Do These Stripes Make Me Look Political?

A Retrospective by Ramona Otto


When I grew up on a farm in Iowa in the 1950s, the American flag was a powerful symbol. I remember the pride we all felt when leading the daily Pledge of Allegiance at Washington #4, the country school a mile from my house. The light poles in the closest small town were festooned with the Stars and Stripes throughout the summer months, and we all looked forward to 4th of July activities. It was one of the few times when my family took a day off from the work of farming to gather with friends and relatives. Everyone tried to wear some articles of clothing with the appropriate colors. Blue jeans, red bandanas, and overalls were plentiful. The morning began with a parade. A color guard made up of local veterans started the show followed by tractors decorated in flags and handmade signs. Sometimes they were pulling a wagon full of neighbors throwing out candy to the locals that lined the street.  Next came a group of children on bicycles with red, white and blue crepe paper streamers wrapped in the spokes and around the handle bars.  A couple of politicians walked along the route, beaming and glad-handing everyone. The parade was so short that it had to go around the town square twice. The first time was for enjoying the spectacle; the second time was for taking pictures.  Lunch time was a community BBQ. The afternoon was reserved for games for the kids and visiting for the adults. The grand finale was a fireworks show that had been paid for with donations slipped into cardboard boxes at all the local businesses. It ended with a display of red, white and blue against the night sky accompanied by a recording of John Phillip Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” blaring over a giant speaker atop the town square gazebo. The Stars and Stripes represented then what everyone held sacred about America, and in fact, about life itself.  We were all united in preserving it.


Today, it is often difficult for people to listen to and understand one another. I am nostalgic for conversations that end with a smile and “Let’s agree to disagree. Now where shall we eat lunch?” Old Glory has lost some of its former meanings and taken on new ones. I hope this retrospective is effective in bringing the art of our flag and all it has meant to our consciousness.

Exhibition Information:

As part of the monthly Downtown Art Walk, a reception will be held

on Thursday, June 13th from 6-8 pm in the gallery of the Fine Arts Building at 811 W. 7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Join us for Live Jazz by Granville "Danny" Young 

& tasty flavors from local Brazilian favorite, Wood Spoon.
The self-guided public art phenomenon known as the Downtown Art Walk brings thousands of art lovers and community members to an ever-evolving Downtown Los Angeles. With exciting and unique offerings around every corner, Downtown celebrates the arts on the 2nd Thursday of each month in the galleries, artist studios, and cultural institutions of the Historic Core, including the Fine Arts Building. More info at:


"Do These Stripes Make Me Look Political?" - Ramona Otto


Art Reception: Thursday, June 13th 6-8pm (Downtown Art Walk)


The Fine Arts Building - Historic Cultural Monument
811 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90017
Gallery Hours: 8am-8pm daily 


Art Meets Architecture