America Is Hard to See
Audio Guide Playlist

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.


NARRATOR: Artist Jacob Lawrence.  

Jacob Lawrence: This is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art—it’s the War Series. There are 14 paintings in the series, and these are several of those paintings.

NARRATOR: Lawrence’s War Series originated during his service on a World War Two navy transport ship. It depicts a range of emotional experiences, from the fear and confusion of combat to the tragedy of loss. Lawrence made a point of showing black and white servicemen together. This reflects part of his experience in World War II. He served with the US Coast Guard, which was then part of the navy. 

Jacob Lawrence: I served on the USS Sea Cloud, which was a weather patrol ship, and I served on the United States Richardson, which was a troop transport. 

NARRATOR: Like most African American sailors, Lawrence was initially classified as a steward’s mate—essentially, a servant for white officers. But his first captain, Lieutenant Commander Carlton Skinner, made his ship, the Sea Cloud the first fully integrated vessel in the US Navy. Captain Skinner helped Lawrence obtain a public relations rating. This allowed him to paint on duty, as ship’s artist. 

Lawrence began the War series soon after he was discharged in December, 1945. It was his way of coming to terms with what he’d witnessed. If you’d like to hear more about his experience, tap the button to continue.

 


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