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Jean-michel Basquiat and Norman Rockwell: The Value of Freedom

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Freedom is to self-govern. Freedom is about being on your own to not have anyone looking over you consistently making sure you do the right thing and not the wrong concept, but does freedom exist? Freedom is a broad statement that we hold close to our hearts. It’s interpreted in many different ways as in self-expression, peace of mind, sacrifice yourself for others, and respect. Freedom has been an ideal part of life since the late 6th century, and it continues to live on. It has been imaged different ways through other viewpoints to influence others, it has been structured into art, music, photos, sculptures, and many more.

Norman Percevel Rockwell is a prime example of how freedom can be illustrated through imagery and work. Rockwell was born in New York City on February 3, 1894, and died on November 8, 1978. He was naturally talented from the start, he received his first commission at age 17. Rockwell was a lovely illustrator and painter that did over 4,000 original works in his life. In 1916 he created the first 321 covers of the Saturday Evening Post. The Saturday Evening Post was an American magazine loved by everyone but, not critics especially when Rockwell did all the imagery for the magazine. He created the World War ll posters and was granted the presidential medal of freedom in the year 1977. Here is an example of Rockwell’s World War II poster that he created. He showed the real life of what freedom means within this imagery. By looking at the poster he illustrated that freedom means to fight for others that need it most. That you need to make sacrifices to make beloved ones or even others, in general, to live a free life to be at peace of mind without worry. He also claimed within making well-inspired imagery “just wanted to do something important.” The thing about Rockwell that makes him show freedom exists is when at the age of 16 he dropped out of high school and enrolled himself in a school called National Academy of Design. As time passed for him he decided to transfer to the Arts Students League in New York. As soon as he graduated he found work in a flash. His first job was working as an illustrator for Boys life magazine. The way that he dropped everything to pursue what he loved became his freedom. The way he felt about his love of illustration and art became known in the 1930s and ’40s. It becomes a booming period for Rockwell, he got married and had three sons, as that became he, relocated in Vermont and that’s where his freedom was granted heavenly. He was criticized because many didn’t think art was a manly job. The way that Rockwell put it was ‘Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it.’ However, he didn’t forget or ignores the major issues that were happening around him. In 1943 inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. It became very popular touring around the United States. While raising over $130 million towards the war efforts. Rockwell sacrificed, involved others, and explored to see if freedom was a vertue.

Rockwell had much of a special life of spreading his knowledge and freedom through his art. However, there are other spectrums of freedom that just don’t come by inspiration, sometimes it comes naturally and or comes through a traumatic experience to able to express and show freedom. Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist that made statement pieces but had a life of a rocky road from the start. Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, 1960. Before he passed away on August 12, 1988, he attracted attention from others and got known for his graffiti art. When he applied his graffiti art he had a special name that he would call himself like all fine graffiti artists. He went by “SAMO.” Which means “Same Old Shit.” The acronym for “SAMO” was very ironic because a lot of people relate to that saying. Which can correlate to freedom due to how people have to have a routine to make it into the American Dream. By getting people to be interested in his work he sold sweatshirts and postcards introducing “SAMO” artwork before he came very popular. Now, of course, his artwork had much of a motive for celebrating the lives of African American people. He did that by using a crown motif which was Basquiat’s way of showing how African American people are just as much considered majestic royalty or deeming them as saints. Francesco Clemente was an Italian artist he described and gave an insight into what the crown represented in Basquiat’s eyes. Francesco Clemente reckoned: “Jean-Michel’s crown has three peaks, for his three royal lineages: the poet, the musician, the great boxing champion…” Basquiat art influenced people and artists. In 1980 Basquiat’s work started to get featured in art shows. His work and style were favored the way he infused words, stick figures, symbols, and animals together. An example of that was used in his popular painting called American Suburb. He used four different canvas to construct this masterpiece. He did that to show that within his psychic mind the world was fractured. That putting the pieces together that connotatively, freedom would be seen in a different way. Within the painting, there was much more meaning spiritually as well, which captured people’s attention by the reason that there were so many questions without answers. He made it broad just like the interpretation of freedom.

The two individual artists above had very different lifestyles and different artistic values. Yet they both understood the value of freedom. Norman Rockwell grew up with a different interpretation of freedom compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat, to assume to believe because of there different race background. Rockwell and Basquiat lived in different eras, Rockwell lived in an older lifestyle which reflected his art in the late 1800s to early 1900s compared to Basquiat where he lived a more modern lifestyle in the 1960s and above. As the hard truth may be or hard to hear but these two individuals have a different relation. Rockwell was the freedom of the wealthy at a young age due to being white as compared to Basquiat where his freedom had to be earned with being in a lower income situation due to being black. Basquiat started slow-selling his work on the streets to get known as compared to Rockwell he had the privilege to go to school drop out when he felt and be able to still enroll in another school. It’s not saying that the difference between them is all about the color of skin difference, but it is part of who they are and why they became special in the artistic world. Although the difference between them is big they both came out on top and showed the world how powerful art can be to show the truth on life and to have a meaning of things about freedom, life and more.

Freedom may be just a state of mind, but freedom can be a strong suit in a person which can motivate others and themselves to do good in society. Sometimes this means you have to express yourself, be at peace, push yourself for others and honor life. The ideal thought of freedom has been around for ages and it continues to be part of life and society. It’s what makes people grow and to influence viewpoints to get close to what we want to the statement so-called the American Dream. It happens all around us by lyrics in music, photos on walls, art in museums, and foundations that hold up for life to stay. Is freedom a symbolic meaning or is it a path of life? 

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