Hey, Lana Del Rey — if you’re reading this, the folks over at the Norman Rockwell Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of the artist’s work, would like to have a quick word with you about the title of your new album, “Norman [Expletive] Rockwell!”
No, they aren’t upset by the use of the “F” word smack-dab in the middle of Norman Rockwell’s name on your latest effort. In fact, they’re thrilled by how your music — and the album’s pointed title — seems to be igniting conversations around the famed American illustrator and painter, and his influential legacy.
Apparently, it’s even getting people — perhaps on the younger side — to Google who Rockwell was, and why his name was prominently used.
Also? They’d love to have you come visit their exhibit out in Stockbridge, where Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life and had a studio — now on the museum’s grounds — that he claimed was his favorite.
Following the release of Del Rey’s explosively popular sixth studio album, the Globe reached out to Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and chief executive of the museum, via e-mail to see how the music and the record’s slightly risque name has been received by staff, trustees, and visitors alike, and what it could mean for the institute’s mission of spreading the word about Rockwell’s work and his “contributions to society, popular culture, and social commentary.”
What was the reaction of museum staff when they found out the new album by Lana Del Rey directly referenced Norman Rockwell?
It caught our attention and we were definitely intrigued. The contrast of the expletive with Norman Rockwell had what seemed to be its desired effect: to be provocative. We were excited, too, as we see this as a great cultural moment to connect with Lana Del Rey fans who may not know who Norman Rockwell was. For those who have never heard of Norman Rockwell, the use of his name may spark curiosity and invite engagement with his art – there is something universal in Rockwell for everyone.
So how did everyone feel about the...er...F-bomb?
Some Museum patrons and trustees called us with mixed reactions – depending on their ages, familiarity with Lana Del Rey’s music, and personal language formality. But most recognized that we are witnessing generational shifts in culture and use of language — what older generations find disrespectful, younger generations are expressively using.
Did anyone listen to the album?
Yes, many of us did. Lana Del Rey has a beautiful voice and her songs are evocative ballads. Even if her music was not to everyone’s taste, all appreciated her talent and her ability to paint a picture through song, much as Norman Rockwell painted soulful and heartfelt pictures. Several staff members are Lana fans; others have children who are fans.
There’s a bunch of people on social media apparently asking “Who the [expletive] is Norman Rockwell?” Does that scare the museum a little?
Not at all! Isn’t it wonderful that a new generation is now curious about this famous American artist? This is an unbelievable opportunity to introduce Norman Rockwell to a new audience. Norman Rockwell Museum, like other museums, recognizes our task to connect new audiences to a now historic figure. After all, we don’t want to be the only place preserving Rockwell’s contributions to society – the more people who enjoy and appreciate his work and universal message, the more enduring his impact.
Does the museum see this album drop as a good segue into educating younger generations about Norman Rockwell and his works?
We’re excited to add his name to the lexicon of a new generation; we hope Lana’s album sparks curiosity and inspires people of all ages to learn about Rockwell and his art. We see great alignment with topics and issues that today’s youth care about and those that Rockwell portrayed for past generations: themes of social justice, human rights, freedom of speech, food and housing security, poverty, safety, religious and personal freedoms (the Four Freedoms).
Younger visitors to the Museum always find images that they relate to; his paintings spark thoughtful dialogues as viewers observe the narratives revealed in Rockwell’s works; their sense of humanity and human connection speak to all ages. Rockwell’s paintings of life’s everyday moments remind us that we are all connected and share experiences and concerns across generations and decades.
What’s your interpretation of Lana Del Rey’s use of the name for her album? Why do you think she picked it?
Norman Rockwell’s name has become an adjective applied to conjure a certain idealistic, nostalgic view of life gone by in America. We interpret that she used his name because of the iconic images he created of people in idyllic and (mostly) optimistic settings. Based off the music on the album it sounds like she hoped her romance would be a Rockwell-like affair and it ended with disillusionment. On the one hand, is Rockwell’s world an illusion that can’t be lived up to? On the other hand, Rockwell always leaves a place for hope. America’s spirit is resilient. Rockwell captures that. And reviews about Del Rey’s album remark on her sense of hope.
Is the museum planning to leverage the public conversation around the album to draw attention to the museum itself, and its resources?
The album has invited many conversations. Our mission is to educate people to the art and life of Norman Rockwell and the field of American Illustration Art. Lana’s album absolutely presents another opportunity to connect a new generation with Norman Rockwell. Actually, we’d love to meet Lana Del Rey and invite her to the Museum.