These Colors Won't Run

Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes is asking curators to name favorite examples of American flags in art. Not mentioned is one of the weirdest flag paintings of all, Frederick Church's Our Banner in the Sky (1861). Existing in several painted versions, it was a pro-Union propaganda piece widely reproduced as a lithograph during the Civil War. I like the way it jumps the shark on the whole manifest destiny deal -- and anticipates surrealism to boot. (Magritte's picture of the word "DESIR" spelled out in stars seems particularly close in spirit.) The image continues to resonate in the age of Bush. Marc Handelman's 2005 Our Banner in the Sky inverts Church's flag into an international distress signal.


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