Friday, September 10, 2010

Art I can Understand

I admit it, I don't understand art.  This lack of understanding spans all forms of art.  I don't seem to get paintings, poetry eludes me and dance is a true mystery.  Robyn really enjoys watching So You Think You Can Dance.  I watch it with her on occasion.  There was one particular time a little over a year ago when we were watching.  The judges on the show were crying, Robyn was crying and I was just confused.  I thought to myself, "They moved across the stage, why is everybody crying?"  I could move across the stage, and I think people would cry then too, but probably for a different reason.  I asked Robyn to explain the dance to me.  She said things like, "Look how he carries her across the stage, that symbolizes her fight with breast cancer and how she can't do it alone."  So it turns out there's some kind of secret code, that reveals these things to those who are in the know.  I'm cool with codes, if I can learn binary I can pick this one up too.

That's not to say I can't appreciate art.  I can think that a dance or a painting is pretty even if I don't understand the secret code.  But the art I really like is the kind that I do get the code.  There is some art that just makes sense.
The Kramer is one that just makes sense.  Look at Kramer, he's awesome.  That is what this piece says to me: "Awesome."
Or then there's a piece like this.  I saw this in the Louvre in Paris.  The guy's got a cleaver in his head, his skin is gray.  He's a zombie, I get it.  Robyn was offended that I took a picture of it, but who can't appreciate zombie art?

Well, why am I telling you about my art deficiencies?  This week I saw some art that had some real symbolism and I actually got it.  Not only did I get it, but it actually touched me.  So I thought I should share it with all of you.  Don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't get it, because the best part is the artist has a whole page that explains the symbolism, how cool is that?

Anyway, here are the two pieces.  (You'll have to follow the links to see them, the site wouldn't let me steal the images.)

The first is called the Forgotten Man.  The man in the center is every American.  Barack Obama stands triumphantly over the defeated constitution while FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Bill Clinton and others are applauding.  James Madison gestures to his beloved constitution while Lincoln, Washington, Reagan and Jefferson all gesture to the forgotten man, as his needs and the freedom of all Americans has been forgotten.

The second is called One Nation Under God.  The Savior stands holding the Constitution while many of those who believe in Him and in Freedom stand with him.  Those who stand against the Constitution are in the right hand corner, and dwelling in the dark where you can barely see him is Satan.  I think the imagery is so powerful.

It's not often that art moves me, so I had to share this with everyone.  Since I couldn't embed the images here is a video with some of the artists commentary about the Forgotten Man.


  1. Love it. I sure appreciate art that I can understand. I also appreciate the U.S. Constitution. I just wish more of our government did. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I'm glad you found a way for art to touch you.

  3. I looooove my Art History classes. I know art can be difficult to understand, but once you get the practice of breaking it down, it gets a lot easier.
    I'm happy to say I tried to figure out what the first piece was about, and I succeeded! The second one was a little fuzzier though, but I understand now. (Satan on the side is creepy!)
    I really want to become an art collector someday. I just think that'd be awesome to have beautiful, special things all over my home!

  4. Wow, I like those constitution pictures.

    And my brother actually has copy of that Kramer picture, in 16x20 or bigger size. His wife will not let him display it in the front room! lol

  5. This artist was at the LDS Booksellers Convention, and explained some of his other pictures to us. It was way cool!

    In the "One Nation Under God" painting, the black army guy behind Abraham Lincoln was originally Martin Luther King, Jr., but the King family wanted part of the royalties... so he painted over it, and made him a marine (named M. King if you look really closely...)

    My favorite painting of his is:

    Its not political, but very powerful (and don't worry, he explains that one too).

  6. Wow, Jen, that one is really powerful too. I guess I can appreciate art. I'll have to check out more of the John McNaughton paintings.

  7. Ah Jeff... I'm so proud of you actually liking art!

    For myself, I like the meaning of paintings to be left a bit of a mystery. That way, I can make it mean whatever I want. Unfortunately these two paintings make it hard for me to do that.

  8. Maybe you'd appreciate Bob Ross and his "happy clouds"

  9. Those were very powerful pieces of art. I believe you could study them for hours and still not pick up all the meaning. There is a painting called "The Pioneer" which has a lot of meaning for me. A lot of pieces seem to stand out at different times. I am glad you found this, it is awesome.

  10. Art, by definition, is meant to provoke. These politically biased images of his certainly do that.

    And while I will not tell someone what is "good" or "bad" art (seeing as how you know I'm a starving musician who works for a graphic design firm), I will certainly say that McNaughton doesn't know his American history.

    Unfortunately for him, most of the Founding Fathers didn't even believe in Jesus as a Savior. The majority of the Founding Fathers were Deists, who subscribed to the philosophie that there is a supreme being (Washington called him The Grand Architect numerous times in his writings/letters), but did not go so far as to believe the Jesus stories/scriptures.

    As inspired as the Constitution was and is, you will not find one mention of God or Jesus in it in terms of the government they were trying to create. The Founding Fathers were more inspired by ancient Greek and Roman ideals and philosophies, which explains the style of architecture in and around Washington DC.

    Long and short...McNaughton has fallen victim to Glenn Beckism, where the constitution has been twisted and transformed into something it was not originally meant to be. It is not a religious document. It was not created to draw people to Christ.

    Now, I am not saying that the constitution was not inspired. We know quite the opposite. But just because something is inspired does not mean it is infallible, perfect of considered doctrine. Take Christopher Columbus for example...We know from modern scripture that he was inspired by the holy ghost while on his voyage across the sea. He was inspired and used by God for God's purposes. That does not mean that everything he did afterwards was prophetic or sanctioned by God (namely the near genocide of nearly 4 million natives over the next decade by Christopher and his followers and their lack of respect to human life).

    Constitution - Inspired? Yes. Doctrinal, as implied by McNaughton? Definitely not.

    It also quite offensive to imply that anyone with a liberal stance of politics is in league with Satan, or happy that the constitution is under (any) president's foot. There is no doctrinal evidence of this whatsoever.

    Bottom line...McNaughton knows that he can sell lots of art and make lots of money off of people who are of the same political and religious mind. Shame on him. Isn't that why Christ threw out the money changers?

  11. *philosophy, my bad on the spelling in the above comment.

  12. Jeff, welcome to my blog! I'm glad you've stumbled upon my writings and though you don't agree with what you found in this post I hope you can get some enjoyment out of my more amusing blog posts.

    I would like to clarify my view on a few of the issues you've brought up. This is merely my understanding of what is represented in these pieces, it is certainly shadowed by my world view so if it doesn't accurately represent Jon McNaughton's view then I will leave him to defend himself.

    That being said, first the doctrine of the constitution: You and I both agree that the Constitution was inspired by God. I believe that God was involved in the government of this country for one reason and one alone. Freedom is important to Him. Obviously, freedom was important because without it the restoration of the gospel could not have happened. But I also believe it was important because God wants us to be free to choose to follow him.
    An oppressive government that controls our every day lives destroys those freedoms and so the Lord helped the founding fathers make a document that would be a restraint on the powers of government. In all I've read or watched from Glenn Beck, I've never seen him claim that the constitution is a religious document designed to bring people unto Christ. (I'm not claiming to have exhaustive knowledge of everything Glenn Beck has said, so if he has somewhere made that claim than I apologize for not knowing about it.) But I have seen Glenn Beck show reverence for the constitution. I hold that same reverence. However, I absolutely agree that the constitution is not a perfect document. The constitution is a big list of compromises. But it is also the document that has been modeled by countless other countries and has been the protector of freedom in our country since its inception. Part of the glory of that document is the amendment process. The founders knew that they couldn't account for everything so they created a process by which we could modify it where needed. My reverence for the constitution makes me believe that if there is a flaw in the constitution that means we need to call for amendments. It doesn't mean we need to circumvent its authority or reinterpret it to our own desires.

    President Obama has shown a contempt for the restraints of the constitution. He says it "reflects deep flaws in American culture." However, he has made no attempt to amend the constitution. He merely wishes to circumvent its authority. Whether you agree or disagree with his motives, it is hard to deny that the imagery of him standing triumphantly over the constitution, potent as that imagery may be, is an accurate representation of his desires.

  13. Continued...

    I personally do not believe that having liberal views means you are in league with Satan. I do believe that some of those depicted in the painting have certainly done the will of the devil in some of the ways they have perverted our society. The Hollywood man has made wickedness more accepted, the activist judge has wittled away at the authority of the constitution. That is not to say that all judges or all movie makers are in league with Satan, but I do think there are those who have served his purposes. I might not have included the liberal reporter in the painting if it were me. I think there is plenty of media bias from liberals but as long as they report the news honestly I don't have a problem with bias. Just like I don't have a problem with Glenn Beck's bias.

    I think the painting is trying to portray those who are fighting against the constitution and the freedoms it represents as people who are deceived by Satan. I may be a victim of "Glenn Beckism" but I do believe that any attempt to destroy the authority of the constitution is a direct attack on our freedom. I also believe that Satan lurks quietly in the shadows whispering to people that they should destroy that freedom. I don't believe liberals are evil, in fact I believe most of them want to help people and be compassionate. But I think that anyone on either side of the aisle that wishes to destroy the constitution is not on God's side. I think the Forgotten Man picture is fascinating in that it shows George W. Bush as standing there near Obama but looking wistfully over at Lincoln, Washington and the others as if he wished he could be with them. He was one who expanded government in several ways that were not exactly constitutional. I bring that up to let you know that it's not about Republican or Democrat. But it's about whether you buy into the principals of constitutional government.

    I hope that clarifies things for you. I do really appreciate that you responded articulately and intelligently. I hope you always feel welcome to share your thoughts whether you are in agreement or not.

  14. By the way, sorry for my ridiculously verbose comments.

  15. I'm all for everyone in this nation having an educated opinion on the political spectrum of America. I may not agree, sometimes passionately, with everyone's views, but that's what makes this nation great.

    However, I cannot really stand or even respect McNaughton's artwork now. I used to have tremendous respect for him...back in the days of our missions when missionaries actually carried around the 6 discussions, I had one of his paintings of the Savior as the front jacket/cover of my discussions. He has a fantastic talent.

    But to me, art is meant to unify and beautify the world around us. Yes, art is meant to provoke (good or bad), but truly GREAT art has the ability to provoke joy, happiness and unification through its message...something that these two pieces of McNaughton's simply cannot do.

    In a world this ugly, in a world this depraved and solitary, we need, truly NEED artwork (paintings, music, literature, poetry, film, etc) that bridges the gaps of anger, poverty, race, pride, class, hate, selfishness, jingoism, godlessness, self righteousness, saber-rattling, war and despair.

    True artists will focus on the goal to unify and beautify the world around them. True artists will respect their abilities to create something, and will try their best to share something that knows no bounds, age, race or political ideal. They will truly try to be Christ-like with their artistic goals in trying to reach and effect as many people as possible, without forcing them to feel one way or another.

    Unfortunately McNaughton is only trying to preach from his own pulpit. He is only trying to teach his version of truth. He is no better than the Glenn Becks and Michael Moores of this world who are there for attention and money first but showcase their opinions as news/fact. His two grossly political art pieces are not beautifying or unifying...they are only deepening the divide between God's children. My comparison of him to the Money Changers stays.

    Also, just for fun read this:

    Look over this list of things that liberals have done for this nation (under the presidencies of some of the ones who are portrayed as applauding the demise of the constitution) and tell me that they are bad people or who want to destroy the very fabric of this nation.

    Always good to hear from you sir! Keep up the great writing.



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