Andrew Breitbart was famously fond of saying that politics is downstream from culture. American culture is in the gutter so you can do the math to figure out what that says about our politics. I’ve long been convinced that as liberty minded people our primary concern should be reestablishing ourselves as part of American culture instead of letting the left enjoy all the influence their art, music, and movies have on the the politics downstream.
It’s an important thing to do, but there is a right and wrong way to do it.
This week a painting of Donald Trump is getting a lot of attention and it’s being called “powerful” and “provocative.” It’s neither.
I’m not going to say this isn’t art. I abandoned my pursuit of a MFA degree primarily because I couldn’t stand the preening leftists constant urge to define what is or isn’t art. In my opinion art can be anything. When I was an engineer I worked with pipe fitters whose work I would qualify as art because of it’s precision and quality. Art is art, but there is good art and bad art.
No knock against Jon McNaughton’s skills with a brush—he obviously has some talent—but this sort of painting shares more similarity with the images in communist propaganda than it does with powerful, provocative art. It’s really just an incredibly detailed political cartoon.
Jon McNaughton’s new painting, depicting President Donald Trump clutching an American flag on a football field, sparked Fox News commentator Sean Hannity to poke “the left” on Twitter by asking for reactions to “provocative” art.
The painting aims to laud Trump for speaking out against professional football players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality, says McNaughton, who calls himself a “political painter,” in a YouTube video launching “Respect the Flag.” NcNaughton has painted a series of controversial paintings that are favorites of conservatives, such as Hannity, and the painter underscores their friendship on his website.
Politically motivated art is usually bad art. It spoon feeds an obvious message requiring not thought on the part of the person viewing the art. McNaughton’s art is Trump hero worship delivered on a brickbat. It is idolatry.
It reminds me of this monstrosity that has been floating around the internet for a while. (I don’t know who painted this image of Jesus literally guiding Trump’s hand as he writes executive orders. It is neither Christian nor American. It’s like if Norman Rockwell had been a Branch Davidian. Anyone who fancies himself a Christian and a Patriot who is using imagery like this needs to do some self reflection.)
One of McNaughton’s other paintings entitled “You Are Not Forgotten” paints also paints Trump as a Messiah figure, depicting the President standing on the head of a snake—an obvious allusion to messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15. What Sean Hannity deems “provocative” art is something I’d expect to see being sold at a Stuckey’s next to velvet Elvises or paintings of sad clowns.
Also, remember when Sean Hannity and other “conservative” pundits used to incessantly make fun of Democrats portraying Barack Obama as a Messiah? Now they’re resorting to the same inane behavior for which they mocked leftists. McNaughton’s painting actually had a spot on Fox News this morning, complete with an interview. It’s embarrassing.
It is certainly no way to win ground in the fight for American culture. Self described conservatives are too often explicitly ignoring popular culture because of its left wing bias. They offer nothing as an alternative. Kira Davis wrote recently that conservative parents need to stop raising pundits and politicians. Parents, encourage your kids’ interests in the arts. Let them become artists, musicians, actors, writers, comedians, etc. Their values will shine through their work and help bring balance. Leaving the response to leftist culture to political sycophants and cultists like McNaughton won’t sway anyone to the cause of liberty.