Anne Cook displays the art of ‘Allegiance’ at the Chilmark library

Anne Cooks's "Allegiance," on display at the West Tisbury library. —Anne Cook

A large American flag hangs among a selection of landscape paintings by Anne Cook, currently on view at the Chilmark library. From a distance, it appears to be nothing more than that, but closer inspection reveals text embossed onto the stars and stripes. “Allegiance” is the name of the piece, and it’s a work of art with a message. “It’s about the definition of freedom and American political values,” Ms. Cook said.

The flag was completed more than 10 years ago as part of a political statement series featuring iconic American monuments and symbols. In 2005 that series, titled “Freedom of Speech,” was included in a show at the Walter Newman Gallery in Philadelphia. The exhibition, titled “The Folinsbee Legacy,” honored Ms. Cook’s great-grandfather, the renowned American painter John Folinsbee, and his artist descendants. The flag painting has not been shown anywhere since, but Ms. Cook decided the time was right to “unfurl” it once again.

“At the time [that I created the series] I was very concerned, living under the Bush administration, about how we define freedom,” Ms. Cook said. “The work is weirdly relevant now. We’re looking at an authoritarian regime about to supplant our democracy. I wanted to bring my flag to the Island and share it with the community.”

The flag painting employs a technique of Ms. Cook’s creation. “These paintings read like tablets with text embedded in the surface like contemporary hieroglyphics,” she said of the work from the “Freedom of Speech” series. “They can best be described as Impressionism with text.”

Ms. Cook notes that the running copy on the flag painting is not intended to be read from the work itself. There are no spaces between the words and the thoughts are expressed in a sort of free-form diatribe that reads almost like a poem.

Along with her artistic talent, Ms. Cook has clearly inherited a zeal for political involvement. Her great-grandmother, Ruth Baldwin Folinsbee, was a suffragette, and first cousin of Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The artist has included a copy of the text, along with an artist’s statement, next to the painting for those interested in reading the full piece. The exhibit opened on Dec. 3 with a well-attended artist’s reception. The exhibit will hang through Jan. 6.