For years, I have assembled paintings by Americans of Americans putting this country together. It has been my own private labor of love. Perhaps it was watching men and women in the fields of New Mexico, or thinking of my grandmother in Dunkirk during the Great Depression working in a shop full of seamstresses, or working alongside my father as we built or added to our houses in California. I have always loved labor: the sweat of it, the motion of it, the product of it.
When I was younger I could not help but enjoy the art of Thomas Hart Benton and John Stuart Curry featuring men and women, like human vortices, churning raw land, raw iron, raw wood into the sustenance of life. Who would ever forget the simple honesty of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic?” A fine friend of mine argues that I am a brainwashed victim of the American work ethic. Whether it is true or not does not matter. I love my work. I was a carpenter, who became a teacher, who became an engineer, who retired to the profession of dealing in art. I have loved it all.
For me, one of the greatest moments in American Art was during the 1930’s when Roosevelt championed the unemployed artists of this country to “show America getting back on its feet.” This was the creed of WPA artists as they featured the swing of the hammer, the hum of industry, the muscle of human toil.
Labor as a subject matter has never lost its charm for us. Through every movement, American artists have found a way to incorporate labor’s effort. This Sullivan Goss exhibition documents the American worker’s efforts from the late 1800’s to today. The weave of our national fabric is obvious within these paintings. Polish, Irish, Mexican, African, English and all the others have left their mark through toil. Without their effort there is not one skyscraper, not a cleaned hotel, not food on the table, not a soul to our country.
- Frank Goss