Spread the Roots

YES WE CAN / Oil on canvas – The commemorative painting « Yes We Can », it’s a Officially Gifts from Vice mayor of Pasadena  John J. Kennedy to the City the February 22 2018, located at Pasadena Central Library in the Ria C. Humanities Wing, above the entrance to the adjacent Ron and Linda Galbally Fine Arts Room, in the southeastern portion of the building. The oil on canvas painting was completed in 2017, and measures 63 inches x 55 inches. A City statement described the imagery as a progressive montage of African culture which is meant to represent and cultural connections and continuum between Africa and America.

« On January 20 2009, just like millions people around the world, I watched the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. On that amazing day, we all had a rendez-vous with History.  » What « , I wondered,  » can possibly be racing through the mind of the very first African-American to occupy the Oval Office ?  »  It was, then, while listening intently to Aretha Franklin sing MY COUNTRY ‘TIS OF THEE that i was seized with the inspiration for the present artistic creation. 

Caravels heading towards the New World with the breath of Destiny in their ancient sails will dock symbolically at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Standing erect, like pillars of that monument to a noble abolitionist President, we can see a gathering of African slaves known for their time-honored rebellion on the Spanish galleon Amistad.  

Then come … Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin-Luther King and Rosa Parks.   Men and women —  who had paved the way for all leading irrevocably to freedom and civil rights —  now there to celebrate the crowning moment of their common heroic struggle.  An ancestral assembly of kings and chieftains from different parts of the African continent is also represented, to salute the courage, power and sheer determination of their far-flung descendants. Through the Lion, symbol of royal power and nobility since biblical times,  as also through talismanic protections, they offer praise and benedictions to the chosen one of the nascent 21st century. Standing right behind that chosen one, like a guardian angel and body-guard, is a Massai warrior, incarnating the combative spirit that the new Leader has received from his Kenyan ancestors. And there you have it :   The figures and elements composing this painting represent for me a synthesis of History and a template of the long path of a Community celebrating more than just an election on that January day. Rather, an energy, an energy that only an event of this import could radiate with such potent power and emotion. Whatever has, has not, or may yet happen, President Barack Hussein Obama will forever remain the first African-American elected to dwell in the White House, and, inevitably, the crowning achievement after centuries of an epic struggle for Freedom.

That is what moved me to create this artistic work, at once historical and fully symbolic, in which Hope and Victory unite gloriously to reveal that again…YES WE CAN »

Pasadena California Central Library