Sunday, February 14, 2010

An artist's responsibility

The job of an artist is to create things that can entertain, enlighten and even provoke people. To be an artist is seemingly not difficult. Everything that exists in the world today is a form of art. Not just the books and the movies and music and pictures that we normally imagine at the term "artist", but the very objects that surround us every day. From the highest technology to the most mundane of objects - all are a form of art that creates the fabric within which we all exist. From this point of view, it would be easy to believe that everyone is an artist.

But those are not the artists to which I refer. No, the artists to which I refer are those who deliberately set out to create the objects which others recognize as art. It is they who set out to inspire with their creations. It is they who imagine the future and create it with their hands. It is they who challenge the beliefs and understanding by which we live. Indeed, it is that ability to challenge the recognized order which allows the artists to transcend the mundane and breach immortality.

This does not mean that an artist should deliberately seek to be provocative simply for the sake of being provocative. Instead, an artist should recognize the world for what it is and what it could be - and even what it should be. Sometimes, the artist's view will be uplifting, bright and spiritual - a recognition of the positive in a life that often seems harsh. Others can be so dark as condemn themselves to despair - wallowing in a negativity that is so pervasive as to block out all else. But it is the manner in which these artists convey these emotions that becomes the context upon which they are ultimately judged.

The responsibility of the artist is to convert their ideas into a framework that satisfies them and can still give their audience the opportunity and desire to reflect on the ideas presented to them by the artists. Whereas the majority of people live their lives in a struggle to achieve the goals that may be important to them individually, artists feel compelled to seek answers that can then be offered to a much larger audience beyond themselves. And if answers are not readily available, then an acceptable alternative is the opportunity to provide insight that may differ from the common. Frankly, the common is not acceptable for an artist and is considered a failure if that is the best that they can offer. By the same token, however, to be unusual is not a sign of success. The artists work must have meaning and offer a different perspective. It is often a fine line.

But then again, artistic works are all subjective and that, in the end, is the final truth for an artist.


  1. Absolutely Chopstik! I think the artists can NOT mimic the mainstream. I know that much of what I write would not be considered 'acceptable' to some, but pushing the envelope IS the point. Having said that, you must know when to stop pushing the envelope. So the guy who did Christian symbols in fecal matter didn't know when to stop. I do believe he knew EXACTLY what he was doing. I believe that we know we're pushing society, I believe a part of us wants to push and see how far we can go, how far we can change ourselves and others, and just how far society will tolerate us (if at all).

    I think it's the responsibility of the artists to take up the mantel of change and to deal with those consequences. Many great writers and artists were terribly misunderstood to their contemporaries. They can only be appreciated after the fact. Think Poe: he loved inflaming people. VanGogh: obvious mental illness which lead to great creation. Plath: suicidal, but still able to create. Emily Dickinson: an obsessive fear of death.

    Each artist has a responsibility to find their own voice and style. So what's yours?

  2. I think my voice and style is mostly annoying. :-) Or so I'm told...