Cacophony or Classic? Art vs. Artist
BY MRUNAL DEORE '24
Art commands power, and the artist. While one absolutely has the right to admire an artist and their work, these creators may also be problematic. Because artists’ work often reflect their personal ideologies, viewers should not only be aware of the art but the creator themselves. To put it simply, we cannot always separate the art from the artist.
Picasso’s unique style has altered the perception of what the visual arts can be, however his personal life sheds light on the realities behind his paintings. He was known for disrespecting his muses and viewing them through a sexist lens for his art. His granddaughter, Marina Picasso, highlighted some of Picasso’s mistreatment of women: "He submitted the [women] to his animal sexuality, tamed them, bewitched them, ingested them, and crushed them onto his canvas. After he had spent many nights extracting their essence…he would dispose of them.” Picasso’s exploitation of women contradicted their prominent role in his art and harmed them in the process.
In The Minotaur Caressing a Sleeping Woman (1933), Picasso draws himself as a monster hovering over a sleeping woman, indicating his violent desires. Art like this was influenced by women like Olga Khokhlova and Dora Maar, extremely independent women who succumbed to nervous breakdowns after spending many years with the artist. Later, two others of his lovers committed suicide due to the burden of his abuse. When we praise his art, we fail to acknowledge the suffering behind it. Picasso’s art is seen as unique, but it would have been nothing without the colossal faces suffering behind the screens.
Richard Wagner, is a greatly controversial composer today for his antisemitic ideas that make musicians question if they should continue programming his landmark music. In the 1850s, Wagner wrote a hateful essay about Judaism in music, contributing to antisemitic ideas; years later, Hitler praised this essay and lauded Wagner’s composition and the essay. Today, Israeli orchestras or radio stations refrain from playing any of his compositions. On the other hand, Opera Australia’s Melbourne Ring Cycle does not address Wagner’s antisemitism. When consuming art created in a problematic setting, one cannot separate it from its creator.
Some might argue that art is nothing deeper than a few minutes of enjoyment for the consumer, but art can further social progress in society. Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, for example, held an exhibition titled "Lo sfregio" (the scar), showcasing a woman with a bandaged face commenting on acid attacks. Contrasting Picasso’s work, this exhibition highlights the issue of gender violence. It also emphasizes how art can be used to motivate people to build a better society. Artistic creativity has no limits, so artists can use their talent to impact the audience with their own perspectives. In the present, audiences can use problematic pieces to learn more about history and restrict the continuation of those ideas.
It’s crucial to understand personal opinions when it comes to deciding whether it’s okay to support an artist despite any disagreements with their actions. The scope of the controversies ranges through various levels, thus people need to take some time to think through the situation before taking a stance. One of the strongest ways society can learn to make active choices that bring about change is through educating ourselves.