It Is Impossible to Separate the Artist from Their Art

Face the uneasy fact that you cannot separate the art from the artist, and your support for their work provides validation of the artists actions and ideologies.

Here is the key to this entire argument, right up front.

Everybody is an artist, and they themselves are a product of their own creativity.

(or lack thereof)

From the idealist perspective, there could be no more apparent truth. The self arises as a manifestation of the individuals concept of their own self. We are our own ‘ontological primitives’, as a friend of mine would say. We are the great masters that make the grass green, which includes the apparent form that is utilized in our own experiences of self. Each of us appears as the objective image of our own internal narrative of who we are.

However even from a normative realist/materialist perspective, psychology and other scientific disciplines tell us pretty much the same thing. The self is a self construct. While it takes clues from the historical and circumstantial narratives of its environment, we are the ultimate curator of who we are. Whether you color inside the lines or disregard them entirely, who you are depends on what you put into being you.

Those with a lack of abundance in creativity will simply absorb the most normative narratives and scripts of those around them. Though I admit it appears quite condescending, these are the folks I sometimes call non-player characters, low stakes rollers on the wheel of free will.

Those who have demonstrated a capacity for creative achievement are therefore seemingly more self-responsible for their character flaws and ethical deficiencies. In the case of the artist, the ultimate work being their own self, their personal issues are also their art.

Their other works of art then arise from the same source as their shortcomings, and are therefore also a reflection of them. Their art is a product of the same maligned inspiration and motives of their ideas and actions. The art and the artist are inseparable.

When you support art, you support the artist’s character flaws. When you promote art, you promote the artists personality defects. When you advocate for art, you advocate for the artists maligned motivations. The consumption of art in a capitalist system of centralized celebrity provides rewards to the artist, whether it be fame, fortune or simple credibility. The art and the artist are inseparable.

It is convenient, opportunistic and intellectually lazy to attempt to escape this logic, but that does not change the outcomes. Artists with a fan base thrive, even if they are complete and utter bigots, blowhards and/or hypocrites. And they set the tone for what kind of art and artists receive support from the system and its dependent audience. In effect, you also become one with the artist and their art, and share equal responsibility in the perpetuation of depravity they represent.

You cannot separate art from the artist. To claim you can is to announce that you are in denial of the consequences of your decisions. That is no high ground, my friend.

There is no inconsequential support of art or the artist. As a creator myself I value each and every show of support, promotion and advocacy greatly. Regardless of whether the person giving them means only to reward my work, I regard each of these as an act of personal encouragement. And when I am derided or ignored, that feels personal, too. And when someone donates because they appreciate what I am doing, that helps me be able to do more of it. Ahem….I said, when someone donates…

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8 thoughts on “It Is Impossible to Separate the Artist from Their Art

  1. Hmm… I’m not sure what I think about this argument. On the one hand, I do see exactly where you’re coming from: How can I take the art of the artist without also perpetuating the best and worst of the artist him or herself? But on the other hand, I don’t think it makes me a Nazi sympathizer if I enjoy the music of Wagner or the fashion of Hugo Boss. I think it’s important to think about what my love for a creation says about the creator, and as usual context is everything so I’m generally receptive to your argument, but I think this is a situation where I’m gonna have to say that this is something I feel conflicted about and am not sure where I fall in the conversation.

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    1. Having personal standards and boundaries consistent to ones own ethical beliefs is a way of affirming our most valuable self concepts. Simply put, you owe it to you to keep your consumption in line with your interests.

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    1. Which is a point I made near the end. Through art, the beholder becomes complicit with the artist.

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  2. So what about artist who are blameless, that do art for the pure enjoyment of it and have few social or ethical faults with no expectation of profit or influence? Millions do art but only a handful do well at it but the masses make art anyway and not for any ideological expression other than the recognition of what is thought beautiful. I guess all that says about that artists is they like doing art. The joy of creation is for many it’s own reward.

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  3. really late reply here (I also found this post because I just wrote something about the same subject and wanted to see what other people had to say) – but I gotta say I agree with you. I mostly cannot separate the art from the artist. But I do believe it does depend on what exactly they did. If it’s something like sexual assault or some type of abusive behavior, I wont be able to look at that persons work without that coming to mind. Not only that but I, personally, would not want to support someone who did that. But if it’s something “minor” like maybe reports of that person being rude or something like alcohol or substance abuse that they got over then I do think it’s possible (if they showed that they changed). I also think sometimes – when it comes to those who showed abusive behavior – you look at their work after knowing that and you can kinda see “signs” of that in their movies or whatever they do.

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    1. The more I challenge myself to curate my appreciation, promotion and support of an artist in line with my principles, the more fun it becomes. There is just so much music, film, comedy and literature out there that one can cut out the aggressive and malicious and still have plenty to enjoy while enjoying the rewards of being scrupulous.

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