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Mr. Welfare

For the abstract painting, I chose to analyze “Mr. Welfare” by Peter Saul. It initially drew my attention because of how brightly colored it was. All the neon colors, thrown together in what seems to be a completely random way, makes the portrait seem extremely jarring and almost uncomfortable to look at. When analyzing the content of the portrait, it becomes apparent why Saul chose to make his painting seem as shocking as possible.

Saul seems to be making a statement about the absurdity of the class system in American society by placing the “very poor” at the top of his painting, near the “high cost” and the “very rich” near the bottom, just above what seems to be dirty water. Furthermore, by making all of the graduates consume whatever is coming out of the green people, such as “warfare is legal,” he seems to be suggesting that the youth is blindly following whatever is told to them, without checking where the information or advice came from, and perpetuating the illogical class system.

Saul creates the path in “Mr. Welfare” to appear as cyclical, with no defined start or end to the painting, nor any suggestion as to what the intended focus of the piece is. It forces the audience’s eyes to wander about the painting by following the cyclical path and taking in all the absurd details he has included, with no apparent end goal. By not giving the eyes an area to rest, Saul makes his audience tired and confused, which in turn makes them confused as to what’s right and what’s wrong about our society.

As I continued to look at the painting, I noticed that the green figures seem to have features similar to the racist “Sambo doll” from the 1940’s. I think the racist and offensive undertones of the painting are there to increase the uncomfortableness of the viewer and increase the viewer’s awareness as to the absurdity of our society.

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