He isn’t represented in the Louvre, but he does have artwork in the Smithsonian.  He is certainly not highbrow, but I proudly claim out loud that Norman Rockwell is one of my favorite artists.  The biggest reason for my bias: Rockwell painted realistically.  The people who were his subjects could easily step out of the painting and strike up a conversation.  I know it doesn’t sound intellectual, but I have a strong preference for realism over any other genre, especially abstract.  William Wordsworth once defined a poet as “a man speaking to men”.   Today’s obsession with pronouns aside, what he meant was simply that what the poet shared needed to be able to resonate, to communicate, or to speak, if you will, to other people.  Art of any form must share something of the artist's mind, of the artist’s heart to the world, and evoke a response.  Good art, regardless of genre, should spark conversation about both the familiar and the discovered.  If art takes everyone down a different path, if the idea is too abstract or obscure, at best it causes confusion; at worst it’s meaning, if it was ever truly there in the first place, is hopelessly lost.    

Rockwell captured America of the last century.  Children at play, adults at work, people in love, people at prayer, people all home for the various holidays are all captured in simpler and likely happier times.  Rockwell’s America, in my opinion, is America at its best.  I don’t consider that America as one totally lost to history; it's as alive and current as we choose it to be. 

This week, my wife Michelle and I visited and entered into a Rockwell painting.  We attended the local Green Bay City Band concert.  It was a refreshing trip back in time.    

The city park where the concert is held is named St. James Park.  It is still acceptable here to identify with a neighborhood that identifies with a church.  As far as I could tell no one was offended.

The concert began with the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner.  Old Glory, hoisted high, waved playfully with the final soft breaths of a breeze against a cloudless and endless summer evening sky.  Everyone rose to their feet, even those of an age that standing up is a physical challenge.  And most people joined in singing the words, whether they could keep up with the notes or not.  There was a burst of applause as the song ended.     

The relaxed crowd was mostly gray-haired.  Friends greeted friends.  There were smiles on most faces, and sparkles in most eyes.  Children ran and laughed and played in the nearby playground; squeaky swings kept rhythm.  Michelle and I fondly recalled when our own children were young and swinging on those same swings.  Adults and children ate popcorn from little paper bags and sipped lemonade purchased from the refreshment stand for 50 cents.

The band performed under a beautifully maintained and freshly painted band shell.  The conductor wore a shirt with a flag printed across one shoulder.  When they played the Armed Forces Medley the veterans rose and stood as straight as they could and saluted the flag when the theme from their branch of the military was played.  Everyone applauded the veterans loudly.  Another song was played and dedicated to first responders, living and deceased.  Again, the applause and honest appreciation was loud and extended.

The concert concluded with the song, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.   Again, despite that this this was a city-sponsored band, no one was offended that God was mentioned; rather most sang along.  There was genuine sense that all did in fact wish God’s blessings and protection on everyone there until we can meet again.  The evening was perfect.  It was how Norman Rockwell would have painted it.  

May the Good Lord bless and keep you.

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan