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Hornbill #61 - The Four Turnings

Hornbill #61 - The Four Turnings

The title of this piece comes from the 1997 book The Fourth Turning by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. In this book, they define four generational archetypes: Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist, that repeat sequentially in rhythm with to the four-stage cycle of social eras or “Turnings” that have defined American society since the Colonial era. As each generation ages into the next phase of life, the mood and behavior of society changes with it, giving rise to a new turning. Thus, a symbiotic relationship exists between historical events and generational archetypes. As Strauss and Howe explain, “your generation isn’t like the generation that shaped you, but it has much in common with the generation that shaped the generation that shaped you.”


In this painting, the different generational archetypes are represented by four Rhinoceros Hornbills rotating at the center of the painting. The Rhinoceros Hornbill is the state bird of Sarawak, which is the Malaysian state where I grew up. One of the unique behaviors of these birds is that male and female mating pairs will often feed each other. In this composition, I have each of four birds in the center nurturing the next cycle or "turning". In addition, each of the subsequent "turnings" is different from the previous generation. As a visual person, this painting made the connection between generations much clearer to me than the "baby boomer", "generation X", "generation Y/Millennial", etc. terminology that I first heard after arriving in the U.S. I suppose if this painting had a theme song, it would be "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by the Byrds...from the beautiful scripture verses in Ecclesiastes 3!


Acrylic on canvas


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