FLORIDA, July 6, 2012 — We are in the midst of an extremely volatile election season.
Are Jon McNaughton’s works too provocative for a political climate like this? What about One Nation Under God’s portrayal of Jesus Christ clutching the Constitution; isn’t that uncomfortably theocratic?
Religion plays a huge role in McNaughton’s life. How, specifically, does it relate to his career as an artist? What are his opinions about the future of fine art; will postmodernism continue its ascent, or might traditionalism make a comeback?
Finally, what was it that led to McNaughton becoming such a unique artist? Agree or disagree with his viewpoints, his skills are impeccable.
Find out in this second and final part of our discussion.
Joseph F. Cotto: During an extremely volatile election season such as this, some find your portrayal of the President to be needlessly incendiary. Do you think that they might have a point?
Jon McNaughton: Isn’t it great that we live in a country where we can speak our minds? The same people might have thought Thomas Paine’s writings were needlessly incendiary during our country’s founding. I will not promote violence or disrespect the office of the President, but I believe that if the American people don’t rise up and defend the Constitution and do their best to shine a light on what Obama and many of the powers in Washington are trying to do we will see much darker days in the future. It really goes beyond party lines; both Democrats and Republicans are guilty. My philosophy is embodied in my new painting, “The Empowered Man.”
Cotto: Another of your paintings, the now-famous One Nation Under God, depicts Jesus Christ standing on Capitol Hill with a Constitution in hand. Around him, Americans from all walks of life are either paying attention or looking away. Needless to say, non-Christians and advocates for the First Amendment took substantial offense to this as it appears you are suggesting that good government is in some way tied to Christ’s presence or influence. What idea, or set of ideas, are you trying to communicate through this painting?
McNaughton: I believe that the Constitution was a divinely inspired document. I am also an advocate for the First Amendment. The federal government should protect religious freedom. But the founders never meant to create a secular state where its purpose was to protect others from being offended by religion. This painting depicts the current state of our country. We are at a tipping point and Americans are making choices that will affect our destiny. I have written a ten-page essay that details why we are One Nation Under God. It is worth taking a look.
Cotto: Religion is a tremendously important aspect of your life. How does it relate to your career as an artist?
McNaughton: My art is a reflection of who I am. I think about religious questions every day. I see my work as a calling and do this out of love for my country. My heart aches as I see the downward spiral we are taking as a nation. I don’t hate people who think differently than me. I simply want my paintings to create a dialogue and perhaps cause people to ask important questions about who we are and what it means to be an American.
Cotto: What do you believe that the future of painted fine art has in store? Will there be a return to traditionalism in certain respects, or does it seem that postmodernism will continue to play a featured role?
McNaughton: Just as there are many philosophies in the world, so shall there always be diversity among the arts. I have seen a change in how people decide what to hang on their walls. It used to be they would buy art that went well with the sofa, now they want art that makes a statement; that reflects what they believe.
Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering what inspired you to become such a remarkably accomplished painter. What in your life led to this?
McNaughton: I could spend a long time answering that question, but to put it simply: I am a fiercely independent artist. By endeavoring to make my own path and not allow others to dictate how I should communicate my message, I have something worth sharing.
Casting aside the more radical aspects of McNaughton’s political views, his talent as a painter cannot be understated, or far more scandalously, ignored.
I would say that he is well on his way to securing a place in early 21st century American art history. His unique ability to portray serene landscapes and raucous crowds alike is nothing short of remarkable.
Let us hope he maintains his strong independence during the years ahead. Fortunately, something tells me that he will have no problem in doing so.
Unlike for those in public office, in the world of the painted canvas, stating one’s opinions honestly might still be a virtue. Left, right, or center, we should all be happy about this.
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