High-falutin’ talk about art and artists

Last night at Grumpy’s, Jags, No Nickname Amanda, and I had a conversation about Art, Artists, and whether you can go on enjoying the art if you find out something really gross about the artist. I am not sure how we got on this topic, but it had something to do with Joni Mitchell and No Nickname Amanda’s short story about a teenager who pursues a much older man. Somehow it led us to Woody Allen.

Jags, who is something of a film buff, talked about how she doesn’t enjoy Woody Allen’s movies since he essentially married his daughter. Which is a valid complaint. However, she doesn’t have the same problems with Roman Polanksi, who can’t even come into the country because of some shennanigans with a teenager back in the seventies.

No Nickname Amanda talked about how heartbroken she was when she found out Roald Dahl was a Nazi (which was total news to me) and how she had a tough time dealing with Salinger after reading Joyce Mayanard memoir about her relationship with the reclusive author.

I’ve mentioned the concept here before, separating the art from the artist (which is a term I first heard from Largehearted Boy) and if it’s something that you can easily do.

On some level, I can appreciate and accept the art on its own merits. However, art is not created in a vacuum and what I struggle with is whether your support of art by, say, an anti-semite is perhaps tacit acceptance of that viewpoint? Is it?

I’m a big proponent of ‘voting’ with my check card. It’s the reason that no matter how grand my curiosity, I won’t read a book by James Frey or Jayson Blair. It’s the reason why, when in Rock & Roll Bookclub [before we purged the undesirables) when someone wanted to read a book by some right-wing conservative nutjob I raised a stink about how I absolutely refused. It’s the reason I haven’t been inside a Walmart since about 2001, because I refuse to spend my money at a place with policies I find so abhorrent. Of course, I realize this is a slippery slope and that most corporations by their very nature go against my beliefs (profits over people), but I do what I can when I think about it.

Is this something you too struggle with? or does it never even cross your mind?

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  1. bamboozlde 25.Jun.08 at 12:36 pm

    for actors – the more i learn about the actor the harder it is for me to suspend disbelief.

    for most other art – i don’t much care because the work seems further removed from the artist.

    which, come to think of it, is completely wrong as most art has much of the artist thrown in while it could be argued that actors do the least of this.

    or maybe with acting i just can’t get past the physical since that’s a large part of that art’s experience.

  2. rgjabs 25.Jun.08 at 1:02 pm

    Do you consider anyone who makes an anti-semetic remark to be a Nazi? Just curious how Roald Dahl was labeled as a Nazi by your friend. I am not defending Roald Dahl – just curious.

    Another thing to consider of an artist is the times in which they lived and the social norms of that era. They may not have been enlightened as you would like them to be – but they still could have been ahead of their time.

  3. Placemat 25.Jun.08 at 1:17 pm

    I think it depends on the artist & art … However, generally speaking, I have little problem with separating the two.

    While art is not created in a vacuum, I do think it has a life of it’s own. Sometimes that life my be an extension of the creators beliefs while other times, it becomes something completely different.

    Judge the work, not the maker.

    Of coarse, I’m also a firm believer never meeting your heroes, for the very reasons you mention above. So, what do I know.

  4. Peabo 25.Jun.08 at 5:53 pm

    I thought we agreed on ‘Cilantro’ for Amanda? Maybe that was just me.

    Good thing I left early–I love Woody Allen. And Roman Polanski, for that matter. Matters not to me who they sleep with.

    I won’t buy James Frey, and I won’t watch any of Michael Moore’s business because of a comment he made at an award show after 9/11. I won’t see a movie that has Lindsay Lohan in it, and when John Meyer comes on the radio I change the station because of his treatment of a high school student council and their prom before he was mr. big shot.

    So, for me it’s a matter of quality. If the art is good, the artist doesn’t matter so much to me. But, if the art is flimsy enough that it can’t capture me on its own and all of the other crap about who the artists are and what they say infiltrates my thoughts, well, then it’s probably not interesting enough for me.

    For some reason I have no problem with Roald Dahl being a Nazi (also news)….which is a little strange……

  5. Thomas 26.Jun.08 at 11:42 am

    It depends on the artist’s views seeping into the art, I guess. If I disagree with an artist’s views, and find their work to be representative of their views, then I will not like THAT art.

    I believe everyone has something worthwhile about them, something they can share. Sometimes it’s what they don’t share that contributes to the world more so than anything they did. Every action and non-action shapes the world around us, evolving it. What we share as a common experience is actually a separate reality for each one of us. You don;t like pie, I like pie. We’re both correct in respect to our own realities. If pies can make realities, then why not art?

  6. Amanda 28.Jun.08 at 12:34 pm

    He was actually a member of the Nazi party (or so said my 7th grade English teacher)

  7. Tam 28.Jun.08 at 1:41 pm

    I have a hard time separating the art from the artist. If I can’t agree with the artist, I can’t/won’t get into the art. It’s a huge reason I can’t ever read C.S. Lewis again. When I was young, the whole religion thing went over my head. Now that I know, I’m avoiding him/the movies like the plague. So not into that.

    It took me a while to get over driving a Volkswagen once I found out they employed the people in the concentration camps… but a year into a loan was a bad time to get all holier-than-thou over a car. I’m still not completely cool with it, but I rationalize by saying my grandparents worked on the railroad, not for Volkswagen. (I know… I’m not happy either.)


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