(Photo courtesy of NCDPI, Instructional TechnologyDivision.)

North Carolina Belongs to Children 1994
James Converse Biggers, Acrylic on canvas
(in collaboration with John Thomas Biggers) 8' high x 40' wide

North Carolina Belongs to Children is the artist's interpretation of a symbolic map of North Carolina. In the painting, overlapping layers of transparent colors and patterns are arranged on a grid system reminiscent of traditional quilts. The underlying concept of the artwork is a landscape map of North Carolina seen as if hung on a wall. (North, as you see here, is placed at the top of the map.) Throughout the painting, the artist has included images that are official symbols of the state such as the cardinal, the dogwood, and the gray squirrel. Twelve of the symbols are included in the painting.

The bottom half of the mural contains figures of children, symbolizing our future. The children play with models, the building blocks of a strong and secure future. In the middle of the mural, two children are playing with blocks which represent cities; another child is playing golf to signify the importance of leisure and our tourist industry. A turpentine still, representing an early major North Carolina industry, is shown nearby. The potter represents the traditional potteries of the sandhills and on the right are the coastal industries. A child is drawing or etching the sunburst design seen on the Wright Brothers Memorial in another model. The ship with the sails stands for the ship that brought the first settlers to Roanoke Island; the smaller boat in front is a shad boat, another state symbol.

As the painting is studied, other meanings unfold. The Wright Brothers Memorial represents a milestone in our state's history; and because it is made of Mount Airy granite, it also represents another state symbol. The pine trees, a state symbol, represent the abundance of outdoor beauty in North Carolina as well as the natural environment inhabited by Native Americans before Europeans and Africans came to America. The domed shapes that cross the middle of the painting from left to right represent the Native American architecture of the coastal plain that is documented in the historical drawings of John White in the mid-1580s.

The older woman on the left is weaving a basket in the mountains. This represents the crafts produced in that part of the state. She also symbolizes the wisdom of elders weaving the "story of the state". The brown circular patterns in between the dogwood blossoms can be seen as cross sections of the pine cone. They also represent the box turtle whose head and tail can be discerned if you look closely. In certain African cultures, the turtle is the symbol of wisdom gained with age. The artist has interspersed the turtle with a series of developing dogwood blossoms to juxtapose old wisdom and new birth.
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