Julia Wachtel: The idea behind Membership really was to speak to how we identify with our own social group, our own culture. 

Narrator: Artist Julia Wachtel.

Julia Wachtel: It's split in two sections, and in the case of the cartoon, what interested me was my feeling that the cartoon represented a position of alienation or failure or some deficit in respect to his own peer group. He's alone, the African sculptures are paired together so they are already in some kind of group that defines them. 

The idea of otherness and the other is certainly played out in this painting. And you know, now that I'm looking at this painting thirty something years later and particularly with the title, Membership, it gives me pause. Because, you know, we're obviously in a moment right now where the idea of the other is being framed in extremely negative terms, and there's a lot of people in this country who would like to restrict membership to our society based on negative definitions of the other.

Julia Wachtel, Membership, 1984. Oil on canvas, 66 x 81 in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2016.114 114 © Julia Wachtel; courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee New York. © Julia Wachtel

Julia Wachtel: The idea behind Membership really was to speak to how we identify with our own social group, our own culture. 

Narrator: Artist Julia Wachtel.

Julia Wachtel: It's split in two sections, and in the case of the cartoon, what interested me was my feeling that the cartoon represented a position of alienation or failure or some deficit in respect to his own peer group. He's alone, the African sculptures are paired together so they are already in some kind of group that defines them. 

The idea of otherness and the other is certainly played out in this painting. And you know, now that I'm looking at this painting thirty something years later and particularly with the title, Membership, it gives me pause. Because, you know, we're obviously in a moment right now where the idea of the other is being framed in extremely negative terms, and there's a lot of people in this country who would like to restrict membership to our society based on negative definitions of the other.