Artist or Artistry

How much should should you separate the artist from the art? It’s an old question that constantly, relentlessly becomes prescient. But seriously, how much should we separate the artist from his/her art? I genuinely do not know. The more you look into an artist’s life, the less savory the art.

Why am I so EvilTake Bill Cosby. Should his being a serial rapist (So many people have come forward, do I need to say “alleged”? At this point, I’m wondering if he raped me and I forgot.) affect the way you view “The Cosby Show” or all of the laughs he has put into the world? It’s hard not to have his personal life affect your view of his art. But it’s as okay to to say, “I can’t watch/read/listen/look at that art the same way knowing what I know,” as it is to say, “I like that art in spite of what I know about the artist.”

To stand in judgement of people who enjoy the art of reprehensible people is to be disingenuous. Anybody going to a sporting event should cringe and boo whenever they hear Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” or “the hey song” as it’s more commonly known. “Daaaaa da da da da, HEY, he was convicted of child pornography.” Sports in general are great…if you can get past the sea of athletes, fans and owners who are racist, homophobic, child beating rapists.

I have only seen a Woody Allen movie AFTER he married his step-daughter and was accused of molestation (those are mutually exclusive accusations…I’ve read). Am I supporting a gross person? Yes. Anyone paying to see a Woody Allen movie since 1997 is supporting a gross–morally ambiguous at best–person. But a person’s art should not be judged by the person who created it…I think. I honestly believe that art and how you digest it, how it affects you, does not and should not have anything to do with the person who created it. Whether or not that’s possible the more you hear about a person is a different matter. We all do it. Let’s just have the intellectual honesty to admit that our moral outrage is arbitrary.

Hear Some EvilDo you listen to and like The Beatles? John Lennon was an objectively horrible father. His lack of patriarchal responsibility is the reason why “Hey Jude” exists. I personally LOVE and will not stop listening to Michael Jackson’s music and we all know why that’s controversial. In my head, though, Jackson 5 songs alone have brought enough joy into the world to sacrifice the chastity of at least a baker’s dozen children (not me or mine, of course, but some strangers’ kids). And if you stop reading this blog forever because of that atrocious sentiment, I understand. The deeper you look, the darker the abyss.

My point is, we all make our choices about what reprehensible things we overlook in the interest of being entertained, of having the general pain of life be diminished for a moment, or maybe gain some insight on the meaning of this chaotic existence. So, unless you are constantly outraged by every injustice, every moral slip, every heinous act perpetrated by every artist ever, protesting every museum, every video store (how old am I), every music streaming service, every (unnamed denomination) church, and every theater, allow us not to judge others who still listen to or watch or enjoy or find some meaning from the art derived from the hand of a vile human being. There’s still meaning to be had in all art.

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  1. I enjoyed your commentary this morning. You are right, we are at least temporarily grossed out when we find out about someone we have initially respected. But we are all human, and stuff happens to the best of us for one reason or another. I agree that we need to separate the art from the artist….there wold probably not be any art left if the truth be known and we stood in judgment.

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  2. Since when did you get to be so fuckin profound, Pickleope?

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  3. This gives me hope you’ll keep reading my page when… well, you’ll see.

    So does this post mean that you still love Ted Nugent?

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  4. abeerfortheshower March 2, 2015 — 10:48 am

    True story: this is why I don’t learn ANYTHING about my favorite musicians because I know I’ll only be disappointed. The music sounds so much better when it’s untainted by poor life choices.

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  5. Oh yeah I am so with you on these points I liked the Crosby show and just because we now know what type of person Bill really was/is will not stop me from having a laugh watching the show although I will look at him through different eyes can’t be helped I think

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  6. How ironic that you judge the people, who choose not to separate an artist from his/her art. “1984”

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    • Am I judging the people? What’s your definition of judgement? I thought I was judging myself and trying to see that in a larger context we all pick and choose our moral judgement, which is okay, but I encourage us all to be intellectually honest about our selectiveness. I judge YOU and your misuse of “irony”! Also, why is 1984 in quotes? Is that year now in question? I’m pretty sure 1984 happened. Oh how I judge your comment. Oooooooh I’m making a judgey face right now…which is the same face I make trying to hold in a fart at a dinner party.

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      • [“To stand in judgement of people who enjoy the art of reprehensible people is to be disingenuous.”]

        I agree, and I also think the opposite is true. Why the modern herding of people into a single mind-frame? I think of political correctness, as an example. “1984” was a novel about the future of non-thinkers. Everyone had to get on board with “Big Brother’s” ideas/direction. We are closer, I think, to that expressed mind control.

        [“How much should should you separate the artist from the art?”]

        “Irony,” in the sense that while you choose to bash yourself, you include a host of others, and bash them. No one is exempt. That’s nice in a way, but why can’t other people think they way they want to? Why should it bother me what they think? You’re the flip-side of what I’ve heard from the hosts you bring up. Irony – everyone wants me to get on their wagon.

        I almost used the word, ‘discretion,’ rather than judgement, but discretion is to act or judge on one’s own. The comment I left does not include my position. There is no separation of art and artist, nor can there be… as far as I’m concerned. If I did feel that way, I’d never watch anything, past, present, or future.

        [“I honestly believe that art and how you digest it, how it affects you, does not and should not have anything to do with the person who created it.”] I agree with this.

        [“We all do it.”] I don’t agree with this.

        Judge me, judge my words, but I would stand up for your right, as much as I would the flip-side of the coin. Either way, I leave you an apology for stating an opinion, mistakenly misconstrued, as an irony. (Let the fart fly.) Ha!

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        • “No one is exempt. That’s nice in a way, but why can’t other people think they way they want to?” My entire point was/is that everyone should think about an art and artist exactly whatever way they want to think. That’s the frustration I was trying to express, that there’s a personal picking and choosing of what transgressions we’ll overlook from an artist and still enjoy the art while completely disregarding another artist’s work because of his/her transgressions, and doing so is fine.
          You don’t agree that we all pick and choose our moral outrages? I’d like to hear counter-arguments. Truly. Because–and I say this knowing full well the fallacy of personal experience–I’ve never met or seen or heard about anyone who is completely morally consistent in every way.
          “There is no separation of art and artist, nor can there be… as far as I’m concerned. If I did feel that way, I’d never watch anything, past, present, or future.” Don’t you mean you HAVE to separate art from artist or else you’d never watch anything again? If you don’t separate, are you only watching the most morally upright group of artists ever?
          The English major in me is still judging you for putting a title of a book in quotes (I’ve never heard of 1984 described that way. I’ve always read it and discussed it as the dangers of a police-state, but I like your description of “non-thinkers.”) The other side of me enjoys a bit of healthy debate, and I thank you for that.

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          • “My entire point was/is that everyone should think about an art and artist exactly whatever way they want to think.” I totally agree and have missed your focus in this post. My initial interpretation was that you thought we should all think the same way, and to do so is unacceptable.

            There is no separation of art and artist, nor can there be… as far as I’m concerned. If I did feel that way, I’d never watch anything, past, present, or future. Correction to my original statement. The word did was supposed to be the word didn’t.

            “You don’t agree that we all pick and choose our moral outrages?” Pickleope, I used to do this. I understand what you’re saying. Through personal reflection I know my mistakes are not less than someone else’s. We have enough armchair quarterbacks who would be judge and jury. I choose to remain neutral.

            “I’ve never met or seen or heard about anyone who is completely morally consistent in every way.” To go there we begin to set definitions of what morality is. I don’t wish to go there. There at at least a million individuals or groups willing to give me their definitions. Most don’t take rejection lightly. I have met one person I consider to be morally consistent in every way… but that can always be challenged by someone with a different definition.

            “The English major in me is still judging you for putting a title of a book in quotes (I’ve never heard of 1984 described that way. ” Usually I cannot get the comment box to accept anything in italics, so I used the quote symbols. I’ll try again, after all this is wordpress, not blogspot. I won’t know if this works until I submit it. Nevertheless, judge away; I’m content accepting the limitations. Italics here > 1984.

            “The other side of me enjoys a bit of healthy debate, and I thank you for that.” You’re quite welcome, and thank you.
            (And I see that italics of 1984 did not work. Neither did the underline function. I might need to investigate comment code instead.)

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          • Nothing more needs be said. You are wonderful, DCRelief, thank you.

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  7. I like to think that artistry transcends the artist. But then, I get to decide which people I think are artists. I think most of Woody Allen’s movies are brilliant. He was not convicted of molesting his daughter. The judge said that his behavior with his step-daughter was inappropriate because she had grown up with him as a father figure. The daughter is an adult. She maintains she was assaulted. I might see a Woody Allen movie, walk out of the theater only to see him passing by, and say, I loved your movie. Then I’d spit on the ground on which he walked. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has stereotypical female characters: the ball breaking nurse and the hooker with a heart of gold. I think it’s a great book. We also have to take into consideration when the work is/was created. Different time periods have different points of view. The Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales has gone from being described as a nasty woman, a typical gossiping shrew, to an astute, assertive businesswoman. Bill Cosby’s behavior bothers me a great deal. But I don’t know why we’re suddenly making a big deal out of it. These allegations were made years ago and didn’t get so much air play, I guess because his TV show was such a huge hit. I continued watching and enjoying his show at the time. I could probably enjoy it now. I don’t want to go out to dinner with him, however.

    Love,
    Janie

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  8. I hear ya, and I struggle with this sometimes. For example, i HATE chris brown. He’s a slimey childish woman beater. And yet, I own one (just one) of his songs. But I would prefer it if society outcasted him forever.

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  9. Good stuff, Pickleope Von Pickleope.

    I haven’t watched a Woody Allen movie since he married his step daughter, but I already thought he was creepy.

    I’m selective with who I boycott, but even that’s selective. As a general rule, I don’t support anti-Semites. If I took that to the extreme, though, I wouldn’t ever go to Disneyland with my nephew. (Walt Disney was blatantly anti-Semitic). We love going there together, so I’m not giving it up. Besides, Disney’s dead.

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  10. Somehow I’m sure that if he raped you, you would remember. But, yeah, you’re right… it’s hard not to have an artist’s personal life affect your view of his art. Every time I watch the Naked Gun and I see his funny face, somehow his art (art, really?) is not so funny anymore. Maybe we are too weak, too incompetent…. to, you know, separate the two. You’re not?

    Plus I’m brilliant, my posts are crap, so I hope you can distinguish between the two.

    On a serious note, I’m impressed by the blatant truth of yet another impressive pickleope sentence (yes, it’s a brand): we all make our choices about what reprehensible things we overlook in the interest of being entertained. I look in the mirror and nod.

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