Art doesn’t often create a stir online, but artist Jon McNaughton’s controversial piece “The Forgotten Man” has done just that. The Rachel Maddow Show used the painting, which depicts President Obama standing on the United States’ Constitution, for a caption contest on the program’s blog. This contest reignited interest in “The Forgotten Man” specifically and McNaughton’s work in general, and caused a spike in visits to McNaughton’s site.
Though this particular story pushed up sales of the work and caused the artist’s site to crash due to heavy traffic, it’s not a new phenomenon for Mr. McNaughton. Depending on writers’ political leanings, McNaughton is cast as the fine artist of Tea Party or a purveyor of the Tea Party agitprop. Regardless of political persuasions, it’s clear that people have very strong views about Mr. McNaughton’s work and the impact of this can be seen online.
In fact, the peak the artist’s piece “One Nation under God” (week of 11/14/09) provoked a market share of visit 5X larger than the share the current controversy (week of 2/4/12) has created. “The Forgotten Man” was originally released in 2010 and created a stir at that time.
As interest in McNaughton’s work has escalated again in recent weeks, the source of the site’s traffic has evolved. Initially, much of the site’s traffic came from YouTube, where a video of the artist discussing his work has garnered more than 3.5 million views. The site is now receiving more of its traffic from Facebook, Google and a variety of news sources.
As the 2012 election season progresses, we can expect more “hot button” stories to emerge and capture the public’s attention. These moments in news stories starkly illustrate that sharing opinions with our social networks creates a ripple effect, regardless of which way we’re facing.
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