|Christina's World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948 MoMA, New York.|
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She's bone thin.
Since this is 1948, and World War II ended in 1945, it's very possible that Wyeth had seen images of victims from concentration camps, those who had lost all their muscles in the upper arms and legs. Pink is the color of femininity, but it's a very faded pink. This could refer to role reversals post WWII. She's wearing shoes but she's not wearing socks which could be an indication about her will (feet symbolize the will as arms symbolize strength). Her left hand, poised towards the house and the barn, is in a clutching position, clutching the barren earth, almost as if she's pulling herself forward, crawling. What is most revelatory about the woman for me, is her hair: hair is symbolic of thoughts, and if you look closely at her hair, it's coming undone and flying loose. For those who remember Grant Wood's American Gothic, there is a small snippet of the woman's hair that has come undone from her bun (please see American Gothic American Theology: Grant Wood).
Upon close examination, there appears to be damage to the roof just below both chimneys, and a ladder propped up against the front of the house, but no one there using it. Wood appears to be pulling away from the side of the house and if the windows aren't boarded up, they are closed up, which is odd because this is summer, before widespread use of air conditioning, so normally the windows would be open to let in a breeze, but these windows are closed, suggesting that the house is abandoned. There appears to be a piece of clothing on the laundry line, but it's undecidable what apparel it is, which could mean it's only something that blew there by the wind and got caught on the line, which seems more likely given the overall abandoned feel of the scene.
So how did this woman get here?
Another way to put the question is, How did the United States get where it was in 1948?
The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe started in April of 1948, but Wyeth seems to be saying that America needs rebuilding, too. Houses symbolize the soul, so when there is an abandoned house, there is an abandoned soul, or a soul in a state of depression. The woman before us, on the ground, seems to be also abandoned, a shell of a person like the shelter in the distance is a shell of a house, and Wyeth seems to be saying that the economic recovery of WWII was only an illusion, the power of the United States on the world stage was only an illusion, and the incredible productivity of the factories across the country was only an illusion; something was wrong with America, and while he maybe couldn't put his finger on it, he knew it had to do something with the way we were thinking (the woman's hair) and the abandoning of our soul (the deserted house), perhaps in favor of the material wealth many Americans began enjoying while neglecting a more soul-searching approach to life after the second World War.
|One of only two known photos of FDR in a wheelchair.|
We are as much a part of Christina's world as she is of ours.
film noir genre as well as those campy sci-fi films of the 1950s with giant creatures roaming all over the place and why they are some of the most important films that America has ever made.