Monthly Archives: May 2016

Special Delivery

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Gil Cohen  Oil  2013

I only very recently learned of the WASPs, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots of WWII.  Their story is amazing, heroic, dramatic, sometimes tragic, and most of all highly disappointing.  I hope that some of you that see this painting will read about them and tell others.  Their story is only disappointing because it is not widely known.  We need to change that.

In 1943, World War II was raging.  America needed pilots.  Many men were tied up in the States doing things like training and ferrying aircraft from factories to bases.  Enter the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD).  A year later they would combine to form the Women’s Airforce Service  Pilots, better known as WASPs.

As their names imply, these women pilots took over training and ferrying, freeing men for combat.  A call went out for experienced pilots.  25,000 women answered the call to serve their country.

1,074 women graduated from the WASP pilot training program where they learned to fly the “Army Way.”  These women flew every single aircraft the male pilots did, from bombers, to fighters, to transports.  They flew the same missions that men flew within the continental 48 from 126 different bases.

But they also were required to really go above and beyond in a lot of ways.  When an aircraft was damaged and it received repairs, it was the WASPs that took the planes up to test for safety before the male pilots could fly them.  Amazingly, even in these conditions they were instructed that under no circumstance should they touch the emergency equipment, even if in imminent danger.  That equipment was to be reserved for male combat pilots in battle.

One of the most amazingly heroic missions they flew were training missions.  They would fly planes with targets attached to the tail of their planes for the male students.  The students were firing LIVE ammunition at the targets.

In August of 1944, the US Congress rejected the WASP Militarization Bill presented by General Hap Arnold.  It was widely believed at the time that with the draw down of pilots, many of the male civilian pilots would lose their jobs to their female counterparts if they were given official military status.  To some extent, this would have been true as many of the WASPs were more experienced and were flatly just better pilots.

However, the politics and sexism had even great consequences.  The WASPs did not receive military benefits or honors.  Thirty eight woman died in service of their country.  Their classmates and friends had to pool their money and take a collection to send their bodies home.  They were not allowed to have a flag placed on their caskets.  They were not allowed to be buried as veterans.

In December of 1944 the WASP program was unceremoniously ended, less than two weeks after the last class graduated from flight school.  The women, stationed all across the country, were just told to go.  They even had to pay for their trips home.

The WASP files were sealed and classified.  For 35 years they were not acknowledged in any way.  They did not receive VA benefits.  They were largely forgotten.

In 1976, the military officially began accepting females into their academies.  It wasn’t until this time that the WASPs began to stir.  The media attention to the “first women” in the military prompted them to organize.

Colonel Bruce Arnold, son of General Hap Arnold,  became a strong ally to the WASPs in the 1970s to help get them the recognition they deserved.  Largely due to their own organization, as well as help from Barry Goldwater, President Carter officially recognized the WASPs as veterans and awarded them VA benefits.  In 2010 the surviving 300 members were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Gil Cohen is known as an aviation artist from Bucks County, PA.  He has numerous works depicting World War II, many of which include women in different capacities.  Many of his works are available in giclee from Aviation Art.

The artist gives this background for the painting:  “During the late Autumn of 1944 on the tarmac of the Lockheed Aircraft Plant in Burbank, California, a group of four Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) are gathered around their flight leader.”  Read a bit more about it here: Brooks Art.

I love the look of the panels of the planes in this painting.  They show the wear and tear of planes used in war.  The light shining in spots on the floor gives an accurate representation of light shining through the  netting above them.

The women look like pilots, just like they should.  These were not just women dressed up like pilots.  I can’t help but think the one kneeling on the right has a Peggy Carter look about her.

If you would like to email a real WASP, here is a link for you to do that.  Email a WASP  What a great way to learn!  There is a PBS documentary you can watch with great information.  You can see the trailer here:  We Served Too

It wasn’t just the WASPs!  Please also learn about the WAC–Women’s Army Corps, the WAVES–Women Accepted for Emergency Volunteer Services in the Navy, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserves, the SPARS–the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, and of course, the Army and Navy Nurses Corp, including the Angels of Bataan.  Women have been a part of our military history since the Revolutionary War.  It’s time we acknowledge them.

 

The Marmon Wasp

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Armando Villarreal  Auto Paint on Medal  2016

Happy Race Day!  This marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Today we thank all the drivers of the last 100 races.  We don’t think about it, but most, if not all, automobile safety features started out in race cars.

Ray Harroun, winner of the very first Indy 500, drew controversy for using a rear-view mirror.  Everything from seat belts, safety glass, and improvements in materials can trace their history through racing.  In a way, race car drivers are the unsung heroes of automobile safety.

The Marmon Wasp wasn’t just driven by Ray Harroun, it was created by him.  He was actually only a part time driver.  His “real” career lay in engineering at Marmon Motor Car Company, which produced passenger cars.  He created the car using stock Marmon engine parts.

Armando Villarreal is an American artist who specializes in sports painting.  He actually uses specialized powdered metal and paint for a more structural look in most of his paintings.  This painting is actually a piece of aluminum painted with automotive paint, which is fitting.  Find prints of his artwork at Victory Fine Art.

I love the contrast of color in this painting.  The bright yellow of the Wasp pops out so vividly against the muted grey background.  Also, the striking portrait of Ray Harroun is a sharp contrast of detail compared to the airbrushed edges.  I really just love this painting.

I also just want to give a quick shout out to my favorite driver of all time, Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as some of my heroes, Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, and Sarah Fisher.

Godspeed, racers!

 

 

 

 

 

Sally Ride

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Simon Kregar  Acrylic on Canvas  2015

Happy Birthday to one of the greatest woman in American history, Sally Ride.  She became the first American woman in space in 1983 on the space shuttle Challenger.  She also continues to hold the record for youngest person in space at the age of 32.  Sort of makes you feel a bit like a slacker, doesn’t it?

If you think that makes your feel like a slacker, being an astronaut is just one of the great accomplishments of Sally Ride.  She was a pioneer in STEM education long before “STEM” was even a thing.  She co-wrote multiple books and even tried her hand at a bit of acting in an episode of Touched by an Angel.

NASA began accepting and actively seeking female candidates in 1978.  Sally Ride was one of six in that first class.  Every one of them made it into space, including Judith Resnik, who died on what would have been her second trip during the Challenger explosion.

As part of the Challenger crew in 1983 and 1984, Sally Ride was the first woman to use a robot arm in space to retrieve a satellite.  There is a super cool Google Doodle animation that shows a representation.  Check it out here:  Sally Ride.

She was eight months into her training for her third mission aboard Challenger when the shuttle exploded.  Following the accident she was part of the presidential commission that investigated the accident.  She is also generally considered the only person to stand behind engineer Roger Boijoly, the engineer who warned of an imminent disaster due to faulty 0-rings before the shuttle launch.  She was also part of the commission after the Columbia explosion.

But her real contributions began after she retired from NASA.  Starting in the 1990s she was actively involved in encouraging  young girls and women to pursue careers in science fields, particularly space.  In addition to her books for kids and young adults, she also worked with NASA to start the KidStat program, now called the Sally Ride EarthKAM, which stands for Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students.

EarthKAM encourages students to actively participate in NASA missions.  Originally designed for shuttle missions, the project has been picked up by the International Space Station. It allows students to direct the camera on the ISS and take photos.  See lots of cool images and learn more here: EarthKAM.

In 2001 she co-founded Sally Ride Science, a non-profit designed to inspire young people, especially girls, in science, technology, engineering and math.  They offer summer camps, classes, and tons of resources for students and teachers.   You can take advantage of those resource on the this website: Sally Ride Science.

Simon Kregar is also actively involved in STEM education.  Primarily a space artist, he belongs to a genre of artists called Neuroesthetics.  Essentially, they use neuroscience to explain why we like what we do when it comes to artwork.  It’s really quite fascinating.

What I love about this painting is her skin tone.  If you look closely you can see five, six, ten different colors mixed perfectly to create the highlights and shadows.  He also does a great job at capturing Sally Ride’s amazing smile not just in her mouth but also in her eyes.  And I absolutely love how well he represents the light and reflection on her microphone.  It’s perfect, just like a photograph.  Check out more of his awesome space art here:   Simon Kregar

Today, Sally Ride would have been 65 years old.  She died in 2012 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.  Today we celebrate the life of not just an astronaut, but a pioneer in education for girls, especially in STEM fields.  Happy Birthday, Sally.  You are truly what stars are made of.

 

As a side note, in the 1960s there was a group of women training for space, going through the same rigorous training as the men.  However, they were not officially part of NASA and by a violation of their civil rights were not allowed to proceed with their training.  (Look for a post on Lovelace’s Women in Space Program sometime in the future.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria

Franz Xaver Winterhalter  Oil  1843

Today we celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria, who was born this day in 1819.  Sorry to the folks in Canada and Scotland that celebrated on Monday as a bank holiday.  I guess you’ll all be at work today and can’t read this anyway.

Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India was born fifth in line to the crown.  Just months before her 18th birthday, her uncle, King William IV, was the last man standing between her and the crown.  He swore to her he would stay alive until her 18th birthday so her mother (his sister-in-law) would not be regent.  He kept his promise, and died a month after her birthday.

However, even as a queen she needed a chaperone as she wasn’t married.  She wasn’t thrilled about her mother living with her.  Her mother’s overbearing “advisor” (most likely lover) was unwelcome and powerful, a dangerous combination.

The best remedy to an overbearing mother living with you is to get married.  Victoria’s beloved Uncle Leopold (her mother’s brother), King of Belgium, put forth his nephew Prince Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  Yep, that was her first cousin.

The Queen had always enjoyed his company and found him handsome and intelligent.  They were married in 1840 and had nine children and 32 grandchildren.  Theirs was a love affair of the ages.

The Victorian age is generally known for its extreme modesty.  This is mostly given to the fact that the Queen was raised in practical seclusion with intense rules set forth by her mother to avoid any scandal to ensure she would be queen.  That’s why this painting is so fascinating to me.

This oil painting was only recently unveiled at Buckingham Palace.  The Queen commissioned it herself as a gift to her husband, Albert.  It was painted in 1843 by renowned royal painter Franz Xaver  Winterhalter.

Winterhalter was the court painter of King Louis-Philippe of France, but painted portraits for several royal families around the world.  He was in demand all around the globe, including Russia and Mexico.   He painted over 120 portraits for the English royal family during Victoria’s reign.

Queen Victoria was 24 when she sat for this painting.  It reminds me a bit of those “boudoir” photos that have become popular recently.  It’s meant for her husband alone, and it shows a side of her only he should see.

It’s not so much the amount of skin shown, as the off the shoulder costume was quite popular, but other aspects that would have made it quite scandalous (at least to her mother).  The necklace rests on her chest, which draws your eyes down the pristine white skin.  Of course, she’s completely covered.  The hair seems almost carelessly tossed over one shoulder and lands near the necklace as well.

Her look is far off and wistful, longing.  She is not a queen in this portrait.  She is a young wife.

Queen Victoria reigned for over 63 1/2 years before her death at age 81.  Until this year when her great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her, she was the longest reigning monarch in history.  She is most commonly known for her long mourning period after the death of her husband.  She continued to wear black from the time of his death in 1861 until her own death in 1901.  She was buried in white, by her own request.

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty.

 

 

 

The Problem We All Live With

Norman Rockwell  Oil Painting  1964

On this day we celebrate the anniversary of the unanimous decision handed down from the Supreme Court in the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954.  I’ll skip my normal yapping and get straight to the verdict.

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.” …

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

This oil painting by Norman Rockwell was painted in 1964 for  the centerfold of Look magazine.  It shows Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old girl, with her four white US Marshall escorts on her first day of school.  Many people don’t realize this painting isn’t just a general representation.  It’s of a specific, very brave little girl.

I’d like to note that I didn’t crop this painting.  Rockwell intentionally did not paint the faces of the her white male escorts.  The focal point of this painting is little Ruby, directly under the racial slur.  I think the yellow armbands of the US Marshalls are so striking, but Ruby’s expression is the most striking of all.

Although there were a lot of terrible people and awful consequences for the brave students and parents that sent their children to integrated schools, they paved the way for change.  There are also a lot of great stories of people who stood against the mobs and made a difference.  Ruby’s teacher, Barbara Henry, was the only person that didn’t refuse to teach her.  For more than a year she taught Ruby’s class of one.

Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled of Ruby, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very, very proud of her.”  Thank you, Ruby, for being brave for the generations that would come after you.

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This is a photo of Ruby and her Marshalls leaving school.  It was taken by an uncredited DOJ photographer.

 

 

Return of the Soul: The Nakba Project

Jane Frere  Sculptural Installation with Video  2008

Today we remember the 750,000 Palestinians who were either forcibly removed by  military or fled in fear from their homes in 1948.  Palestinians living on their ancestral lands of centuries were suddenly living in the new state of Israel.  They had no choice but to lock their doors and leave.  Many of these people believed this would be temporary.

Surely the world would not let a group of people essentially colonize an area that was populated.  After all, this was modern times.  It was 31 years after the Balfour Declaration, 26 years after the Mandate.  Although Israel had only just become an official state, a small number of Zionists immigrated thirty years ago.  A larger number sought refuge while fleeing Nazi Germany (although for the most part the Passfield White Paper restricted the numbers).

A group of people started drawing borders on a map.  Suddenly your land and your house was not your own.  Suddenly your history and your rights didn’t exist.

Most interesting, and probably most important, is that there were Palestinians and Jews already living side by side in peace.  This was most successful in Hebron.  It’s believed that some of these families had lived here, together, since the Israelite exodus.  How long ago was that?  Oh, just about 2,500 years.

750,000 men, women, and children became refugees.  This was 80% of the Palestinian population that was living in what was now Israel.  When you add in the generations of Palestinians that were then born as refugees, the number is somewhere around five million people.

These people are still registered refugees living in camps run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Many still carry the keys to their homes with the hope of return.  The key is often seen as a symbol of resistance and serves as a reminder of their history.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 194 (III), resolving that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”  Israel does not recognize the resolution.  The UN does not enforce it.

Jane Frere is a Scottish artist that started her journey to learn about the Palestinian exodus at a concentration camp in Poland.  She started visiting refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and beyond.  She collaborated with the UNRWA on her multi-media piece, Return of the Soul. 

Over 3,000 individual sculptures were made to represent those fleeing their own homes in Palestine.  Most were made by people in the refugee camps during workshops run by the artist.  During this time she conducted interviews of the refugees, which are also part of the installation.

You can see a video with some of the music and many more pictures of the installation here.  Return of the Soul

Each of these small sculptures have a story.  Although the technique of some of the individual figures is lacking, the sheer quantity certainly makes up for it, especially upon learning that these were not artists, but people sharing their story.  The impact of this installation is enormous just by photo and video.  I’m sure seeing it in person would be incredible.

Today we remember those who were forced out of their homes or fled their countries in fear.  Not just the Palestinians during the Nakba, but the Jews under Nazi Germany, the Somalians, the Coptic Christians, the Bosnians, the Vietnamese, and of course the Syrians.  War torn countries continue to force people to flee their homes, often to unwelcome lands.

It saddens me to say that America seems to be one of those unwelcoming places.  Even if it is just for one day, one moment, one thought, open your minds and hearts.  People don’t just leave their homes, lands, families behind for fun.  They are looking for a better life, and oftentimes have no choice.

 

 

 

The Hindenburg

Mort Kunstler  Oil 1975

The details surrounding the Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937 remains one of the biggest mysteries of all time.  For nearly 80 years there have been so many conflicting theories it seems impossible we will ever know the truth.  Everything from sabotage or bomb to static electricity to lightning have been postulated.

Although the idea of flying in a rigid airship that used highly flammable hydrogen as a lifting gas seems incredibly impractical and extremely dangerous, it actually makes sense.  After all, on the surface does it seem safe to use nuclear energy to heat homes?  That’s science.

The German made Zeppelin flew for only 14 months before it caught fire and was destroyed while attempting to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey.  It had just completed its first North American Transatlantic journey.  Actually, it had essentially been killing time for several hours waiting for a storm to pass so it could land safely.

Several other dirigibles had successful landings in much worse conditions, including being struck by lightning.  Although there was some wind and a light rain started while they were mooring, they had succeeded in waiting out the storm.  However, missing the storm did not save them from disaster.

The eye witness reports vary, as many people from different vantage points reported the fire starting at different locations.  The fire quickly spread due to the hydrogen engulfing the airship in under 40 seconds.

Thirteen passengers, 22 crewman, and one ground crewman died.  For a series of reasons, the death toll was much lower than it could have been.  The ship was only carrying half the capacity of passengers and crew it could have been.  (The return trip was fully booked.)

They were using an alternate landing method so there were very few people on the ground.  Due to the fact they were nearly 12 hours late in arrival, they wouldn’t have much time to prepare for the departure back to Europe.  Because of this reason, the public was not allowed to be at the mooring site.

The media, however, was allowed.  One of those at the landing site was reporter Herbert Morrison for WLS radio in Chicago.  His emotional response to the tragedy remains one of the most iconic reports in American history, including the famous, “oh, the humanity” line.  You can hear it here:  Herbert Morrison

Mort Kunstler is an American illustrator and artist that is well-known for his Civil War works.  His prints are widely available and gained a lot of popularity in the 1980s.  This painting was made for a movie poster of the 1975 movie Hindenburg.

The historical accuracy of this work is remarkable.  He obviously studied the photos and newsreels.  The details of the fabric burning, exposing the duralumin frame is nearly hypnotizing.

I think the color palette of this painting also lends itself well to the subject matter.  Although the photos are in black in white, one can imagine this must be what it looked like.  A sea of red and black.

You can read an incredibly in-depth analysis and review of this painting here:  Hindenburg