Norman Rockwell had a vision of the USA that included non-white people. As early as 1936, Rockwell was showing people of color with sympathy and a dignity usually withheld from people of colour back then. Normal Rockwell developed these portraits from live painting sessions held at his studio.
Hidden in Plain Sight tells the story about the other people in Norman Rockwell’s America. It shows the stories of the Asian, African, and Native Americans who posed for Norman Rockwell. These people were often concealed, though patently obvious from Rockwell’s body of work.
There are more than 4000 illustrations in Rockwell’s portfolio. People like the John Lane household, Navajos poignantly depicted in the almost unidentified Norman Rockwell painting, “Glen Canyon Dam.” Individuals like Isaac Crawford, a 10 year-old black kid who was a precursor to the Boy Scout calendar.
In this enlightening narrative, Jane Allen Petrick explores exactly what motivated Norman Rockwell to slide people of colour “in to the picture” to begin with. And in so doing, she persuasively documents the well-known illustrator’s deep dedication to and pointed imitations of multiculturalism, imitations that up to now have been, as Rockwell biographer Laura Claridge puts it, “bizarrely overlooked”.
Jane Allen Petrick tells the story using an easy, flowing narrative, the style conversational, and deceptively ‘laid-back’. Petrick is a sharp social observer and her wry sentences stand out, as do her more poignant descriptions of the people Norman Rockwell observed, when those around him were blind to African Americans.
Rockwell suffered psychologically, and spent his life trying to crawl out from under the rock of media oppression. If he, as an artist, was repressed, how much more so were the subjects of his intriguing paintings; the people who were ‘hidden in plain sight’.