People sometimes wonder why most artists are politically and socially liberal. Do art schools teach this? Are only certain types of people encouraged to become artists? Or is there something innate? Is it something within the character of most creative people?
The explanation is found in the answer to that last question. A true artist is an open minded individual with a deep love for people and an unshakable faith in something larger than him or herself be it their culture, their society, mankind or God almighty. To me “liberal” means you believe in openness and freedom, for yourself and maybe most importantly, for others. This goes hand in hand with the kind of liberated, creative thinking an artist has to engage in. However there are few rare instances of artists lending their talents to serve conservative, reactionary impulses. Ironically these are also some of the more financially successful individuals in the art world. What we’re looking at is a very real kind of sell-out.
Over the months of this blog’s existence we’ve highlighted and profiled some of the artists I admire as well as people from other walks of life who inspire me. This week we’re going to talk about an artist I don’t admire or agree with, but I have to admit to envying his success.
Jon McNaughton is an American painter who does political work from an extremely conservative point of view. He seems to adhere to every crackpot right wing idea you ever heard of; liberals are evil, the right to bear arms is sacred, and Barack Obama is the devil.
McNaughton has made quite a name for himself creating paintings that depict President Obama in a very negative light. A recent painting by McNaughton is called One Nation under Socialism. In this painting, the artist depicts Obama holding the U.S. Constitution while it burns and pointing to the flame. The incendiary image quickly went viral and stirred outrage on the Internet.
Art critics questioned the merits of the painting, stating that it doesn’t really appear to be about the socialism mentioned in the title. Some feel that, rather than challenging accepted artistic conventions, and going against the “liberal” artists grain, McNaughton’s piece is just a partisan political attack created for shock value. It doesn’t promote honest discussion or understanding. Either way, it earned enough of a reputation that McNaughton was offered $300,000 dollars for the original painting.
Obviously you and I don’t agree with Mr. McNaughton’s point of view. But being a staunch liberal I will have to defend his right to create such garbage. I do this for two reasons, one because I don’t want
to be hypocritical, my stuff can be pretty confrontational also, and two because this is America where we are free to be as hateful and unreasonable as we damn well please.
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