Andrew Ryan Robb

The Art of Big Shoulders

Art of Big Shoulders Exhibit was showcased at the NYCH Gallery was a success. Visually striking artwork was dedicated to “the Windy City”.  This outstanding exhibit featured artists Phillip Scott, Chantala Kommanivanh, Faith Ann Gilbert, Andrew Ryan Robb, Raub Welch, David Anthony Geary, James Nelson, Brian Golden, and Mark Phillips. For those that were not able to view the showcase,  please check out the gallery. 

I submitted this piece in the show entitled “Survival of the Wicked”. Wicked title eh? Yeah I know, I did some research on the theme of the show. Chicago has several names ” The Windy City, “The  CHI”, “Chi- CIty”, “Chi- Town”,  the list goes on. However, it was a name that I’ve heard in instances, but It never  occurred to me what it was referring to… “The City of Big Shoulders”. How could you not know what that means you’re a Chicago native? you say…. Hey! Chicago is a big city, and in big cities there’s a lot of history. So anyway, I did research, and maybe I became a bit overwhelmed with the idea at first. I could have just painted the Chicago Skyline, and called it a day, but NO. I’m the artist forever, James Nelson of Soulful Artistry. Whew! So in doing my research I came across the poem entitled “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg. 

CHICAGO
By Carl Sandburg
Hog Butcher for the World,
   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
   Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
   Stormy, husky, brawling,
   City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
   Bareheaded,
   Shoveling,
   Wrecking,
   Planning,
   Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
                   Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
         This poem gave me an array of images in my head…so much inspiration. But this inspiration was to create a piece about the “Wicked”, the “Crooked”, and “the Gunmen that killed and got away”. Chicago is not just referring to the working class, but a systematic theory of survival of the fittest for the corrupt. Rather than earn an income the hard and long way, lets do it fast and easy.  I  came across the Notorious Mobster AL Capone, The Black Gangsta Disciples,  Mayor Rahm Emanuel, The Nike Air Jordans, our troubled youth, and the high percentage of violence.  This theme became a discussion of my views and opinions on canvas. I’d like to add more to this piece, so I’m wondering what are your views of ” The City of Big Shoulders”, and what would you like to see added to this painting.
To get a closer look at the painting, “Survival of the Wicked” go to NYCH Gallery at 643 W. 18th st, Chicago, IL.