Seeing America

National identity

Who are “We the People” (today) and who have “We the People” been (over the past millennium)?

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The artistic record is filled with work from a panoply of peoples: those who were native to North America, and those from across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. These works have much to say about the shifting nature of national identity.

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Over the next two years, Seeing America will grow to include 100 videos, 18 essays, quizzes, discussion questions and lesson plans.

Icon and irony: Jasper Johns, <em>Flag</em>
Icon and irony: Jasper Johns, Flag

The American flag is a potent symbol that has different meanings for different viewers.

From wire to weightlessness: Ruth Asawa, <em>Untitled</em>
From wire to weightlessness: Ruth Asawa, Untitled

Asawa was interned in World War II, but we must be careful about interpreting her artworks as related to that trauma.

Nari Ward, <em>We the People</em> (black version)
Nari Ward, We the People (black version)

Hundreds of shoelaces form just three words. Here, the artist takes an abstract idea and makes it immediate.

Harlem 1948, Ralph Ellison, Gordon Parks and the photo essay
Harlem 1948, Ralph Ellison, Gordon Parks and the photo essay

Gordon Parks and the writer Ralph Ellison collaborated to show that Harlem is everywhere.

Speaking to past and present, Clarissa Rizal’s Resilience Robe
Speaking to past and present, Clarissa Rizal’s Resilience Robe

This prestigious garment follows a traditional design passed down through generations of indigenous Alaskans.

Wendy Red Star, 1880 Crow Peace Delegation
Wendy Red Star, 1880 Crow Peace Delegation

Red Star annotated photographs to restore dignity and context to government-issue photographs of Crow chiefs.

We the People: a millennium of American identities
We the People: a millennium of American identities

This phrase may be only three words, but it is a complicated and ever-shifting expression.

When department stores were new: women in the American city
When department stores were new: women in the American city

A new, modern culture of shopping and ready-made clothes were part of women’s new urban mobility.

Revisiting the myth of George Washington and the cherry tree
Revisiting the myth of George Washington and the cherry tree

Wood infuses a famous folktale about George Washington with theatricality, humor, and a Gilbert Stuart sample.

Representing freedom during the Civil War
Representing freedom during the Civil War

This remarkable work honors those who fought for their own freedom, but acknowledges that the struggle goes on.

The power of the bear and the story an American massacre
The power of the bear and the story an American massacre

Six bears were required to create this necklace, meant imbue the Pawnee chief with protection and power.

Identity and civil rights in 1960s America
Identity and civil rights in 1960s America

Does the figure emerge from the stripes of the flag, or do they imprison him?