This quote, which I’m mostly certain was coined by Norman Rockwell, “If your image does not work, put a dog in it. If it still does not work, put a bandage on the dog.” has been tumbling around my head for the last week or so. It’s a fun one to mull about in a certain way. On its surface level it is purely advice on how to create a successful image. Everyone loves a good doggy of course, but if that good doggy doesn’t prove to be enough then a poor hard luck story doggy on path to a speedy recovery will surely tug the heartstrings proper. True? And if so is it disingenuous sentiment? Is the translation something like- give the fools a crowd pleaser, sell based on their where their obvious sympathies will lie and be gone with stuffed pockets? Hmm.
These musings stem from a departure from the shop. Longtime (more than just an) employee Mary Allen recently made her leave of the store, off to Ohio to pursue library science work, and in her wake she’s left us with a number of oversized and very well kept after Rockwell illustration retrospectives. Upon setting them in my hands for trade last week she made a comment that amused me, that as a young girl she’d always thought Rockwell’s work to be satirical, a lampoon of then modern American culture. Whose life really resembles a Saturday Evening Post covers? Reminded of Harry Crews’ comments on Sears catalogs, we chatted for a bit, how once this misconception was dispelled the interest in Rockwell’s images was abandoned. Where was this America coming from?
Leafing through these collections, I don’t think the images dishonest. Fantastic perhaps, but Rockwell had a hopeful vision for something of a utopian America. It is however, and esoteric utopia. The patrons of venues I tend to frequent probably hold a much more dyspeptic visage in mind, akin to The Air Conditioned Nightmare as opposed to Little Heathens-esque sentimentality. But it’s a matter of locale and lifestyle in this big land, isn’t it? From immovable blandness to exponentially more frenetic occurrences (sea to shining sea), Rockwell certainly couldn’t have drafted it all, but these collections of his now in the store are amidst countless other national portraits. Closing his now, I’m wondering which book to open for an accurate depiction (or hell, even an abstract) of Ohio. When Mary Allen stops back by for a visit I’ll have to be sure to ask her.