Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
“Statue of Liberty on Fire” is a severe and thought-provoking 40 x 30” acrylic painting by former and defending Outstanding Creator Award grand-prize winner Kristan Ryan. As we'd stated from evaluating Kristan Ryan's other work, “Woman Done Swallowing Her Words,” art can greatly be judged by how much the work of art says without saying (or writing) anything.
The Statue of Liberty (“Lady Liberty” or Libertas) dominates the image. Though it is described as being “on fire,” it almost appears to be weeping from the eyes and bleeding from the head. At the same time, flames radiate from the face and out into the torch-wielding right arm. There, the flames are most apparent as they go from a deep red to an orange-yellow like a flame you'd see in nature. Interestingly, though the blood-red brush strokes run down her neck and robe, they do not continue running all the way down to the very bottom of the portrait. They end just above her breast or heart line, this may have symbolic meaning, implying that despite America's woes, the heart of America is still good and hopeful. And, while the heart is symbolic of love and virtue, breasts are symbolic of a nurturing nature as a source of food for a newborn babe. Wasn't America intended as a safe harbor and a land of opportunity for immigrants—those who were new? Perhaps not all hope is lost for America's nurturing and open arms if the blood and fire haven't yet covered the breasts of liberty.
This work of art was made in the middle of the Trump presidency. Of course, Trump was a president who constantly went after immigrants and went out of his way to make life and the process of immigration more difficult for them. This is encapsulated in his construction of the southern border wall. The artist stated that she believes that Lady Liberty would be furious at this as well as how foreigners and those who speak different languages are treated in America. We have immigrants among our judges. And, yes, they speak multiple languages as well. They've also faced discrimination not only here but in other countries like Russia. We can definitely relate with this plight.
Although the Statue of Liberty itself is front and center in the image, and though the blood-red brush strokes draw most of our attention, there is probably just as much if not more blue in this painting that hangs mostly in the background or is covered by the red. To the artist's credit, she was skilled enough and/or knowledgeable enough to not have the statue blend into the background. In fact, the statue almost pops out at the viewer. But going back to the original point: there is actually so much blue in this painting that gets overshadowed by the red, but the blue is arguably even more important than the red, and here's why... Blue is the color of the sea or “the waters.” That means that it's the color of everyone. “Seas” and “waters” are often symbolic of all the people of the world. You often see that in classical texts, especially religious ones. The world, of course, is much bigger than just America and Americans even though many Americans are Americentric. The sea or the waters are also where many immigrants come from, particularly the immigrants whom the Statue of Liberty was originally intended to greet. We're reminded of the scene from Titanic in which Rose and other survivors of the sinking are comforted by the sight of the statue after the traumatic events they've just been through.
Blue is also the color of the sky, and it's where many more immigrants come to the United States—by plane.
The left side of this portrait is particularly interesting because the strokes of blue become shorter and more varied. You see dark-blue strokes and light-blue strokes. They appear to be crisscrossing and running up against the fire that's building up along the right-arm. Could this imply the growing difficulty for immigrants? Possibly.
Once again, Kristan Ryan presents to us a work of art that initially seemed very simple on the surface and yet had a lot to say!
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