America's Civilized

Oil on Belgian Linen, 44" x 39.5"

What does civilization mean in America? That is the key question of this painting. The two figures represent Indigenous peoples, the original inhabitants of this country, and the first Africans kidnapped and brought to America. Wearing lace, colorful silks, jewelry, and expressions of discomfort, the women remind viewers that America’s idea of civilization was at the same time the brutal colonization of foreign land and peoples. Dressed in sharp contrast to their respective cultures, the figures seem like fish out of water, surrounded by a new colonial capital culture binding and suffocating them. It’s a painting of beauty and horror, as one oscillates between the figures’ luxurious textiles, intricate patterns, and lustrous pearls to the dismal background of long-voyage galleon ships of the transatlantic slave trade.

Inspired by Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930), Rosales’s America’s Civilized challenges the colonial foundations of America’s civilization.