we discover the Seymour Fogel is the artist. Via Infogalactic:

In 1932, upon graduation from the National Academy, Seymour Fogel served as an apprentice to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, then working on his controversial mural at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Fogel and Rivera became close friends, with the latter exercising a formative influence on the former. Rivera introduced Fogel to the techniques of large-scale mural painting.

Diego Rivera, a man whose work I have unfortunately seen.

And so I am going to defend myself and say that I have not internalized feminism, I was just primarily annoyed by a different aspect of the mural!

Sammy Finkelman said...

It's not an impossible scene to imagine.

The woman has taken the newspaper from the man or from the table, and is looking up classified ads in the paper, because the man has given up hope, and she's asked him to hold the baby while she does that.

But i\it's true murals don't show such active scenes.



Sammy Finkelman said...

I didn't guess. I woudl ahve looked for an anachronism, and didn't find any. No TV for instance. I thought about the bklackboard, but there's nothing wrong with the blackboard being there - except who kept, or keeps, a blackboard at home - and otherwise all they've got a few rare Greek style jugs and a table. Not even a chair but a bench on one side. They seem to be in a basement, maybe of a school, or what used to be a school, but with a few trees growing indoors. It's winter I guess, so no leaves. The trees are apparently growing out a patch of earth on the floor.

The tablecloth, if that's a tablecloth, is half off the table. It'll be so eaaasy to break that ancient Greek vase. And doesn't the baby have a diaper? No diaper, no clothes? Did he just get out of the bathtub, or is he going there? then why did his mother choose just then to take the paper?

The girl's busy drawing - something. The boy seems to be doing something with a stick. Maybe pulling up or trying to pull up a huge floor tile, or is he trying to move something in the floor without touching it?

SukieTawdry said...

Pretty darn obvious, I think.

David said...

The man is holding the baby. The girl is doing science.

(Written before peeking at the answer.)

Peek!

Hey, I was half right. And the people who did the puzzle are half sexist.

David said...

Thanks for the link Paddy O.

Bill Peschel said...

I was wondering what the purpose of the tennis player, and thinking he was pulling plants. You know, something useful.

David said...

lemondog said...
Man holding baby while seated woman reads paper... want ads?


More likely the personals.

RigelDog said...

I got it quickly. Oddly, I felt the woman reading the paper was more of a tell than the man holding the baby. Dad reading the paper was such a cliche all through the 1900s up until the 1970s or 80s. The only time they would show a woman taking the time to sit and read the paper at her leisure was when it was a couple sitting and both were reading--usually at the breakfast table.

Paddy O said...

The answer is easy. It's a digital jpeg image. The digital image jpeg format wasn't developed until 1992.

All authentic New Deal murals were painted, either using fresco or occasionally oil on canvas. Thus, the image on that webpage cannot be an authentic PWAP mural. It is far too small and made of digital pixels.

A to the C said...

"Ceci n'est pas une authentic WPA mural"

Simon Kenton said...

I got it but it took a while - I had spent yesterday babysitting a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old, and was several times in the position of the male in the propaganda. So it seemed natural. Incidentally, given a choice, choose not to baby-sit when the water main down the street is being repaired. While you get a lot of welcome diversionary activity out of watching the worker guys down in the big hole running metal saws, and the bucket-loader alone is bread-and-circuses-level entertainment, fecal excursions are more than the usual problem when the water is shut off.

Big Mike said...

??? Am I the only person who thinks it's stupid to hold an undiapered baby with one's hand under its butt? Guy is asking for smelly hand and/or wet shirt.

Roger Sweeny said...

This mural is one indication of why FDR was popular enough to be elected president four times even though the various New Deals were not very successful at ending the Great Depression. The government kept saying, "America is good. You, the American people, are good. Not just good, we are special." As the puzzle says,

"New Deal arts projects were strongly infused with the distinctive nationalism of the 1930s: the Federal Art Project (FAP) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs self-consciously sought to identify and celebrate a specifically American art and culture. New Deal funding also expressed strong democratic commitments and worked to bring accessible art to new audiences."

The Civilian Conservation Corps built roads and trails and buildings to make the National Parks and other public areas more pleasant and accessible.

Today, many people in the National Park system and those in charge of other public lands are more interested in keeping people out and making public areas less accessible. A good deal of what comes out of government sounds like, "You Americans are bad (racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever) and need to be changed."

Which is, of course, one reason that Donald Trump is now president-elect.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Our local PO has a WPA mural, depicting various folks working at various aspects of local agriculture. It's clearly fanciful though, as none of the people are Mexicans.