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Shahn, Miner's Wives
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- The 1947 explosion in the Centralia mine in Illinois illustrated the dangerous conditions and lack of enforced regulations in the coal mining industry. Although hazards were long known at the site, this accident, which killed 111 men, raised public awareness around mining companies’ ongoing practice of neglect. While such tragedies have sometimes led to legal reform and occupational safety regulations, they continue to be a part of the history of industrial growth in the United States.
- Social realist artists like Ben Shahn were committed to making art that would expose social problems and advocate for real change to better the lives of the working class. In this painting, he draws attention not to the dramatic events of the tragedy, but the personal impact of the death of these men on the wives and families left behind.
More to think about
There continue to be industries and jobs that put people at risk either through occupational hazards or a lack of industrial safety measures. What can artists, the media, or other activist groups do to raise awareness and create change?