You’ve probably heard the saying, art imitates life. Sometimes I think this line is so true and other times I think it is a load of hog wash. I mean, have you seen some of the stuff artists produce? While it is pretty, I don’t especially think I can apply it to my life. Once I went to MoMA with my husband. One particular artist placed a bag of kitty litter in the corner and called it art. What?! If I did that, my husband would ask me why I left the kitty litter out and didn’t put it away?! And how is this imitating life? I think it is imitating an inanimate object, but whatever. Needless to say, its meaning was lost on me, but I wasn’t particularly offended by it. There was, however, some art on the bike path at Venice Beach in Southern California that I was instantly offended by. It took me a minute to calm down, but I somehow managed to walk away without going completely postal. I won’t say exactly what it was because its content isn’t appropriate here, but it was bad and it offended me big time. And I think that was the point. They got a reaction and a strong one at that.
What do you think? Creepy or beautiful?
Someone once told me that it isn't art unless people love it and hate it with the same amount of gusto, that if you offend someone, you are on the right track. I have a perfect example. I love this painting my mom had commissioned for me as a gift. It hangs proudly on my living room wall. People have one of two reactions to it: 1.) they think it is the most beautiful painting they have ever seen, or 2.) They think it is dark and creepy. There is no middle reaction with this painting. People either love it or hate it. Another example, I hate when an author kills off one of my favorite characters in a book. Or have you ever read a book where one or more characters disgusted you? Even with this blog, I seemed to have managed to offend a few people with what I write. Recently, I wrote a short story and embellished a family member’s death a lot. My husband said I would likely offend my family. It gave me pause. Should I write it anyway? Does this mean I am on the right track? Passion is passion. You can love my work with a passion, or hate it with equal measure.
I did end up changing my story a bit so as not to reflect this family member in any way, but was it the right thing to do? Artists must stay true to their craft, even at the risk of offending someone. I’m not suggesting that you go out of your way to offend someone. That would be totally malicious and that isn’t a good thing. But we should try to go for shock and awe. It imitates life, like art is supposed to do. Humans are unpredictable, which is why human behavior is so fascinating. And our fascination with human behavior is excellent material for artists of all kinds to imitate in their own medium.
So, go hence forth and create art that will shock and awe. You might offend some people, but it wouldn’t be righteous art if it didn’t.