Bearden wanted his collages to conjure. Of course, all representational images conjure in the sense that they gather together colors and shapes to form an image of the world and in so doing call to the minds of their viewers various ideas, emotions, associations, and memories. But in making the conjur woman so prevalent in his imagery and in adopting the medium of collage, which by its very nature extracts material from the world and then transmutes it, turning so many scraps of paper into a novel physical form, Bearden suggested that he had in mind for his art an instrumentality beyond the norm, a capacity, akin to that of the conjur woman, that exceeded human limits and approximated new ways of seeing and being.
What is the individual’s ongoing relation–how does she belong–to the national culture she may serve or criticize, but which has also helped shape her life and thought? This is the question embodied by Jasper Johns’s Flag. It has never been more relevant than in the new millennium–a political moment that is the backdrop to the themes of this book.