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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:16

Video transcript

we're at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art looking at an American icon Norman Rockwell's painting of Rosie the Riveter from 1943 we see this woman who is muscular and tough and wearing goggles and eating a ham sandwich and wearing denim overalls that iconic image of the support that women lent on the homefront for World War two thousands and thousands of women entered the workforce during the war men went to serve in the war and women served their country by going to work taking the place of men if you were able to see a picture of the woman who sat as Rockwell's model for Rosie she was much more feminine but he marries her faced with the prophet Isaiah that is at the top of the Sistine Chapel that figure that Michelangelo created was this incredibly muscular figure so in a way this is a male figure on to which a female head and then also a more voluptuous body is created he also uses that point of view that Michelangelo used so well having us the viewer look up at the figure anytime that you're looking from below it makes the figure loom larger and that machine she's carrying the Riveter that she used to construct airplanes it looks heavy it looks like she must have been very strong to carry that and to do her job you get the sense that she has the power both the physical power but also the grit to be successful and I love the way that she is holding her lunch box which gives us her name Rosie and she is almost holding it like an animal claw going over it that is again so strong she's on her lunch in this picture but there is nothing relaxed about her she is on a mission and she is never going to waver we have the Stars and Stripes reminding us her reason for taking on this work and at the same time if you look at her feet and she's wearing just such an American pair of loafers oh and I love her side and those who love her socks and you can just really feel the texture of them but she is standing and crushing a copy of mine comp and that was a book that Hitler wrote explaining his anti-semitic ideology and his plans for Germany but what's interesting to me - is that Riveter that machine and the hose that comes out of it almost reads like a serpent and there is a passage in Isaiah where he refers to the serpent and of course this is a symbol of evil and so we have a sense of her righteousness her patriotism her desire to serve her country and also to stamp out Nazi ideology that riveting drill has overcome that serpent-like shape and basically brought it under control well and also when you said that idea of it being on her lap I thought immediately of images from the Renaissance of a Madonna and Child but here no child but a machine where that takes me is to thinking about how this painting is created in 1943 America's increasing connection to the war lending that power that would allow the Germans to be defeated was really coming into its own and this moment we see the home version of what's helping that happen I just want to throw in my favorite part which is what's tucked into her pocket because in all of her strength in all of the way that she reads in a masculine way she's got a calm Packt and a handkerchief she's working in this job that is traditionally a man's job wearing man's clothing and these masculine looking shoes and socks she's not forgetting her femininity I love the fact that it looks like she's just put on her lipstick and even in the post it has an elegance that does have a feminine twist to it you can sense that the paint was applied very thinly you can see the texture of the canvas underneath as though Rockwell just seems to have chosen a canvas that was especially course in its weave and so her roughness and her ability to tough it out and do what her country needs fits with the surface that this was painted on it allowed Rockwell to get that feeling of blue jean denim without having to actually paint the texture another detail that I just love in this painting is the row of buttons you see a red cross pin you also see a V for victory pin you see some other buttons that relate to supporting organizations that were lending help particularly those that women were engaged in for the war but here they also act as her jewelry in another circumstance if she had had on her white cotton blouse and her skirt she would have probably had on a necklace to go with but here the organizational buttons provide that and it's funny that you said that because I was just thinking about how overalls are fashionable today and how unusual this would have been to see a woman wearing clothing like this this must have been shocking in a way that I think it's hard for us to recapture today there are so many things that were overturned during this World War two period as far as what was acceptable for women to do and it's interesting because after the war there was a real tension and real challenges particularly in the workplace because women prove that they could do the job of men and when you had veterans coming home who of course wanted their jobs back there was on the one hand this great freedom that women felt and they really felt that they could go on and do so many more things than say in the pre-war era but at the same time there was a conversation around what really is a woman's proper place