In the early hours of November 3, 1948, the front page headline of the Chicago Daily Tribune was “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Harry Truman, was an incumbent president by way of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945. The United States was in the midst of a weak economy and the Democratic party found themselves divided primarily on civil rights initiatives. So it was Thomas Dewey, the New York governor and attorney made famous by prosecuting well known mobsters in the 1930’s, who was the favorite heading into Election Day.
The Chicago Daily Tribune was so confident that Dewey was going to win they went to print before the votes had been fully tallied announcing his victory. But what was interesting to me is that on October 30, 1948, in a painting by Norman Rockwell, the cover of the Saturday Evening Post depicts a breakfast table exchange that foreshadows the fact that perhaps Dewey’s win was not “in the bag.”
In this painting, the man/father/husband is visibly showing his insistence that Dewey is the way to go while the woman/mother/wife seems defiant in her posture while holding on tight to Truman. The fall out from this “house divided” is a young boy, visibly upset and ignored by mom and dad, and a dog cowering under a chair and looking on with trepidation. Norman Rockwell had this amazing gift of bringing all of your senses into a scene. You can almost smell the mixture of toast and cigarette smoke, you can hear how loud the room is between dad yelling and boy crying – even the bird is probably making noise as it flutters around anxiously above. Perhaps Rockwell had a gift of premonition as well since while history refers to this election as one of the biggest presidential upsets ever, he was keenly aware of how divided and close the numbers actually were.
In any event, Truman was the one who defeated Dewey.
So now that you have a little backstory….I participated in the April 2020 Click Pro Collaborative Project: Figurative Art. This project was based on a creativity exercise called “The Lost Art of Copying” – it’s about an artistic undertaking to analyze atmosphere, light, color, composition and story in a work of art. Taking an original painting and recreating it as a photograph as best you can.
For my project, I selected Norman Rockwell’s October 1948 Saturday Evening Post cover depicted above. It’s known as “Election Day” or “Dewey v. Truman” or “Family Squabble.” I spent days thinking about how I wanted to approach this, planning out all of the details I could to mimic the original as much as possible. I wanted this to also be social commentary relevant to where we are today. We are divided as a nation in so many ways it was hard to select just one division to focus on. Because we are in an election year, the obvious choice would have been Trump v. Biden. But I rejected that because the Democratic National Convention hasn’t taken place yet and my gut tells me this upcoming election will most likely be about Trump v. Biden’s running mate (who I am predicting will be Michelle Obama and if I’m right I think the Democrats have a chance, but most people seem to think it will be Hillary or Whitmer in which case I think we’ll be seeing Trump keep his seat for another four years). In any event, I’ve digressed….
What I ultimately decided I wanted my image to represent is on the divide we are having specifically with the Covid-19 pandemic. The government keeps saying they are going to make decisions based upon science but any number of scientists and experts disagree about anything and everything to do with this virus. My choice isn’t obvious – the portraits on the iPads reflect President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Although in theory they are on the same team, I am using them as the physical representation of the divide in the Covid debate. I’ll get to the specifics and reasons behind what is showing on the iPads later but first let’s see the image…
Before I get much further in discussing the choices I made in creating this image I feel the need for a disclaimer. This is a family self-portrait. It is intended to be an artistic representation of an idea – or many ideas – heavily inspired by Norman Rockwell’s original piece. All four of us in this image are acting – no one was actually yelling or crying.
So what are some of the choices I made here and why? I did not include an ash tray or cigarette on the table, I probably would have included this if I had them available on hand, but I didn’t so I replaced them with a small crystal bowl instead. Since we don’t have a dog right now, I used my son to fill that space under my chair and I tried to make him the “protector” – both by wearing the mask and by holding onto the cat. He is wearing read because it was the closest I could get to bringing in the red/pink color of the woman’s shoes found in the original piece. I don’t have an old oil lamp lying around (although if we weren’t social distancing I’m pretty sure I would have been able to borrow one for this image) so I filled a vase with cuties we have on hand which to me become a symbol of vitamin C (another non-vaccine required protocol that has shown promise in treating patients with Covid-19).
On April 16, 2020, I listed to the Orange County Sheriff tell us that in the last few days they have seen an increase in domestic violence calls by 25%, family dispute calls by 24% and child custody dispute calls by 30%. The Orange County District Attorney followed that up by explaining how concerning these numbers are as well as pointing out that most child abuse and elder abuse claims come in from mandatory reporters (e.g. teachers) but now our elderly and kids who need help are forced to stay at home with no one to report what is happening to them. This scene is intended to be a hint at what is bubbling under the pressure of the stay-at-home orders.
Now for the political figureheads I used. On the one side is President Trump. The portrait I selected for his “newspaper” story was by Marco Grob who did the shoot in New York City for TIME on April 5, 2011. The name of my paper is “Highwire” which is a nod to what I believe to be the currently best source for investigating scientific information as it relates to the Covid crisis, The HighWire with Del Bigtree (note this is not to say that the HighWire endorses Trump, I actually don’t know or really care if they do or not). The text of the newspaper says “The Covid-19 Pandemic – Hydroxychloroquine | GAME CHANGER | Was the president right all along? Did party politics and fear pushing media crush our economy and cost us thousands of lives? Why would anyone be against making available a drug that has been around for decades and has shown success in treating corona viruses as far back as 2005?” The reason I selected this topic of Hydroxychloroquine specifically and paired it with President Trump is that I feel like so many people who are arguing against the use of hydroxychloroquine are either (A) someone who stands to gain financially from the development of a vaccine or (B) perhaps unable to think rationally because of their political religion.
On the other side of the table is an image of Dr. Fauci. which I got from the New York Times online and was taken by staff photographer Erin Schaff. The reason that I am holding Dr. Fauci rather than my husband is simply because he wears glasses as did Truman in the original Rockwell piece. I named the paper “The Times” as a dig at both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times with a caption of “The epitome of what is wrong with media today.” Underneath Dr. Fauci’s portrait it reads, “The Only Expert Opinion That Matters | WE DON’T NEED CHLOROQUINE. ONLY A VACCINE CAN SAVE YOU.”
I realize that there are many of you who see Dr. Fauci as our savior right now but I am HIGHLY critical of him. Dr. Fauci, who, as a 36 year employee of the National Institute of Health (NIH) MUST have been aware of a study they published back in 2005 called “Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread.”
Chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture. Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection. In addition, the indirect immunofluorescence assay described herein represents a simple and rapid method for screening SARS-CoV antiviral compounds.Conclusion from the NIH Study
So despite Dr. Fauci being aware of his own employer has done a study which indicated the success of chloroquine on SARS-CoV infection back in 2015, he not only failed to mention this in the daily press briefings, he downplayed chloroquine as a potential solution and instead pushed a “vaccination is the only answer” agenda. Dr. Fauci waited MONTHS knowing that Covid was a threat before starting a trial of chloroquine on April 9, 2020. How many people who lost their lives during those months might have been saved by chloroquine?
“Is it possible that our health officials were so blinded by the beautiful dream of the vaccine unicorn that they didn’t fund anything to stop this and treat it now?”Del Bigtree
So there it is, my Covid-19 take on Rockwell’s “Election Day.” This project was not only fun for my whole family, but it filled my soul from both a creative outlet standpoint and as an expression of some of my controversial opinions. I hope you enjoyed dissecting it with me!
You can find more information about the timeline of the hydroxychloroquine commentary I reference in the April 17, 2020 HighWire clip “Bombshell: NIH Knew About Chloroquine.”