Our Banner in the Sky is based on an iconic 1861 Civil War propaganda painting of the same title by Hudson River School artist Frederick Church, in which streaks of red and white cloud fill an early dawn sky behind a dead tree to form an almost abstract double-image of the American flag. Widely circulated in the form of a mass-produced print, it was intended to rally Union supporters, indicating a victory prefigured in the heavens. Handelman ramps up the illusionistic, visionary power of the original painting by greatly increasing its size, while at the same time cropping it to strip away its surrounding landscape. Furthermore, the flag itself has been inverted, a defiant gesture on the part of the artist to express his own ambiguity of feelings regarding national identity, ideology and morality in the contemporary political climate.

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