Separating the Art from the Artist

Posted on | October 28, 2010 | 347 Comments

It has come to my attention as of late that our opinions and perceptions of celebrities and athletes can often shape the way we think of what they create or how they do their job.  Sometimes more emphasis is put on who they are than what they do— yet the reason these individuals are even relevant is because of their career or what they do.

Two individuals I would like to discuss are Kanye West and Alex Rodriguez.  Kanye West is a well-known hip hop recording artist and producer and has made a huge impact in the music industry over the course of his career.  People have always had their criticisms of him due to comments he has made about how he deserved awards he did not win as well as other comments he has made that were deemed outrageous or arrogant.  None of that compared to last year at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when he jumped on stage while Taylor Swift was receiving her award and proceeded to essentially tell her that her video was good but she did not deserve the award because Beyonce’s video was better.  For those actions, Kanye became the subject of backlash from the mainstream media and people all around the nation.  Those actions caused him to lose a lot of fans, make others angry at him and hurt his image immensely.  Even President Barak Obama when asked about it said that he thought Kanye West was “a jackass.”  While I feel Kanye was right and Beyonce did deserve that award, I thought his actions were wrong and his entire point turned out to be lost in all of this.  If he had not done anything to begin with, there may have been more discussion as to who really deserved that award.  A year has passed since then and Kanye has apologized and I think a lot of fans are over it for the most part.  Though in my experience with mentions of Kanye West  I frequently hear in person and read comments saying “oh he’s an idiot” or “what a jackass” as well as many other statements expressing dislike.  What intrigues me the most though is when I hear someone comments where people claim either:

1.       They would never be a fan of his music because they dislike him.


2.       They were a fan of his music but now do not like it anymore or they cannot/will not listen to it since the incident.

The Role Model Complex

Some people say once you are a notable musician or an athlete that it is your responsibility to be a role model for children.  I do not believe anyone has an obligation to be a role model.  I feel it is your obligation to live life authentically.  If you happen to be a positive role model by living life the way you choose, I think that is a great thing.  However, if you are living life and making decisions based on what other people will think of you so you can be a “role model,” you are living in reaction and to please others.

My Take

In an effort to simplify things, I am going to use the terms “art” to represent the work created or byproduct of the creator and “artist” to the creator or producer of the work.  I believe in separating the art from the artist.  In some cases, you can either love or hate both to begin with.  The interesting dynamic lies with how one feels about the art when they dislike the artist or if the artist one day takes part in controversial actions.  Consider my perspective: liking, admiring or respecting the artist is not part of my criteria for appreciating good art, music, writing, talent, etc.  While being able to like both the art and the artist is a great feeling, I do not have to agree with the artist’s actions, behavior or even think I would want someone like that as my friend in order to appreciate what they create and admit I like it or that I feel it is creative.  I choose not to deprive myself of that and appreciate the art for the beautiful essence of it.  Just because you may not like the person that created it, it does not mean the creation is not beneficial or constructive.  As long as Kanye West is making good music, that is all that matters to me.

Another example is Alex Rodriguez, the third baseman for the New York Yankees who is usually the subject of a lot of criticism for comments he makes and his off the field behavior.  The NY media reports a lot about his social life but I do not care about Alex Rodriguez’s personal life and who he is dating, if he cheated on his wife, or any of his off the field actions. We might share different political and religious views and he could be a big jerk to others but it would not matter to me. I am a fan of his because of his baseball talent and because of the extremely talented run producer and great player he is. I am a Yankees fan and if he is doing a great job helping the team to win, that is the bottom line to me.  His off the field actions do not significantly impact me appreciating him any more or less.

In this piece I have provided some modern day examples but it is only fair to point out history.  Many famous artists have drank themselves to death, Picasso abused women, others have been involved in molestation or other unsavory acts.  Many are long dead but they are remembered and admired for the pieces of beauty they have created. To be able to do this with present day artists, I think it all comes down to looking at things objectively in life whenever possible. Of course you are going to have positive and negative emotions about things but in my opinion, the art needs to be appreciated for what it is and not subject to judgment because of how you feel about the person that created it.


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