Meiners has a background in cultural anthropology, so before executing a Rockwell reboot, she wanted to take a deeper dive into the the social forces that informed Rockwell’s work. She began researching his practice and the political climate of his time, and realized that many of the topics that Rockwell depicted (parenting, generational divides, freedom of speech, race relations) could be tweaked to reflect contemporary culture.
From there, Meiners chose a number of paintings and illustrations to adapt for “Revisiting Rockwell.” Her selections were based on two factors. First, “it was about what I could actually execute,” she recalled. Restaging Rockwell’s compositions would be a complicated process, as many are filled with 10 or more subjects set against detailed backdrops. More importantly, though, a given piece needed to depict a subject that was “translatable to something that’s going on today,” she said. “I asked myself: ‘What can I say now that’s a little different than what was said in Rockwell’s time?’”
To ease into the series, Meiner temporarily shelved her plan for an updated Thanksgiving scene and started with Rockwell’s The Tattoo Artist (1944), a painting that portrays just two people (logistically, this would be easier to restage with sets and models than more complex, larger works). While Rockwell’s piece shows a male sailor getting inked—the names of six past lovers on his muscled arm crossed out in favor of the newest, “Betty”—Meiner trades Rockwell’s macho protagonist with a woman, toppling 1940s gender dynamics in the process. In her version, a woman can proudly brandish tattoos and boast many past lovers, too.
Soon after, Meiners took on the rendition of Freedom from Want, placing a gay couple at the head of the Thanksgiving table. Next was the lighthearted It Went Viral, in which Meiners restaged Rockwell’s famous The Gossips (1948), replacing the landlines that townspeople use to play a game of real-world “telephone” with big, glowing smartphones.