NOT The First 36″X48″ Oil on Panel
It has been said that there is nothing new in the world today, just remakes of previous ideas and thoughts. Hollywood stands as a stark example of that concept remaking movies over and over like War Of The Worlds, or Lost in Space.
The concept of nothing being new is even addressed in the Bible:
Ecclesiastes 1:9 –
That which has been is that which will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
So while I may think I am on to something with these robot paintings that hold hidden meanings and clever messages, there could be another person, in another part of the world (or universe) doing the exact same thing with Barbie dolls or toilet paper tubes.
This painting spoofs the idea that NOTHING is new, and then hits you upside the head with a few obscure facts you may not have been aware of. Here we go…
First a short detour: Have you ever watched the movie “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?” When Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he added a central joke which has become more famous over the years than the novel itself: “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” So this is where the painting picks up, here we are, humankind, standing on the moon with Earth floating in the background in search of something… perhaps meaning and purpose.
The astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are pictured on their famous moon landing collecting soil and rock samples. Much to their surprise, they find that tiny toy robots have somehow beaten them to it. But the robots have also arrived to find that they were NOT the first either, little green men were already there ahead of them. The robots have taken a sample “green man” and the astronauts have taken a sample robot. But if you look closely at the footprints on the ground, you will notice some very HUGE ones. And if you look at the reflection in Neil Armstrong’s visor, you can clearly see the foot of a HUGE astronaut reflected in the background. They are NOT alone and are about to be sampled themselves!
So that’s the joke part of the painting, but what is the hidden gem?
Jackie Robinson, the FIRST player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, there is no disputing that… or is there?
Actually a guy by the name of Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first to do it according to historians. Walker debuted in the Major League on May 1, 1884. Often catching barehanded and playing without a chest protector, he hit an impressive .263 in 42 games, surpassing the league batting average by 23 points. Walker played just one season, 42 games total, for Toledo before injuries entailed his release.
The Toledo Blade wrote: “Walker has played more games and has been of greater value behind the bat than any catcher in the league.” When younger brother Weldy (Wilberforce Walker) joined the team and played in six games, the Walkers gained the distinction of being the first two African-Americans to play in the Major Leagues.
Now, back to Jackie Robinson for a minute. He played for The Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 – 1956, and was then traded to the New York Giants, but retired before he played a single game for them. At that time he was the highest paid player in Dodgers history.
In 1961 at the age of 42 he was nominated to the Hall of Fame, and formally inducted in 1962.
His number 42 was retired by the Dodgers in 1972, but is now retired across all teams in Major League Baseball.
So that’s the first part of the story, let’s go a little deeper.
The other half is this: Rosa Parks at the age of 42, in the year 1955, has been credited with starting the Freedom Movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus. And while I don’t want to take anything away from that act of courage, She was NOT the first, I would like to point out that Jackie Robinson did that very same thing 11 years earlier in 1944 while serving in the Army.
During boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas, Jackie was arrested and court-martialed for refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of a segregated bus. Jackie Robinson’s excellent reputation, combined with efforts from fellow officers, friends, and the NAACP shed public light on the inequality and he was ultimately acquitted of all charges and receive an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objection to segregation framed the impact that Jackie Robinson would later have in Major League Baseball.
So the next time you hear that “this is new” or “that is new”, take a closer look and decide for yourself. Someone else may have already beat you to the punch.