To illustrate Money – its purpose and its perils – we selected an artwork entitled Of Spiders and Flies, by Mark Wagner, who crafts incredibly detailed and thought-provoking art out of US currency. The figure caught in the spider’s web is a relatable one; most of us have at one time or another felt bound and entangled by money, be it the hustle of earning it or the puzzle of spending it, and hampered by its effects on relationships and interactions. (You’ll see more of Wagner’s currency art featured in Eugene McCarraher’s interview “Enchanted Capitalism.”)
What is the Plough process for picking cover art? After discussing the different directions we could go and looking at a number of proposed cover ideas (anywhere between ten or twenty concepts), the designers and editors narrow the designs down to the three strongest contestants, and then poll our Twitter followers to see how they react to the choices. While we aren’t bound to abide by the results of this poll, it does give us valuable feedback as to how the different images resonate with readers. Twitter friends, every comment is considered!
For this issue, our three final picks were a watercolor painting of a snake made of money, a more abstract Salvador Dalí artwork depicting the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, and a somewhat playful take on the theme: a man (George Washington, in fact) tangled up in a spider’s web made of money. The Bible speaks of Mammon as a false god and warns against its idolization, yet there’s no question money can be used for good purposes, and our intent with the cover was not to declare it as irredeemably evil. Thus the snake did not make the final cut. The golden calf was a strong second among the Plough staff as it speaks to the worship of an alternate god; we ended up using it elsewhere in the issue to accompany an article by Eberhard Arnold. This also gave us a chance to feature details of Dalí’s powerful work of art within the essay.
On the back cover you’ll note a painting of Saint Francis, a man of great wealth who voluntarily renounced his riches and lived a joyous life of poverty and service. Contemporary artist Daniel Bonnell rendered this painting on grocery bag paper.
The inside front cover art deviates from the topic of money; it is simply a celebration of the arrival of warmer weather and the beauty of nature. Leaping Salmon, alternately titled Jumping Sweetfish in Stream, is a Shin-hanga woodcut print by Japanese painter and print designer Ohara Koson (1877–1935).