In celebration of Labor Day:
It’s Steel Workers 1939 by Philo B Ruggles and his brother John Ruggles, a study for an unrealized mural for the Post Office in Bridgeport, Ohio.
It’s part of the current exhibit Celebrating Heroes: American Mural Studies of the 1930s and 1940s from the Steven and Susan Hirsch Collection at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.
Here’s another from the same exhibit with some contemporary political resonance: It’s The Real Battle: The True Defense is Against the Forces of Hatred, Ignorance, Greed, and Poverty, 1941 by Stuyvesant Van Veen.
In this mural study helmeted soldiers with bayonets drawn make a stand against the enemies hatred, ignorance, greed and poverty.
The Ku Klux Klan is represented by a hooded figure on the far left. Moving right is Father Coughlin whose inflammatory radio broadcasts stoked fears and racial hatred and anti-Semitism. He’s the gorilla with the mask of priesthood and the halo over his head. His pro-Hitler and Mussolini speeches praised fascism as a way to “Restore America for the Americans”.
Then there’s rapacious greed and even a bloated yellowy-orange capitalist. The background shown a blighted landscape.
By contrast, to the right of the mural are vignettes of hardworking people going about the business of farming, building, working, family life and education.
The exhibit also includes studies of local interest and by local artists.
And while you are there take a look at the extraordinary Cabinet of Curiosities – not to be missed.
It’s a twenty-three feet tall cabinet that houses hundreds of objects representing the Vassar’s history and programs. It includes material from all aspects of the college and includes drawers of geological specimens and old maps.There are ancient technology, Victorian scientific instruments, botanical specimens and all kinds of college memorabilia.
This is the result of a collaboration with artist Mark Dion and it’s just wonderful. A cabinet of delights and surprises.
Of special interest to me are the artifacts from Professor Joe Stone’s Child Study Department.
In the 1950’s Stone and his colleagues worked with children from Poughkeepsie Day School and the New Lincoln School in NYC.
Together with Joseph Church he wrote – at the time widely used textbook – Childhood and Adolescence: A Psychology of the Growing Person.
On display are the colorful picture blocks used for the WISC intelligence tests in the 1950’s.
Children were to complete a story by adding the correct picture or object into story board.
Not on display – but worth remembering – is Professor Stone’s warnings about over-emphasis on IQ tests:
Many psychologists are unhappy that the I.Q. was ever invented. Psychologists realize that intelligence quotients give only a rough and partial story and can’t stand alone.