The World Takes is a painting that examines wealth distribution and inequality in the United States by considering a small region of New Jersey as a sample of greater America. The artist's experiences, biases, and observations of this place have become intertwined as the painting portrays the town where she lives. And she is unable to separate her feelings and memories from her depiction.
In this work, representations such as architecture and foliage appear alongside areas of abstraction to codify the unseen aspects of the place such as sound, smells, and weather. In this particular region, there is a striking distinction between the extremes of wealth and poverty. This is apparent on a visual level from the proximity of the houses to the upkeep of the neighborhood, buildings, and landscaping.
This work is emblematic of the state of those cities that were once great centers of industry before manufacturing moved overseas. The title of the piece The World Takes comes from “Trenton Makes The World Takes,” a slogan written in large lettering on the Lower Trenton Bridge which can be seen when passing by the city of Trenton.
Recently, there has been some interesting research on the lower-income populations of Trenton, NJ. The basic question that Eldar Shafir and his colleagues investigated was whether the poor are somehow different in terms of their long-term thinking, willingness to take risks, and decision making in general. It could be argued (and often is) that the poor are somehow less adept than the rest of us, that they have a lower cognitive ability and therefore make lousy financial decisions. The research, however, shows no evidence of this, and in some cases the poor turn out to make more rational choices than the non-poor. The root of the differences between the rich and poor stems from the very definition of poverty – the poor simply have fewer resources. It may help our understanding to conceptualize budgets as suitcases. If you are rich, it’s like having a huge suitcase; you can pack whatever you want without any problem. You can throw in an extra towel and four pairs of shoes, just in case. Being poor is like having a very small suitcase; you have to think very carefully about each item you take and for every item that you add, something else has to go. You are constantly making tradeoffs, having to choose between paying rent, the credit card bill, or food and diapers. And finally, you have to spend a lot of time organizing and reorganizing the suitcase so that everything fits, demanding more time and energy to manage complex affairs. If we grasp the constraining nature of this context, we can see that anyone would have a difficult time under such duress.– Dan Ariely