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Ann Rice O'Hanlon & The Memorial Hall Mural: Mural Analysis Questions

New Deal art interpretation questions

Margaret Rung, director of the Roosevelt University Center for New Deal Studies, has written an essay about studying New Deal art in Chicago that includes questions and other tools that can help guide the evaluation and interpretation of the Ann Rice O'Hanlon mural in University of Kentucky's Memorial Hall.   Some of the questions are summarized below and fall into four categories:  Sense of Place, Conflict, Artist Biography, and Art.

Rung, Margaret. "Essay: Three Ways to Study New Deal Art in Chicago." Roosevelt University Center for New Deal Studies. 2016. Accessed February 02, 2016. 

Sense of Place Questions

  • Does the mural evoke a sense of place? Which places?
  • What kinds of images did O'Hanlon use to suggest local, regional, or national themes?
  • What can you describe about Kentucky or Lexington after seeing this mural? 
  • Is this an American Scene?  Does it accurately depict life in the city/region or is it an idealized vision?

Conflict Questions

  • Does O'Hanlon portray conflict or social problems in the mural?  If so, what kind of conflict and/or problem?
  • Was the conflict(s) or problem(s) a severe one in 1930s Lexington and Kentucky?  Or, had the conflict or problem been severe in the past?
  • Does the scene suggest a solution to the problem?
  • What techniques, methods, or ways does O'Hanlon use to make the viewer care about the issue(s) she presents?

Art Questions

  • What technique or techniques did O'Hanlon use to create the mural?
  • What is the mural's visual structure, color scheme, perspective, and representational style?
  • How does the technique and style compare and contrast with other murals in the 1930s?  Other murals in the 2010s or from another time period?
  • What influences of other American art or art forms can be traced in the mural?



Artist Biography

  • What was O'Hanlon's artistic background?  How does the mural fit into the chronology of her overall artistic career?
  • Did O'Hanlon overcome social barriers (race, ethnicity, class, gender discrimination, etc.) in order to become successful?  
  • In what ways are her artistic style, background, or other characteristics similar or different to other PWAP or New Deal artists and/or muralists?
  • Did O'Hanlon perceive herself as an employee of the federal government and/or as an independent artist?
  • What impact did employment in PWAP have on her?