Democracy and Youth
“Democracy and Youth” was painted in casein tempera on the asbestos fire curtain in the Wilson Auditorium by Carlos Dyer. Dyer had graduated from Wilson High School in 1933. The mural covers the entire curtain, though perimeter areas have been left dark, and figures in the distance appear to be fading into the beach-like horizon. This was an intentional design, denoting the uncertain future of students as they go off into the world upon graduation. According to a 2001 interview with Dyer at the Wilson campus, he used East Side landmarks (power lines, a DC-2 airplane, and oil derricks found not only in Signal Hill but in nearby Alamitos Heights). He depicted school life, such as an artist painting, science class, music, even a school fight over a girl (inset). Dyer represented the ethnic diversity in the city at the time with a few students of Asian, Latin, and African-American descent, which Marilyn Wyman, a publicist on New Deal art, finds to be rare. In the background, young people clad in graduation gowns are walking off with their backs to the viewer. The entire scene is quite inspirational and poignant. Dyer’s enthusiasm for his school days and the importance of education is captured in the cryptically-organized slogan he painted at the base of the mural (Capitalizations are Dyer’s): “Let us seek here TRUTH in the name of LIBERTY and peace, justice and TOLERANCE democracy.” Or, should it be read as “Let us seek here democracy. TRUTH in the name of LIBERTY and peace, justice and TOLERANCE?” This saying is purported to be written on the cornerstone of the school. The scene is framed with a historical perspective of Wilson, reflecting the arcade at the entrance to the school in the color green, which the school was painted at the time.
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