Artwork / Apple Pie / Indian (Indian-American, Amal)

Indian-American man as a totem pole with Indian imagery
Gwenn Seemel
Indian (Indian-American, Amal)
acrylic on canvas
48 x 48 inches

I love cloud-watching. I love all the shapes and colors that the weather produces and especially the subtler variations in the grays of a “liquid sunshine” Pacific Northwest day. Indian was my first foray into cloud-painting—you can get a peek into the process in this blog post about how a hand injury influenced my style—but I’ve done it again a number of times, and I was especially successful in this piece and this one too. For this 2017 painting, it was all clouds and light.

Below is the subject’s answer to this question: what does it mean to be an American?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

- Declaration of Independence

These words are a cornerstone in United States history and for me this one sentence lays the foundation of what it means to be an American. A student of our history would know “that all men are created equal” originally meant to include only white men and excluded everyone else. Most likely that means me and you. Yet these simple words were innovative and revolutionary in their times. As our country has grown, this definition has encompassed an increasing larger number of groups and classifications of people, yet strangely that is not the word which I find to have the most meaning for me. A noun which means the act of seeking a goal. Pursuit.

The opportunity, the hope, the striving of. That is what it means to be an American. Dreams come from unbounded hope that our future and our kids’ future will be better than our past. Having been born in India I know that various cultures have nationalism and pride in their race, religion or culture believing that they are better than everyone else. Here in United States, we realize there is positive force in all cultures which we can learn from and—in that same breath—there is antithesis to that. Americans have learned health benefits of practicing yoga from India to the introduction of countless words whose origins stem from vastly different cultures but which we use interchangeably in our daily lives. At the same time we have seen the rise of protectionism and the failure to remember we all once came to American seek opportunity and escape persecution.

With regard to the obstacles and forces pushing against me, I have continued to dream bigger and larger than before. I dream of a nation that elects those who inspire us regardless of their skin color, gender or any other classification. I dream of a nation were we pray in different houses of worship but never denigrate another man’s house of worship. I dream of a nation that gives me tools for my own success but never gives me “success” and tells me this is what success looks like. I dream of a nation which rights our wrongs of our collective past through constant reflection and introspection demanding that we better ourselves. I dream of a nation filled with immigrants whose only desire is to pursue happiness and hope of a better tomorrow for their children. Sharing these dreams should be the only qualification we use to for those who wish to become an American.

To be an American is to pursue your dream and to dream big.

Let’s remember Emma Lazarus poem inscripted on the Statue of Liberty:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

- Amal

Indian-American man as a totem pole with Indian imagery
detail image
detail image