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February 6, 2012

Drudge, Tea Party Impressionism and the “Fine Art” of Obama Bashing

With news outlets so reliant upon either photojournalists or Photoshop for their visual content, it’s uncommon for an oil painting to find its way onto the front page. Yet for the second time now, and with Matt Drudge providing exposure, Utah artist Jon McNaughton – whose paintings often depict what he describes as “religious and patriotic subjects” – reminds us that the painter’s brush can still drive a story.

McNaughton’s latest painting, “The Forgotten Man,” turns one of the Tea Party’s favorite verbal punch lines – that Barack Hussein Obama is trampling the U.S. Constitution – into a feast for the eyes.

It’s not enough for McNaughton to choose James Madison (the solomonic political genius whose constitutional compromise established African slaves as 3/5 human) as the one who is most distraught at seeing 3/5 of Obama’s shoe stepping on the sacred document. Nor is it enough that McNaughton’s forgotten man be a despondent white male. As a visual nod to Obama’s progressive (read: “unconstitutional”) genealogy, McNaughton depicts Bill Clinton and the two Roosevelts, Franklin and Teddy, in supportive applause.

“The Forgotten Man” isn’t about history, though. Rather it gives us a candid view of the version of history that energizes the Tea Party imagination. No surprise, then, that it’s the painter’s brush – not the camera – that brings us this image of how things are.

– Phil Perdue

(painting: Jon McNaughton)

  • Mike

    This is hilarious—Franklin Roosevelt was just faking his paralysis!

    And the president most emotionally affected by the plight of the forgotten man?  Ronald Reagan.

    • Jay Schiavone

      Fitting, since Reagan would be the President most likely to forget someone.

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com/ Stan B.

    Too funny! And is that W on Obama’s side? Way too funny!

    Dang! White boy’s so damn lazy he won’t even pick up all them dollar bills off the ground- no wonder he’s so down and out

    • Robert Hariman

      Looks like a drug addict to me.  Lots of them are, you know.

    • jonst

       ”white boy”?  Repulsive.

  • Jaygeeoh

    And isn’t that Nixon, in the background, trying to figure out how to pick everyone’s pockets?

  • Glenn

    And isn’t George W. Bush smirking?

    Actually, I don’t have a problem with it – it’s a political cartoon in oil (or acrylic). But for political commentary art, I prefer this guy:

     http://alexanderschaefer.blogspot.com/

  • aml_reads

    a few funny things in here.  TR is on the “Democratic’ side here while Andrew Jackson is on the “Republican”.  Abraham Lincoln, who arguably committed various impeachable acts is distraught while Nixon and Ford are pushed to the background.  Its hard to tell whether Bush the Younger and JFK are supporting tut tuting Pres. Obama.  Weird

  • John

    So basically Mr. Perdue’s defense of Obama is to call the founding fathers racist and attack the constitution based on the 3/5 voting clause.  That’s because there is no constitutional defense for Obama.

    • quincyscott

      Um, you lost me there, bro.

      How has President Obama so horribly trashed the Constitution?  Did he do something more egregious than Lincoln suspending habeas corpus, or Bush legalizing torture or using warrantless spying?  This vision of Obama as some unprecedented, radical threat to America does not fit the reality of what he has actually done while in office, which to my mind has been pretty mainstream stuff, well within the bounds of what those other forty-three guys did when they held the office.

      And if President Obama has indeed committed some awful offense that is beyond the pale, congress can always impeach him, right?  That’s a part of the Constitution that you claim to know and love.

    • quincyscott

      Um, you lost me there, bro.

      How has President Obama so horribly trashed the Constitution?  Did he do something more egregious than Lincoln suspending habeas corpus, or Bush legalizing torture or using warrantless spying?  This vision of Obama as some unprecedented, radical threat to America does not fit the reality of what he has actually done while in office, which to my mind has been pretty mainstream stuff, well within the bounds of what those other forty-three guys did when they held the office.

      And if President Obama has indeed committed some awful offense that is beyond the pale, congress can always impeach him, right?  That’s a part of the Constitution that you claim to know and love.

    • Bugboy

      Dear John.  

      Mr. Perdue is not defending President Obama.  He is giving his analysis of the Utah artist’s painting you may or may not be able to see above.  If you think you are here to represent the “away” team, I think you got off the bus at the wrong stop.

      Thank you and have a nice life.

      Bugboy

  • http://profiles.google.com/philboid Philboid Studge

    How did F. Murray Abraham get in that painting?

  • DWhite

    GW Bushes expression and finger pointed out says: “now wait a minute, I did the same thing”

    • Anonymous

      Bush seems to be pointing out and reminding everyone that it was he himself who said, “It’s just a (goddamned) piece of paper!”

  • DWhite

    GW Bushes expression and finger pointed out says: “now wait a minute, I did the same thing”

  • Boomerangst

    I think the guy sitting on the bench is Robert Redford.

  • Thomas

    I think it’s a real misunderstanding of the art of painting to suggest that because it isn’t as “realistic” as photography it is somehow fundamentally less suited to the effective communication of a person’s views. Am I misunderstanding or is that really what that concluding sentence means? That Tea Party delusions are suited to painting because painting itself as a medium is not as real or as true as photography?

    • Phil Perdue

      The point here is not to stake out a position on which medium is better suited to the expression of views, or which medium can provide a more “realistic” representation of the external world. 

      In a photocentric political culture, however, it’s not entirely irrelevant that this particular image comes to us by way of a medium that – unlike photography – is effectively unconstrained in terms of available content. In a sense, a painter can literally create worlds. All the more reason, then, to read this painting as pure fantasy, for it comes to us constrained only by the powers of McNaughton’s imagination.

  • kenneth beserk

    I like how menacing Nixon looks. I think we can all agree that that’s pretty historically accurate.

  • Rima

    Sorry. I’m having trouble telling Martin Van Buren and Franklin Pierce apart.

  • Cloudypurplemountain

    The hands sure speak in visual terms.

  • Anonymous

    Who are all the guys surrounding the black dude sitting on the bench on the other side of the park. Looks like… looks like… can’t tell if it’s the cops- or the safety net!

  • Anonymous

    Art inspired by faith has long been a recipe for kitsch.  Great paintings like The Adoration of the Magi survive because they are great paintings, but they are uncharacteristic of the huge number of painings just on that theme alone.
     
    It turns out that there are artist-Scientologists.  The rule for religious artists seems to be that the “meaning” of the work be straightforward – no guessing as to what it’s about – and the art work must not clash with the decor.  It helps if you can claim your effort as “fine” art, the better to justify the prices.  But “Forgotten Man” is a bargain at a modest $795 with a standard frame.
     
    It’s too early to judge the Latter Day Saints by the art work they produce.  I suspect this generation will not go down in history as a Golden Age of Mormon art.  However, don’t dismiss McNaughton’s earlier work, “Joseph Smith Meets God,” as overwrought sentimentalism.  It doesn’t clash with the decor, and you don’t have to guess what it’s about. 
     
    Incidentally, what is James Madison doing in the painting?  It looks like he’s taking the snap from center.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    Look for example at the placement of JKF and W. W’s on the outs with everyone, even the far-right. So he gets placed in the Obama camp but looking and pointing at our White Man Who Needs Help. JFK though is now a part of the American myth so he gets put in the Washington/Lincoln/Reagan camp, but the myth clashes somewhat so he’s facing the Obama camp and pointing in the “wrong” direction.

    This is one for the time capsule. It perfectly encapsulates a particular set of ideas that will look downright bizarre 30 years from now. There’s timeless kitsch and then there’s dated kitsch.

  • Tardigrades

    And OF COURSE there are no women… only guys with long hair.

  • Michael Shaw

    Ask not what your country can do for you, but … whoops!

  • Michael Shaw

    Ask not what your country can do for you, but … whoops!

  • marc sobel

    http://danielkeysmoran.blogspot.com/2008/08/america.html  Painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware   Caption: America, We’ll kill you in your sleep on Christmas.

  • Pingback: “The Forgotten Man” Goes Viral | THE ROYCROFT REPORT

  • Sirius_TheStarDog

    Something surely must have died.
    The flag over the White House is flying at half staff.

  • LanceThruster

    Once again, Tea Party ignorance is on display in all its glory. Liberal depictions of reality are usually content with cartoon caricatures of Conservative perfidy such as Shrubya wiping himself with the Constitution (vulgar to be sure, but far more accurate).

    “Me fail history? That’s unpossible!” – Your random Tea Party Goober (with apologies to Ralph Wiggums)

  • http://hotelsneardelhi.com/river-rafting-rishikesh/ Riverrafting

    Ha ha.I have never seen such a hilarious painting.Hats off to the imagination and wittiness of the artist. 

  • Dan

    This painting brings home what a lot of people feel about what Obama is doing to our country.

  • Ralfast

     No, he just keeps doing the same things that Bush did but more of them and Congress won’t impeach him because Empire is always good for the Congressional soul.

  • karen h

    It’s interesting. If you go to the artist’s website, he uses this man as an every man in another painting. Obama is on stage, behind him are a group of men which includes an Arab sheik. The audience listening to Obama is happily cheering the president while they are wrapped in chains. Every man is the sole person trying to saw through the chains. The painting is under the “most popular” section of the website. There are a couple other “historical” paintings, particularly one in which Jesus presents the US Constitution to a cast of characters which includes symbolic representations of good and evil: liberal media, Hollywood, etc. The rest are landscapes and religious works.

  • Thomas

    I see what you mean. And though obviously every single image we see is manipulated both in terms of its structure and context, we do consume an enormous number of deliberately manufactured “fantasy” images (see previous discussions of GoDaddy superbowl ads!) that are an increasingly dense mix of animation, stagecraft, illustration, photography, and so on. Fairey’s Hope poster, for example, with its retro alliterative styling of a contemporaneous news photo, or the Obama Joker, a Warholesque screenprint of a modified movie still. Living in a commercial culture I think we are all of us, left and right, getting pretty good at parsing the sources and intentions of these things, so I’m not sure any one image-generating technique is on its face a better indicator of ideological legitimacy than any other. After kicking this around a bit I’m wondering if the issue isn’t so much that it is fantasy, but who the fantasy comes from: one unattached, unsupervised person.

    It isn’t just oil paintings we rarely see in the image stream, it’s any image at all that manages to circumvent the conventional permission structures. That is, the New Yorker superbowl cover was also painted, but we understand it to be so heavily edited, vetted, designed, discussed in committee, and ritualistically presented in an established forum that it comes off like a familiar and knowingly adroit joke from a Johnny Carson monologue. A public image conceived in public. McNaughton, however, is apparently one guy in front of a canvas (like a blogger!) who paints without anybody’s permission and distributes without any controls. And while it could very well be that the hyper-traditional visual language (the old-master palette, two-point perspective, figurative, narrative, representational, historical tableaux) is more appealing to conservative tastes, it seems just as likely that they are responding to the heroic individualist trope of its creation. The image doesn’t come from a museum or university or corporation or organization or institution. It wasn’t produced under any delegated authority other than the artist’s own convictions. Don’t get me wrong, I think McNaughton’s paintings are laughable and disastrously ill-conceived.  Yet you’re right when you say, “it comes to us constrained only by the powers of McNaughton’s imagination.” Surely this could just as easily be understood as praise rather than disparagement? I mean, that’s certainly exactly where artists want to be.

  • Anonymous

     

    Today
    there are more African Americans under correctional control, whether
    in prison or jail, on probation or on parole, than there were enslaved
    in 1850.I don”t know about the world you live in, but in mine, actions speak louder than words- your petty little reply is quite indicative of the world (and country) you live in, and the one you don’t.

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