Separating Art From The Artist
Are you capable of separating art from the artist?
Does the knowledge of an artist’s crimes, misdemeanors, or personal character flaws damage the ability to see their art work for what it is?
Should we judge a body of work by examining the person who created it or should we judge it in complete separation from the artist?
My video response below:
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An artist may produce work of such fine skill and merit, but may also have characteristics which make them questionable or even immoral. If these negative traits are present in an artist, it may impede on the way some people view their artistic output. It can certainly provide context to particular works. However, the quality of an artist’s work should not be judged on an artist’s personal life. Their personal life does not equate to a reduction of quality in work.
Separating Art from the Artist: Can you do so with the following people?
Woody Allen– Had an affair with his wife’s step daughter, later married her. He was also accused of sexually molesting his daughter, Dylan Farrow (found innocent of charges).
Richard Wagner (Composer) – Extreme Anti-Semite.
Coco Chanel (Fashion Designer) – Slept with Nazi officers, was an Anti-Semite and was rumored to be a Nazi intelligence operative.
Mathew Broderick (Actor) – Accidentally drove into a mother and daughter in Northern Ireland, killing both of them. He was charged with reckless driving, fined $175.00 and served no prison time.
Jay Z (Musician) – Pleaded guilty to stabbing a music producer.
Roman Polanski (Film Director) – Pleaded guilty to drugging and raping a 13 year old girl. He later fled the US to avoid prosecution.
Jerry Lee Lewis ( Musician) Attempted to kill Elvis Presley.
Tupac Shakur (Musician). Charged with a number of assaults (including shootings) and sexual assaults.
R Kelly (Musician) – Charged with assault, married an underage girl, and accused of a number of sexual involvements with underage girls. He was also indicted on 21 counts of child pornography.
Michael Jackson (Musician) – Accused of sexually abusing a number of young boys. Settled out of court over one of the accusations and found innocent of all other subsequent charges.
James Brown (Musician)-Arrested a number of times for inflicting domestic violence.
Walt Disney (Founder of Disney) – Disney was a racist, an Anti-Semite, a misogynist, and a ferocious anti communist.
Pablo Picasso (Painter)-Picasso was an excessive philanderer and also had a sexual relationship with a 17 year old girl whilst married.
Ezra Pound (Author) – Anti-Semite.
Caravaggio (Painter) – Killed a young man during a drunken brawl.
Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman, Comedian)- Charged with public indecent exposure and accused of possessing child pornography.
Phil Spector (Music Producer and Songwriter). Found guilty of murdering B movie Queen Lana Clarkson.
Mel Gibson (Actor/Director)-Accused of being an anti-Semite, a homophobe and a misogynist.
Ike Turner (Musician/Producer)- Physically abused wife Tina Turner.
Bill Cosby (Actor/Comedian) Cosby has been accused by at least 57 women of a combination of rape, sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The court case ended in mistrial.
Theory Relevant to the Process of Separating Art from the Artist
Splitting: Splitting is a psychological defence mechanism, often utilized by children to comprehend parental behaviour. Many young children are unable to see their parents as flawed beings. This mechanism is also present in adults.
Splitting divides the perception of the world into a good and bad binary: If a child loves the parent they will embrace the good and completely ignore the flaws. There generally is no personal relationship between the viewer and the artist, therefore the art work is an adequate representation of the artist for the viewer. If the viewer hates the art they will hate the artist. If the viewer loves the art they will love the artist.
There is the belief that all art work is a reflection of the artist’s life experiences and beliefs. It can be hard to appreciate the output without knowing the background of the artists and the context in which the art work was created. Nothing is created in a vacuum and everything is a product of its own paradigm. Separating art from artist is a disservice.
There is also the irrational and illogical belief that art work is more enjoyable when the viewer likes the artist. Disliking the artist ruins the experience of the work.
I believe that there should always be a separation between art work and artist. The personal life of an artist has no bearing or relevance on the QUALITY of the work. However, it can affect the context and narrative of the work.
The extent of my appreciation and separating art from the artist will differ. For example, I am a fan of many of Roman Polanski’s films. He’s an amazing director. As horrid as his crime was, it does not stop me from indulging in his films. Nor does it stop me from having Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and Death and the Maiden in my film collection.
I consider James Brown to be the godfather of funk. I don’t condone the physical violence that he has inflicted upon women. However that doesn’t stop me from collecting his music and displaying his albums among my vinyl collection. I would not feel any remorse in displaying Polanski film or Brown music memorabilia.
I don’t have an issue watching a Disney movie . I’ve visited many Picasso museums and I would have displayed copies of his work in my home.
Adolf Hitler painted. I don’t particularly like his paintings. However, I could acknowledge that his paintings were good quality if I believed them to be. I would never be able to collect or display any of his work for obvious reasons. It would bother my conscious. That’s my limit when it comes to artistic appreciation. I have to ask myself two questions:
Do I feel guilty consuming this artist’s output?
Can I purchase/display the artist’s creations?