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Putin as George Washington: The Rebirth of Traditional Art




A very interesting phenomenon has been occurring in the mid-2010s - a resurgence of traditional art. Whereas traditional art, with its more realistic and rigid norms, was once what new artists rebelled against, the art world is going over half a century now (Jackson Pollock's "drip" art was made during World War II) with postmodern art as the norm.

It's no longer postmodern but rather modern. There's little daring in something like "Piss Christ" - the Christians who such an artist would hope to offend with something like that will just roll their eyes, used to such artwork. To be truly daring and innovative in 2017 is not to drip or splash but to again be precise, creating artwork that represents the subject as opposed to the perception of the artist.

Epoch Times, a conservative leaning newspaper published by the persecuted Falun Gong religious group, has published a good deal of coverage on this burgeoning movement. Milene Fernandez in March wrote their most intensive work on the subject, "A Resurgence of Art." That article has some excellent photographs of some of today's modern artists.  (I personally don't like the implication in that title that art was absent during the postmodern era - artists like Pollock were saying revolutionary and necessary at their time.)

My favorite artwork in that article is by Tony Curanaj, who also enjoyed his own profile piece in the same publication (Epoch Times really likes traditional artwork).  Check out his piece, "Oblivion," which cleverly depicts the creation of the painting which is its centerpiece:


Conservative, liberal, postmodern or traditional, it's one thing if a niche religious newspaper likes a flavor of art. It's a whole other if talk radio hosts or former presidents jump on board. Former Republican president George W. Bush is now well known for his budding art career. Starting off with self-portraits, then portraits of animals and then portraits of other world leaders, he eventually got good enough that he was able to create Portraits of Courage, an unprecedented personal portrayal of veterans who served in the conflicts that he presided over as president of the United States.

 Bush is not the only conservative figure to take on art. Glenn Beck has joined him. Following is his work "Civility," which depicts George Washington weeping rainbow colors:


The concept to Beck's "Civility" painting, according to him, was about political correctness and the idea that idea that P.C. was a "mask of civility," more concerned with calling each other out rather than actually getting along with one another. I assumed the rainbow colors represented the LGBT support of many politically correct individuals. You can buy a print on his website. 

Whatever he says, however, his George Washington looks alot like Vladimir Putin. Beck, unlike many conservatives, is a critic of Putin and the following he has. The resemblance is pretty strong and makes you wonder what was really going on artistically for Beck, especially given the friction between the gay community (which rainbow tears could certainly represent) and Putin's Russia.

A good amount of Reagan era conservatism was at odds with Hollywood. Talk radio hosts like Michael Medved (at his prime during the Bush era) spent a good amount of his program going through Hollywood films and reporting on whether or not they were family friendly. The presence of postmodern art, subsequently, so put at odds conservatives with the art world that conservative art seems antithetical.

However, that is exactly what we are seeing. Perhaps the Trump era, in which a president exists in the US that few people really particularly wanted, is the perfect storm for conservatives to face the reassessment of their own values that can be best be made through expression.

I have even tried my own hand at it:



Art can also meet the medium between traditional and experimental or postmodern. There is a creative path between the extremes of hyper-realistic portraits or drip and splash paintings. One personal favorite in this vein is Pope Francis' reported favorite painting, "White Crucifixion." The painting depicts Christ's crucifixion in the midst of the Holocaust (look closely for that). It was created in the 1930s:


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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