Spoke Scopes

See the world from two wheels

Norman Rockwell biked — January 9, 2014

Norman Rockwell biked

Norman Rockwell circ. 1920

Scenes. They’re in movies. On canvases. Captured on film. I imagine scenes when forming a square with my hands. Norman Rockwell, although he wasn’t primarily a landscape artist, created scenes, iconized caricatures, of Americana. In The New York Times, Garrison Keillor narrated Norman Rockwell’s story, which explains the “fragile” and wonder behind Rockwell’s life’s work, an iconic remembrance of the “old days” that the Baby Boom generation finds all too familiar. Thanks to the Internet, the Millennial generation also recognizes Rockwell’s style, long after Rockwell’s 323 covers that colored the Saturday Evening Post from 1916-1962.

Rockwell turned heads with his style, “art as storytelling.” And just like while biking, “he learned to accommodate.”

“He was a New Yorker who made himself over into a New Englander, a workaholic who exhausted himself painting images of a leisurely way of life. What matters is the work.” –Garrison Keillor

Rockwell moved to Stockbridge in 1953 with his third wife where he frequently rode his bicycle. Perhaps some inspiration came from the scenes he biked by and then channeled to the scenes he painted.

Norman Rockwell’s bicycle at the Norman Rockwell Museum

In “Scenes: Social Context in an age of Contingency”, Daniel Silver, Terry Nichols Clark, and Clemente Jesus Navarro Yanez point to Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) and Who’s Your City (2008), and his classifications of space and types of people. Florida “suggests that street life and bicycling, rather than opera and bowling, attract creative people who favor multi-tasking and autonomy.” It is difficult to not think of Rockwell’s painted scenes as reflections of days in the lives of Americans.

“Scenes,” writes Silver, Clark and Yanez, “provide ways of social belonging attuned to the demands of a culture in which individuals increasingly define themselves less by primordial attachments to home or family background or class or party or confession and more contingently and expressively, in terms of lifestyle and sensibility.”

When life gives you paintbrushes, ride a bike!