Friday, December 24, 2010
The Two Americas at Christmas Time
There are some who are in darkness
And the others are in light
And you see the ones in brightness
Those in darkness drop from sight
-- Bertholt Brecht
I've always been somewhat ambivalent about sculptor George Segal's Depression Bread Line in the lobby of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). The sculpture is hauntingly evocative of its subject, but it seems oddly out of context in its elegant, Cesar Pelli-designed surroundings. And since the space is often used for receptions and other public gatherings, there's something surreal, almost verging on decadent, about guests cheerfully mingling and socializing alongside these sad figures without seeming to see them, or to feel their pain.
Walking along State Street last night I looked thrugh the window and saw these still, silent figures lined up for a handout they will never get. Their solemn forms blended in the window with the festive reflections of holiday lights across the street. It was a poignant reminder of the two Americas, different economic worlds, which this Christmas are further apart than they've been for many decades. The ones in brightness we see all too well. The others, all too often, slip out of sight.