Chewing Gum Man History

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The Peculiar History of the Chewing Gum Man was emblematic of its time. It was produced in an era during which illustrative cartoons and nonsense prose were complimentary. Due to the popular culture landscape of the time, it was a work that was considered acceptable by children and adults alike. While its primary demographic was children, adults could appreciate the clever thematic elements and social commentary these narratives provided. The Peculiar History of the Chewing Gum Man is a handcrafted, illustrated storybook. It was authored by Gelett Burgess in 1894 in San Francisco, California. The production of this artifact is multi-layered. As a creative endeavor, it is considered a form of mixed media. The illustration is a composite…show more content…
People ascribe artistic merit to objects by determining how a given piece moves them emotionally. To that end, can the Chewing Gum Man be considered art by its target demographic? Adults have the analytic capability and critical thinking skills to make these choices. Children, at a base level, do not yet possess the full extent of these abilities. If the piece is meant for kids, we can consider it in a superficial sense. The piece immediately registers as comic. The cartoon nature of the subject provides a sense of fun and levity. It also transcends reality, and presents a view of surrealism. The focus of the object presents a giant humanoid creature made of gum stomping down a downtown street. The feelings it provides are a sense of happiness but also one of the bizarre. To some children, it may even seem frightening. The Chewing Gum Man, because of his size and presence, may be alarming to a younger audience. For adults who may read more thematic elements into, what is the social commentary that could be read into this piece? Is it appropriate to do so? In what historical context was this piece

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