ArtRx: Creative Antidotes

ArtRx is a response to the state of being human in America.

The Rockwell aspires to be a unique community center where people enjoy, connect and reflect on the essence of the American spirit, character and values through the eyes of American artists. In 2020, the American experience was impacted in a way we never could have expected. an ArtRx started as a way to process the COVID-19 pandemic. We quickly realized that if we’re talking about the unprecedented magnitude of loss and change, the awakening of the country to systemic racism needed to be part of the conversation as well.

It’s proven that art, even just viewing art, can help us connect back to ourselves and others. We dearly treasure the first responders who cater to our survival. We’ve become more grateful to them than ever before this year. But once our basic needs are met, how do we find the strength to carry on being human? The arts work as a “second responder” to meet our next stage of needs: connection and belonging.

Cooking Pot, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), pre-1630

In Haudenosaunee culture, food was prepared and shared in cooking pots like the one you see displayed. It reminds me of all the cooking that I have done and the conversations my son and I shared over meals while sheltering-in-place. I am sure many discussions not dissimilar to ours took place over 300 years ago around the cooking pot. If only the pot could talk!

It is said that no one in a Haudenosaunee village went hungry; everyone shared their food, even in the hardest times. Cooperation was paramount, and the needs of others important.

As we move forward during these challenging times, may we remember cooperation and to honor the needs of others, even in the hardest of times.

Mary Mix, Director of Education

Kara Walker, The Emancipation Approximation (5), 1999-2000

The stark visual style of Kara Walker's work has always intrigued me. It seems to hover between seemingly opposing ideas. By employing the tradition of Victorian paper cut-out silhouettes and limiting her palette to black and white, Walker is able to create images that are fully realized, yet undefined. They are both naïve and refined at the same time.

The information given to the viewer in this print is direct. It is literally black and white in palette, but not so cut and dry in subject matter. Originally belonging to a suite of 27 prints titled The Emancipation Approximation, this work is shown without a background and without the context of the rest of the series. The viewer is left to fill the frame with their own experiences, interpretations and understanding of the world that Walker’s characters inhabit. In our world, where everything seems to be increasingly viewed in black and white, it is more important than ever to realize that even a completely blank backdrop doesn’t look the same to everyone.

Paul Dressen, Preparator

Frederic Sackrider Remington, The Rattlesnake, cast prior to 1914

Frederic Remington’s The Rattlesnake mirrors what we all have experienced so far in 2020. The rattlesnake is quite small in the sculpture, but causes a lot of consternation among the much more prominent figures. The small rattlesnake represents a seemingly little problem at first – a virus causing problems a world away from here; years of random, scattered cases of racial discrimination across the country. Then, all of a sudden they emerged as immediate, huge problems for us to face – a widespread COVID-19 pandemic, or acts of heavy-handed police treatment on minorities resulting in weeks of protests over racial issues and police brutality worldwide, the tide changed by the video of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

The horse represents our first reactions of panic to such a terrible and pressing occurrence (the sudden appearance of the rattlesnake!). We can see ourselves as the rider on the horse, clutching onto his hat with one hand and the horse’s mane in the other, trying best to steady himself in the current tumultuous situation. We try to keep ourselves upright as best we can during such times of upheaval and uncertainty and continue to hope for the best for ourselves, as well as all others.

Tim Decker, Registrar

Throughout your visit, you’ll notice staff responses to collection artworks through the lens of ArtRx. We invite you to ask yourself what artworks you see in a new light. Do our reactions resonate with you, or do you find something different in our selected artworks? Use your smartphone’s camera to scan the QR codes – this will open the web browser to find a community message board where you can add your own thoughts. Snap a photo of an artwork that resonates with you and upload it, or comment on someone else’s post. We encourage you to share these thoughts with family and friends, and continue these conversations outside of our gallery walls.

ArtRx virtual programming is coming soon – sign up for our e-newsletter to be alerted about upcoming ArtRx programs and resources.

Write your own ArtRx!

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