Friday, April 12, 2013

Jeans and Sailors

The Republic Afloat: Law, Honor, and Citizenship in Maritime America by Matthew Taylor Rafferty. Published by University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Not always was the law at sea well known to landlubbers and the general citizenry. In fact the expectation was that a sailor’s fate was in the hands of his captain, not as we normally believe, in a national law or set of statutes. The Republic Afloat examines maritime law as it developed in the fledgling new country of the United States, in the years following the Revolution and prior to the Civil War--the heyday of merchant shipping from U.S. coastal ports. By capitalizing on three themes, law, honor and citizenship, the author brings new insight to the issues facing sailors and their masters.

Struggle for identity under the law was less arduous for officers than for sailors, because as Rafferty notes in his Conclusion:

“The reach of the law turned seamen from wards to citizens, at least in their own eyes…”

The only image in the book is shown below, evidence of certain emblems of culture at the time: sailors “aloft” representing American manhood combined with the denim icon.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Labor's Visual Imprint

In the Spring of 2005, the Los Angeles Maritime Museum opened an exhibit, "At Work: the Art of California Labor". The exhibit featured artworks (Emmy Lou Packard's works among them) from the California Exhibition Resource Alliance (now called "Exhibit Envoy") as well as photographs and paintings from the Museum and from the Harry Bridges Institute in San Pedro, California.

Emmy Lou Packard, "Carpenter", 1950. Woodcut.

You can see a re-cap of the exhibit at the Museum's web page for Past Exhibits.

More recently the work Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher was published. Its dedication page bears the inscription:

"To the artists who created these posters, the working people and unions whose struggles they illustrate, and the poster archives and collections that preserve them".

Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher. Published by ILR Press, an Imprint of Cornell University, Ithaca and London, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8014-7427-9. Alkaline paper.

It's all here in one spot! Paper-covered, and at 205 pages with multiple images on each page, the book gives textual background for each of its eleven-chapter themes, and thus you can have a comprehensive educative experience in the labor artwork of the twentieth century.

The confluence of visual media and social consciousness is a hot topic now: we are looking for truth in what our media is capable of conveying. And to celebrate the likelihood that strong and beautiful graphics are not only compelling to behold, but also a major force of change in people's way of thinking, this book gives testament.