Amerika. (To Old To Live, To Young To Die)

By Kristie Smith Nikitin

mixed Media 63” by 40”

On Exhibit @ Red Dot Miami Nov. 30 — Dec 4 2016

Kris Gebhardt’s painting entitled Amerika is representative of the USA’s last bastion of hope — the generation that came of age between the 1940s and the 1970s. Walking onto the “canvas” emerging from the mist like Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine in Casablanca, the star of this painting looks like a dapper dan from the 1940s. Suit coat, hat and the tired feeling of a bygone era dappled all over his face.

With the blue skies literally behind him, he worked hard and was loyal to one company. He paid taxes, raised children to be productive members of society and was good to his neighbors. He labored for all that he had — two cars in the drive, white picket fence, a wife, kids and perhaps even a dog, named Scout. But it’s slipping rapidly from his grasp. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Taxes are off the charts, the military is stretched like a hamstring and civil unrest dominates the nightly news. Broken, worn down and definitely the worse for wear. Much like the country, our hero has seen better days and isn’t able to keep up with society. With dwindling resources he’s too old to live and yet too young to die.

According to Gebhardt, we owe this generation of fathers, grandpas and uncles who built our Great Nation by working in the factories and fields, fighting our wars and serving communities both large and small. We must NEVER forget to honor them in this technology evolution by providing for them new and honorable paths to live comfortably — both physically and financially — for what is supposed to be their golden years.

This mixed media work was produced on a trashed bathtub shipping crate, not unlike one that may soon serve as our hero’s home. “It just didn’t seem right to use a shiny new canvas for this piece,” said Gebhardt. The very thick, corrugated cardboard is torn and Gebhardt intentionally distressed it even more, adding an aging process to the nicks and scrapes that came with the box.

This figure’s Amerika is no longer the idyllic dream it once was. He has seen our flag burned, the streets bombed and lawlessness pervade our cities and now he feels it’s happening all over again. Problems can’t be addressed if they aren’t identified. The only way to curtail a generation full of beleaguered souls is to learn from our past and forge ahead.