Art for Flag Day: The American Flag (Jasper Johns)

Cher’s Famous Art

17 June 2020

20 January 2021

14 June 2021

“Three Flags”

by Jasper Johns, 1958, American, Pop Art

I chose this painting to recognize Flag Day (14 June 2020, 14 June 2021) and honor our American flag.

I have also chosen our flag to recognize America as we inaugurate our 46th United States president on 20 January 2021.

The American flag, also known as “Old Glory” and “Stars and Stripes” is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America. The stripes represent the thirteen original colonies and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

The American flag is a symbol that is to be treated with respect; it is the first thing referenced in our Pledge of AllegianceI pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands…” There are very specific regulations concerning care, display and retirement of the United States flag. I found a number of websites addressing this; two were particularly helpful: https://www.usa.gov/flag; https://www.usflag.org.

“Three Flags” by Jasper Johns

The American flag was one of Jasper Johns‘ signature emblems, along with numbers and alphabets. He created this painting to elicit a closer look at our flag because he felt that the flag was a common object that was “seen and not looked at, not examined.” It was also created at the height of the Cold War and its 48 stars were the version of the flag at the time.

The 2D painting is actually 3D in that it is three canvases, one stacked on top of the other like steps, each one 25% smaller than the one underneath it. It is painted with encaustic on canvas (liquid wax and dissolved pigment) and is about 31” x 45”. It also has a reverse perspective; the closest flag to the viewer is the smallest when typically things get larger the closer they are to us. I believe Johns achieved his goal in that it has caused me to actually “look” at it!

This version of Johns’ Flags can be seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. https://whitney.org

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