Snowy landscapes dominate "1934: A New Deal for Artists," an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Interpretive plaques suggest that the preference for winter scenes captured America's bleak mood, but there may be a more prosaic explanation. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was initially approved for a one-month trial in December 1933—later extended six more months—so it was cold when artists rushed to submit proposals for this Depression-era cash for creativity program.
The largely apolitical art, on display through January 10, is quiet and lovely. Among the standouts is an eerily beautiful rendition of an underpass in Binghamton, New York. Painted in oil over a photo printed directly onto the canvas, the anonymous effort is a striking make-work image of a make-work infrastructure project.
The underlying politics suggested by the show's timing have not gone unnoticed, however. One San Antonio tourist declared in the visitor's log, "We need another PWAP today!"