In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The story of migration is ongoing; what would the 61st panel look like today? Featured below are some thoughtful responses to this question by local artists. Submit your #Panel61 on our recently launched Jacob Lawrence website.
(Above) “This large installation is comprised of 28 panels and shows the various communities that came to the UK, the influence of their culture on the local community, and the richness of what they bringm i.e. food, life, etc.”
(Below) “This work relates to migration and shows the various communities waiting in the queue to be accepted into the country; in this instance, Britain. The work is digitally photographed and manipulated with stitch and collage.”
(Above) “In my painting Myth of Return, the passengers set out with nothing but a good wind in the sails, a single oar, and a light to steer by. All trust is put into the will of God and the new world to come. They carry little more than their songs, poems, a hope, and a prayer.”
(Below) “As a son of immigrants, I am no stranger to a new culture. Spending time in the US with my American wife has given me another address but the drive of my work remains the same: a search for a spiritual and metaphorical home, which finds some consolation and expression in the subjects I choose to paint. These themes are often narratives drawn from life’s comic tragedies, on both secular and religious planes.”
Does anyone know if these paintings by Brian Whelan are going to be exhibited at The Phillips? These works are quite startling visually but in addition to their having a joyful playfulness, there is clearly much more to them beneath the surface. I had seen Whelan’s very large Holy City painting which National Cathedral exhibited as part of their 9/11 commemoration. That work also has gold foil embedded within the paint and had a remarkable effect in the light of the cathedral’s vestibule so these paintings really need to be actually experienced and not just seen in a digital reproduction. These paintings seem to have the ability to address serious subjects while keeping viewers entranced by their virtuosity.
The Whelan paintings shown here in the Phillips Experiment Station also have deeper associations than the text quotes reveal. The “Myth of Return” painting clearly also alludes to the voyage of Saint Brendan who in the 5th century set out across the Atlantic from Ireland with a boatful of monks in search of paradise and perhaps even found America. This is certainly a perfect image in counterpoint to the Jacob Lawrence series and speaks to the many contentious issues of immigration today. The second painting with the perplexed figures dangling below a ship with anchor seemingly sailing the sky connects to medieval Irish stories of aerial ships whose crews have escaped the turmoil of life here on earth. One such account appears in Seamus Heaney’s poem Lightning viii, which begins “The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise Were all at prayers inside the oratory A ship appeared above them in the air. The anchor dragged along behind so deep It hooked itself into the altar rails”.
I have found further works by Whelan at the website: http://www.brianwhelan.co.uk. I would strongly urge the Phillips to exhibit some of these paintings by Brian Whelan.
Thank you for your thoughtful feedback! No current plans to exhibit Brian Whelan’s work at The Phillips Collection, but we’ll pass your thoughts along to the curatorial team. Best,
Amy Wike, The Phillips Collection