rockwell-recreations
Arts

Reinventing Rockwell

Youngstown’s Butler Institute of American Art features Maggie Meiners’ playful photographic makeovers of some of Norman Rockwell’s famous images.

A young boy in pajamas, wide-eyed with his mouth agape, grasps a fake Santa Claus beard in his right hand and the big man’s iconic red suit in his left. Maggie Meiners’ photograph is charming and funny, and if it looks vaguely familiar to you, there’s a good reason why.

Meiners’ “The Truth About Our Parents” was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Truth About Santa,” which appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in December 1956. 

The photograph is a near-re-creation of Rockwell’s classic painting, with one catch: Meiners replaces the pipe on the dresser with a fifth of scotch and a prescription bottle. 

“It’s supposed to help us think about what we do and what our kids discover,” says Meiners. “Pipe smoking has fallen by the wayside, and there’s more extreme ways of relaxing.”

“The Truth About Our Parents,” is one of 16 images on display at the Butler Institute of American Art exhibition “Maggie Meiners: Revisiting Rockwell,” which runs Dec. 18 through Feb. 26.

Meiners, a Chicago native and former teacher, was inspired to pursue art after a youthful trip to a photography exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. But it wasn’t until she visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts that she decided to put her own spin on some of the artist’s famous works using photography. 

“I was watching the people interact with the paintings, and I noticed that everyone seemed to be able to really connect to what they saw on the wall,” she recalls. “I was inspired by their reaction to his paintings. It got me thinking about what was causing that, this grasp for nostalgia and the good old days.”

The subtle comedy of Meiners’ work is what drew Louis Zona, executive director of the Butler Institute of American Art, to it. The museum noted the popularity of Rockwell within their own collection, deciding to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year with Meiners’ play on some of Rockwell’s classic images. 

“So much of art today is heavy and filled with sociological statements or dealing with big time aesthetic concerns,” says Zona. “This is lighthearted, this is fun.”

For more information about this exhibition, visit butlerart.com.

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