First, let me wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Even if where you live, Thanksgiving as a holiday isn’t celebrated, it is always correct to offer thanks for all the good things we have. A lot of turkeys help us celebrate today, and for all of them, it was the last thing they did in their short lives. I guess we could lay the blame for turkey on our Pilgrim forefathers and their friends and families of long ago.
Many of the Pilgrims shared their homesteads and livelihoods with North America’s First People – who we now call Native Americans. Whether it was the Indians who first decided that turkey made for a good dining experience, or the Pilgrims themselves, the tradition continues.
Another traditional event on Thanksgiving is to watch the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys meet their respective opponents on the football field. Yes, football is a form of warfare, and seems contradictory to a day of thanks. But football and Thanksgiving has been a pair throughout my lifetime. While the Lions are normally the first game broadcast, they are most likely the game you will abandon to sit down for your Thanksgiving feast.
One of my traditions is to look at Art that can transport us to another time and another place. There’s not a whole lot of Pilgrims that have been captured on canvas, or if there are, I guess I’ve not found any that inspired me to do a column.
But today, I am inspired. I’ve brought you a look at the wonderful art of James Bama. This artist was born more than 80 years ago in New York in 1926. I guess art was in his blood as he had a successful 22 year career as a commercial artist. He did cover art for the Saturday Evening Post Magazine, Readers Digest, the New York Football Giants, and the Baseball and Football Hall of Fames. He also did most of the cover art for the Doc Savage paperback books.
But someone must have said to him, “Go west, young man.” And in 1968 he did.
Bama has been considered by many to be the most ‘realistic‘ illustrator in the wide galaxy of artists. His work is both complex and straightforward. You are not going to say that you don’t understand this art. His powerful compositions, are at once simple for us to understand yet they offer us a living, breathing humanity in his each of his subjects.
Today, on Thanksgiving, as you give thanks for the food on your tables and the warmth of your families, let us remember the prospectors, trappers, and traders, the settlers, and the homesteaders, the miners, fisherman, farmers, and the men of the forests who trekked across the wilderness of America 150 and 200 years ago.
Let us also not forget The First People who settled this land before us, and with who we now share this beautiful country.
Just look at the cowboys and cowgirls, the Indian chiefs, warriors, and elder statesmen, that make up James Bama’s subjects. While we watch our football on HDTV’s, or write columns like this on our computers, artists like James Bama create these magnificent visions by hand.
How fortunate we are to be able to see images like these, and to wonder about the work that created them.
Doesn’t today, our national day of thanks, seem like it is ever so fitting, so correct, so supremely proper, and precisely the right time to look back into our history, and to wish for a Happy Thanksgiving Day for everyone.
This article was originally published last year on Thanksgiving Eve which was Wednesday, November 26th, 2008. But it seems right to re-publish it again today. The last two pictures are ‘new’ for this version. Mr. Bama’s art serves to remind us of a time that has long since passed. But a time for giving thanks will always be a part of our lives.