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Ahead of US Midterms, Artists Diversify Norman Rockwell’s ‘Four Freedoms’ with Help from Rosario Dawson

Artist collective For Freedoms’s campaign draws attention to issues of diversity and civic responsibility in the election run-up

‘Freedom of Speech’ featuring Rosario Dawson. Courtesy: For Freedoms

‘Freedom of Speech’ featuring Rosario Dawson. Courtesy: For Freedoms

‘Freedom of Speech’ featuring Rosario Dawson. Courtesy: For Freedoms

The non-profit political arts platform For Freedoms, founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, have issued a new campaign which reimagines Norman Rockwell’s iconic ‘Four Freedoms’ (1943) paintings, restaged with a crew of artists and activists including actors Rosario Dawson and Jesse Williams, and news commentator Van Jones. Artist Michele Pred and Whitney Museum curator Rujeko Hockley also feature in the images. The campaign was thought up by Thomas and photographed by Emily Shur.

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, 1943. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, 1943. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, 1943. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Rockwell’s original oil paintings, from which Thomas and Gottesman’s project takes its name, constitute four illustrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s landmark State of the Union address, delivered in 1941, setting out its key visions for the nation: freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom of worship.

‘Freedom from Fear’. Courtesy: For Freedoms

‘Freedom from Fear’. Courtesy: For Freedoms

‘Freedom from Fear’. Courtesy: For Freedoms

In For Freedoms’s 21st-century recreation, the ‘Four Freedoms’ now feature a more diverse cast to reflect the multicultualism of contemporary America, with images that include Muslim and Native American characters. Rockwell ‘really shaped the iconography of America and our visual culture […] There are a lot of people who are missing in those images,’ Thomas told TIME.

Courtesy: For Freedoms

Courtesy: For Freedoms

Courtesy: For Freedoms

The images will be used in For Freedoms’s 50 State Initiative, billed as the ‘largest creative collaboration in US history’ which aims to generate public debate and political conversation ahead of the US’s mid-term elections, through a series of artist-designed billboards. Tania Bruguera, Marilyn Minter and Trevor Paglen and others are already signed up to the project. For Freedoms describes itself as an ‘anti-partisan’ project, attempting to reach out to those who feel marginalized by traditional political processes.

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