Behind the series....

On June 8, 1789 representative James Madison introduced a series of 39 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Collectively, the first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill enumerated freedoms not explicitly indicated in the main body of the Constitution, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, and free assembly; the right to keep and bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, security in personal effects, and freedom from warrants issued without probable cause.

Over 200 years additional amendments were added that have curtailed or expanded personal freedoms, but by and large, the Bill of Rights set a standard unprecedented in the world for guaranteeing freedoms to all people.

Despite the Bill of Rights our society has struggled with moral and human rights conflicts throughout its history. My new series of paintings explores these conflicts and provides a nonjudgmental glimpse into the contrasts existing in our very diverse society.

Each painting is created with acrylic on canvas - 36” x 24.” Signed and numbered (50) archival prints are available on request. These gicle├ęs are printed on 22" x 19" stock with a white border for matting and framing, and offered at $75 each. Email george@rothackeradv.com, or call 610.566.0334.

Gay Rights

Gay Rights (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Open tolerance of male and female homosexuals is novel to the late 20th and 21st centuries. Prior to modern times, religious admonitions against sexual relations between same-sex individuals was stigmatized and in many countries ruled illegal, punishable with severe penalties including death. In 1897 homosexual men and women were given voice in Berlin with the founding of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, an organization that published emancipated literature, sponsored rallies and campaigned for legal reform in Germany. Outside Germany, other organizations were founded including the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology founded by Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis in England, and in America by Henry Gerber, a Germany immigrant who founded the Society of Human Rights in Illinois.

Despite the formation of such groups, prior to World War II gays were often harassed by police wherever they congregated. The War and its aftermath brought many young people to the cities and more visibility to the gay community. By the mid-20th century an increasing number activist organizations were formed world wide, and by 1958 a gay publication "One" won a supreme court ruling that enabled it to mail its magazine through the U.S. Postal Service. In 1974, Kathy Kozachenko from Ann Arbor, Michigan became the first openly gay person to be elected to a government office, followed by Harvey Milk who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (and assassinated the following year). Issues of primary importance for the gay rights movement since the 1970s have included combating HIV/AIDS, lobbying government for nondiscriminatory policies in employment, housing, military service and same-sex marriage.

Recently other aspects of gender have come to the forefront of public awareness by the confessions of decathlon winner Bruce Jenner and his quest for gender reassignment. Though not a homosexual, Jenner states that ever since he was a child he has struggled with his identity as a man, stating that his "being" has always been female.

Women's Rights

Women's Rights (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls of many societies worldwide. In some places, like the United States, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls, in favor of men and boys.

For this painting, I concentrated on portraits of iconic 20th Century women who spoke out and acted against female (and often human) repression.

Suffragists in the U.S.who advocated the extension of the franchise to women as a group may be seen at the bottom protesting for women's right in about 1910.

Molly Brown, an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous after surviving the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, after exhorting the crew of Lifeboat No. 6 to return to look for survivors.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, an African-American Civil Rights activist, whom the United States Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement."

Gloria Marie Steinem,an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who besides being First Lady from 1933 to 1945, was an activist for human rights, a diplomat and a politician, and in 199was ranked ninth in the of Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 34"
In the Bill of Rights, the addendum to the Constitution of the United States, James Madison expanded on the freedoms of citizens outlined in his previous document. This 1789 draft set forth 17 articles, 10 of which were ratified by Congress in 1791.

The third article article approved was that "…no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed." This is the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Freedom of religion, for many, was one of the main reasons that  early settlers immigrated to the United States from countries where their personal beliefs were surpressed and their lives threatened.

The United States, for the most part, is a bastion for religious tolerance, it is not near perfect in protecting or upholding laws created by religious bias.

Muslims today are experiencing backlash from the small numbers of terrorists who have corrupted the essentials of their beliefs and politicized them. Other groups are using segments of the bible to justify restriction of rights for women, gays non believers.

My painting combines the Koran, Buddha, and Adam and God with James Madison and his writings for Bill of Rights, a document which still essential to the tenants of the laws and freedoms defined for America.

Prohibition

Prohibition (acylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale. production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. It remained in place from 1920 to 1933, after which it was repealed by ratification of the 21st Amendment.

During the 19th century, alcoholism, drug abuse gambling addiction and other social ills led to activism to cure the perceived problems in society.The"dry" crusaders, a movement led by rural Protestants and social progressives believed that by banning the ability to purchase alcohol, people (mostly men) would become more socially responsible. The movement did, in fact, reduce alcohol consumption a socialize a significant proportion of the population in temperate habits, but it also created unintended consequences such as the growth of urban crime organizations.Support for prohibition grew less each year it was enacted and much needed tax revenues were lost when most needed following the Great Depression that began in 1929.

In recent times, the ban on marihuana has faced a similar conflict, between those who think its use leads to drug addiction and use of more dangerous drugs, and those who believe it does less harm than alcohol and provides relief of symptoms resulting from many physical and mental afflictions.

Discrimination

Discrimination (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit.

Our country has a long history of discriminatory practices, perhaps the greatest of which was that of Native Americans who had their lands taken from them by European settlers, and then thought of us savages by those who stole their land because they fought back to retain their lands.

During the 19th century immigrants from many countries were looked down on by people who had settled here only a generation or two before them. Among the groups hated most were the Irish, Italian, Chinese, Mexicans and Jews.

Slavery was perhaps the  most flagrant of discriminatory practices, and black America was subject to the most vicious of its cruelties. Though slavery ended in 1865, the battle for equal rights and equal justice continues to this day. People are discriminated do to age, religion, color, poverty and social background.

As with the Syrian refuges, people are still afraid of the unknown, and often mistake the enemy by his or her clothing, skin tone or religious practices.

In my painting, I parallel the injustices of black America with a Texas posting that disallows Spanish and Mexicans because they are not "white."

Censorship

Censorship (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication or other information that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.

Though in America, “freedom of speech and of the press” is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, the guarantee of freedom is, and has been, subject to interpretation. Exceptions by our government regarding “freedom” have often been made for the sake of national security, the protection of our children, and the safety of religious and racial groups subject to hate crimes and violence.

But our government, schools, libraries and religious institutions have also used censorship as a way to isolate individuals and groups from new philosophies, critical reasoning, and a world of creative and imaginative thinking.

The books included in the painting “Censorship” represent a very small number of publications either banned or censured in America in modern times. Other examples include the Harry Potter series, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Judy Blume’s Blubber, and Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen.

Movies, radio, TV and the advent of the internet have added a new dimension to the arguments for censorship. Today, information is available for nearly everyone with a mobile device or computer, on topics ranging from promoting online sex to the building of bombs and instructions on the manufacturing of plastic guns.

Though the internet and texting were issues with which our founding fathers never struggled, the principle behind our First Amendment hasn’t changed, that it is better to offer an abundance of ideas and opinions expressed by many rather than a few ideas that reflect the dogmas of any segment of the population.