New Art: I Am an American by Dorothea Lange August 05 2014

Life is full of ups and downs, but keeping one’s dignity through it all—that’s the really hard task. All week long we’re celebrating an artist—WPA photographer Dorothea Lange —who did just that. Today we're debuting her 20x200 vintage edition, I Am an American, Oakland, CA, March 1942 .

I Am an American, Oakland, CA, March 1942 by Dorothea Lange
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) |  24"x30" ($500)

Raise your hand if you’ve never lost a job. Raise your hand if you’ve never had to start over. By now, everyone’s hands should be in their laps. (If not, congratulations on skipping over some common bits of being human.) For the rest of us—and I mean all of us—there’s a shared experience to be found in  I Am an American, Oakland, CA, March 1942 by Dorothea Lange .

At first glance, nothing could seem more patriotic than this sign placed on high during WWII. But our artist was not interested in straightforward revelation. Japanese-American owners of an Oakland grocery store hung up this sign the day after the Pearl Harbor bombings, when they were forced to shutter their store and forcibly evacuate from the West Coast.

Sadly—and indeed, presently—not being terribly welcoming to immigrants is as much a part of the American story as the Lady Liberty/Ellis Island experience that's more commonly trumpeted in our history books. And we're still mired in immigration debates, both at home and abroad, with other countries around the world endlessly disputing their borders.  I Am an American, Oakland, CA, March 1942 feels especially timely now because the more things change, the more they stay...well, you know how the last part goes. 

We'll be back on Thursday with another enduring vintage photo by Dorothea Lange —see you then.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200