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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Social Distancing, Another Time

This group of men appears to be social distancing before it became mandatory throughout most of the world. But, this sculpture recalls another time and reason that caused serious economic and social issues in the US.

This sculpture is in Room Two of the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC, a presidential memorial dedicated to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd US President, and to the era he represents. Dedicated in May 1997, the monument traces 12 years of US history through a sequence of four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR's four terms of office.

This life-size sculpture, The Breadline, is in Room Two which covers the time of the US Great Depression (August 1929-March 1933). The sculpture represents the difficulties encountered by many in those years. It was created by American painter and sculptor George Segal.

The five male figures in the sculpture have downcast eyes. All are dressed in long coats and hats as a defense against the cold. They are shown standing in line against a brick wall, waiting for food that may be only bread. They face a windowless wooden door that's closed in front of them. 

A 1937 inscription partly above and to the left of this sculpture is not shown in this photo. Taken from FDR's Inaugural Address in January 1937 as he began his second term in office, it reads: I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

Considering Roosevelt's disability, memorial designers planned that it be accessible to those with physical impairments. The memorial includes an area with tactile reliefs with braille writing for those who are vision-impaired. 

Despite the sad time it represents, this piece is the memorial's most popular photo-op. Visitors pose at the front or end of the line and slump shoulders to look downtrodden. Others attempt to push it over like a stack of dominoes. The sculpture was never meant to encourage this behavior. 

Perhaps, those who think it presents a funny moment don't know its full significance at not just a moment in time, but years of many people's lives.

Today is April 1, also known as April Fools' Day, when people typically play practical jokes or hoaxes on unsuspecting others. Some online sources have suggested the "joke" is to cancel the month of April as the current state of the world is no laughing matter.

Still, we're trying to find something(s) to be happy about when we can, and YOU?  

21 comments:

Sandra said...

I do not like practical jokes at all any time. and certainly would not joke about these statues. the ones that do that may change their mind when they live through this same thing after the virus is over, IF it is over. I did not know about the statures or any of this.. thanks for sharing

Jon said...

That's an incredible sculpture,with powerful and sobering imagery. I've never seen it before.

I suppose this April 1st is an April Fool joke on the entire world. It humiliates the haughty and reminds us how fragile life is.

Take care. Positive thoughts and hugs.

Valerie said...

I had not realised that it was 1st April. Head in sands yet again!

Anvilcloud said...

Those were hard times. We still have many in need and want.

robin andrea said...

Such a beautiful sculpture. Makes me wonder what kind of art will ultimately come from these times we are living in. The Roosevelt quote is so beautiful. Yes, April Fools' Day, and what a day it is. Take care there and stay safe and healthy.

DUTA said...

Very impressive statue! The men look indeed ill-nourished, and it might have relevance to our coronavirus times; at least, in some parts of the world.
I know, here, where I live there's talk of food rationing. (So far,with increased daily testing, we came up with over six thousand infected people).

Tara said...

The statue reminds me that there are many first timers at the food banks now. Lines of cars stretch a mile, easily. Out of work, no savings account, and in desperate need.

I'm currently watching the Ken Burns series on PBS on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor. Fascinating, as Burns always is.

Hanging in there. Reaching out on line and phone to friends and family to keep myself sane. April is going to be a tough month, watching the virus take its toll. Just trying to stay safe and well so I can come out the other side with all the rest, and celebrate!

Red said...

This could be the foreshadowing of things to come with covid 19

Nil @ The Little House by the Lake said...

I completely forgot it was April 1st until later in the evening. 😁

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

That's a very moving artwork, though of course poverty, homelessness and hunger haven't gone away they've just changed shape.

LL Cool Joe said...

That is a very striking sculpture, and interesting to read the background behind it. And I agree with John's comment above. Sadly poverty hasn't gone away, it's just been repackaged.

mamasmercantile said...

My goodness April already where is the time going?

Edna B said...

This sculpture is beautiful. I'm happy because I woke up again this morning. Be safe and have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

bill burke said...

Beautiful sculptures with a strong reminder of very hard times.

Polly said...

The sculpture is very moving, you can almost feel their sadness. It is also beautiful.

DeniseinVA said...

I recognized the memorial with the photo immediately. I have photos of it somewhere, along with the statue of President Roosevelt in his wheelchair with his little dog at the side of him. It is a very poignant memorial. As for April Fool's Day, not a favorite of mine at all as I have known people go a little too far with their jokes. However, humor gets us through the bad times, it's a good safety valve and I have no problem with that as long as it doesn't go way over the top.

Rita said...

These kind of lines are being seen already for food banks now. Going to be a long month. What can I laugh at? We are having a snowstorm and I am watching the jackrabbit and partridges and grackles and sparrows jocking for the seed I tossed out on top of the snow as the last of what I put out earlier is already covered white. They are digging with feet and beaks and the rabbit with face and feet. They generally get along better in desperate times, but they still bicker and chase. They will always make me smile. :)

Buttercup said...

The Depression was about as funny as our present time. Hard to imagine that anyone would make fun about the statue of people who have lost everything. I'm not sure I'm happy about things, but I look for things about which I can be grateful and happily, there are many things in my life I am grateful for.

baili said...

wonderful sharing dear Dorothy !

doorless room sounds scary term to me ,it reflects thought less mind who never be able to learn what is life and what is about it

thank you for sharing interesting history ,i always enjoy this part

i loved the interpretation of PROGRESS
it is more important to learn it well in such tough times

stay happy ,may lord help you to find and spread more happiness my friend!

L. D. said...

Our grocery store pharmacy has placed red dots on the floor to show where you should stand while waiting in line. I went to the bakery area and they too put down dots to keep people in line and distanced. I hope you two stay safe up there in your apartment.

My name is Erika. said...

I;m playing catch up tonight. You would think being home more I would have more time, right? I have been to DC several times but never to this memorial. I like the statue. And it is perfect for our crazy world right now. Hugs-Erika