Provo, Utah (CBS Las Vegas) – In front of the White House a man is sitting on a park bench in the throes of depression. He is surrounded by all 43 presidents. In the forefront, purposefully ignoring the depressed man is President Obama, whose right foot is stepping on the Constitution. James Madison is next to Obama, pleading with him to stop.
This tableau is called “The Forgotten Man”, a painting by Jon McNaughton, an artist who is known for his politically-charged work.
The painting, which uses objects such as discarded dollar bills as symbols and scraps of paper with individual constitutional amendments scrawled onto them, has been making the rounds across the Internet.
The painting was initially released in 2010 and has resurfaced, causing a stir when it appeared for a caption contest on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s blog.
The responses have ranged from sarcastic — “We’ll trade you this peasant for that constitution. We’ll even throw in the bench.” — to Photoshop works of art.
“For a long time I didn’t know if I wanted to paint this picture, because I worried it might be too controversial,” McNaughton explains in a voice over. “(T)his man (on the park bench) represents every man, woman, and child who is an American… he hopes to find the American dream of happiness and prosperity.
“But now because of unconstitutional acts imposed by the American people by our government we stand on the precipice of disasters,” he added.
McNaughton explained his position behind the painting. “I don’t place all the blame on Obama. On my website I try to explain what each president has done,” he said. “The thing I like about the painting is that it does get people talking.”
The painting has done well since it was released. “It sold thousands,” he told CBS Las Vegas. “I sold many different sizes and editions, and now that we are in an election year I expect to sell more.”
This isn’t the first time McNaughton waded into politically charged waters.
Previously, he released “One Nation Under God,” a painting depicting Jesus holding the Constitution and judging several archetypes such as a liberal journalist, a smug college professor, and another archetype that McNaughton calls “Mr. Hollywood.”
Originally from Arizona, McNaugton currently lives in Utah. He received a full scholarship to Brigham Young University. Initially he studied art, but switched to design later on.
“I hope my work will create conversation and reach people on a deeper level,” he says on his website. “I like to use metaphor and multiple levels of meaning to reach my viewer. If it makes them think and feel, then it is successful.”
He later added to CBSLV: “I’m not trying to create an art style. I want to communicate my ideas. Isn’t that the purpose of art?”