HUMA318 Literature Blog #1 – The Great Gatsby

america today.jpgBlog topic two: Lit – Great Gatsby

For this blog, I’ve chosen the 3rd question from the Great Gatsby category, in which I want to look at the breathtaking mural by Thomas Hart Benton titled America Today. Painted with egg tempera (something I’m totally touching upon soon) and between 1930-31 and spanning thirty metres all lined up and standing at an average of two and a half metres tall, this mammoth of a mural depicts many facets of American life, but the one I want to particularly focus on is the depiction of construction and technology (shown via the train) which really screams out how America was striving to be the powerhouse of the world.

Within the mural, we see depictions of men working with steel, one of Americas biggest trades and Industries throughout the 20th century. This depiction of hard manual labour is something that is engrained within American culture itself. The idea that if you work hard enough, you can make it in America. Next, to the depiction of steelworkers, we are treated to a show of Americas emerging power and technology through a large depiction of a train, possibly carrying resources to help build America to even new heights. The way the train is painted, slightly skewed forwards, gives the impression of speed, and this speed is solely moving forward with no intent on stopping, Possibly symbolising Americas never-ending effort to advance as one of the world’s superpowers.

As I mentioned earlier I also wanted to touch upon the fact that this mural was painted with egg tempera, a first drying, permanent paint. While it may be coincidence on the artist’s behalf, I mean it simply could just be the medium Benton was used to painting with, I can’t help but feel the paint in a way represents America itself. Being in New York it was hard to find a slow place to relax outside of those dang comfy hotel beds or central park. The pace of life within America seems to be fast, and even more so today with services where one can order anything to their front door within hours it’s hard not to make the connection. The paint is also permanent, which to me, symbolically represents the nature that America will never change in their ways of striving to be a powerhouse of the world. That hard work and ingenuity will always be strived for within the country.
Walking through this piece was truly breathtaking. Not only in this piece huge, but the amount of detail In each panel is astonishing, and it clearly shows that Benton has a great deal of skill and pride in his work.

I give Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today eight “New York Pizza Slices” out of Ten. I deducted one point because I couldn’t see the whole thing at once due to not evolving eyes all over my head….yet… and one point for not being able to take a piece home with me…Security are such buzzkills.

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