Rockwell and the Law of Opposites


In the New Yorker, Lee Siegel sheds light on the oft-seen contradiction between artists and their art in her review of Deborah Solomon’s biography “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell.”

In contrast to his idealized paintings of happy hetero Americans, Rockwell is described as a depressed, compulsively obsessive, and “a repressed homosexual.”

You might call this condition of artistic creation the law of opposites, which can be a displacement of identity, as in the case of the gay composers and actors of yesteryear, or a transmutation of identity. When Irving Berlin, the son of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, wrote “White Christmas,” he was both hiding his Jewishness and fulfilling his ambition to be not just accepted by his new country but socially ascendant in it.

Dawn Pier is a developmental editor who blogs at the Rumpus, the travelogue, and Dawn Revealed, a personal blog about her adventures surfing and living in Baja. She is working on a memoir about moving to Mexico to learn to surf and save a coral reef. More from this author →