Can I Love Your Art If You’re a Rapist?

A man sits alone at the Louvre. Was he overly moved by the art?
A man sits alone at the Louvre. Was he overly moved by the art?

WordPress Daily Prompt: Art Appreciation

Do you need to agree with an artist’s lifestyle or politics to appreciate their art? To spend money on it?

In order to truly love art do you need to know where it comes from, and what emotional baggage brought it to life?

If I blindly look at works of art without knowing anything about the artist… Then yes, I can appreciate the art for the art. But say I DO know something about the artist: what if he raped a child – can I still love what he does?

Could I watch a Polanski movie and love it? Or is his past just an excuse to not like his overly confusing flics? Come to think of it, have I ever even watched a Polanski movie from start to end? Am I simply relieved that I think he needs to be behind bars, and almost happy that I can just be uppity about the whole thing and claim he’s below my standards because I don’t have the intellectual capacity to fully understand his work?

Oh the pain of admitting such a personal defect.

Can I still appreciate Mel Gibson’s work knowing he is a man riddled with hatred and anger? This makes me struggle. The last time I watched Apocolypto I sat there with so many emotions. I love that movie – yet when I think of its creator I remind myself of his recorded messages maniacally left out-of-breathedly on his ex’s answering machine. And I think of his racism and anti-Semitism. And then I will usually say it out loud: why does he have to be such an asshat? How can such beauty come from a creep?

On the opposite end of the spectrum – does knowing certain aspects of an artist’s life influence my love for his work? When I look at a Van Gogh am I more touched by his work because his was a tormented soul? Yes. I think so. Or does his work speak to me, one tormented soul to another?

This question leads to another: why the hell do we need to know so much personal details about these people? Their art/work is public, shouldn’t their lives be private?

What are your thoughts?

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wordpressThis is my submission for today’s daily prompt. Submit yours now and let me know when or if you do so I can come over and read it then tell you how wrong you are…  😉

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22 thoughts on “Can I Love Your Art If You’re a Rapist?”

  1. For me, it’s about timing. If I knew the artist was a crass asswipe when I first saw the thing, I probably refused to like it and flaw-found it to death. Which is why I hate athletes who get away with this shit and go right on reaping the adulation of their fans. But if I found out in retrospect, it’s odds on that I appreciate the work, look at it to see if there are signs the artist is as much of a motherfucker as I now know, and continue to enjoy it without liking its creator one bit. Polanski is a great example. Holy fuckballs I love Rosemary’s Baby. But the movie reeks of his sexual perversions. (Satanic rape scene anybody?) I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it if I’d known his issues in the first place. (And as to why we need to know this shit, it’s because fame seems to work that way these days.)

    I have a bit of a double standard for SOME (emphasis -SOME) musicians. I cannot pretend to dislike the Rolling Stones, but I’m pretty sure I’ve known Mick Jagger was a womanizer since before I knew what the term meant.

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    1. Well said Jessie! The timing thing. And for me it’s often a “stop! don’t say it! i don’t want to hear it! if he’s jerk i’m not sure i’ll still like his shit so shut up about it!”

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  2. Great response – I hadn’t even considered the Polanski/Gibson angles for my response. I guess I still enjoy Mel Gibson’s films – because they are usually enjoyable – and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything by Polanski anyway. But, maybe this still falls under my argument – I tend not to pay attention to these people when they are outside of the realm of entertainment they are known for… If they do something bad they should certainly face the consequences, but when they create, if it’s good, I will probably still enjoy it.

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  3. At last! Somebody wrote what I have been pondering about for the longest time!!! Thank YOU for that!
    Mixed feelings as fame does come with ripping open private life! Mostly, media seeks, skeletons, degrading proofs, shocking , bestselling headlines about the artist. Within trashing the excellence artist has showed the world.
    My first Example is Michael Jackson, I remember clear as yesterday when first news broke about his “child issues”,we had one movie of his, that my sister loved to watch & she was a fan! I did not bother about the press and let her be a fan. Then more and more press was talking not only about that but the plastic surgeries etc It did not bother me much either. Few years ago he died and speculations about his death arise. Oh My! I was so intrigued NOT.
    My thing is, I separate PERFORMANCE given to the world and what they do behind the closed doors. Yes its sad if somebody has really messed up mind and habits,BUT TALENT should not be banished for it! (Its like DIVINE MAGNIFICENCE & Darkness in one) Nowadays with media, you can be top ranked one day and thrown in a dumpster next! I would say its a good thing from perspective; bad people can`t rise far on the other hand knowing how hungry everybody is for slightest negative thing about other, can bring some good people down by blown out of proportion mistake! I think all depends from “agent” how skillfully they hide/promote/sell etc
    Another thing about knowing it ALL about somebody, I can honestly say that I prefer to keep one eye and one ear closed when it comes to “GENIUSES” as they all have their own weird agendas going on. As a regular human being who naturally holds a grudge (even tho I am quite good with letting it go, but still) it is to our advantage not to stick our noise too deep.
    For instance,I absolutely LOVE Dali work, but! As a human being he is most self-centered, egoistical show off! Everything that I don`t like about people! So go and figure how I fell in love with that persons art work!
    I would say, better leave it unknown, don`t stare behind the frame and enjoy what they have delivered to SEE!
    p.s “Brave heart” (watched it at least 10 times!) & “Apocolypto” are one of the greatest movies! Don`t care how he messes up as human being.

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  4. its an interesting question…i think that an artists integrity reflects in their art…and on their art…i think though it depends on where they are in the journey…if the art reflects the anger i would probably get tired of it quickly as it would stress my own emotions….hm…i will think on this a bit as well..

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  5. Truth is, I wouldn’t mind condemning an artwork because the artist is a rapist.
    But if I can’t help falling in love with the artwork…. ah, then that’s really a problem.

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  6. This is a REALLY good question. Bravo! Many artists throughout history have proved to be dark, moody, temperamental and criminal. It is sometimes part of the creative process and sometimes the process it self creates self loathing and longing for the perfect piece. Others are stunted by the lack of inspiration and a muse and it becomes so frustrating that they become violently dissatisfied perhaps to the point of a crime. I believe that I can isolate or compartmentalize my feelings based solely on the merit of an exquisite painting regardless of the transgressions of the artist. It still exists and in some cased the notoriety of an artist eventually increases the value.

    Taking this one step farther, would I appreciate an absolutely brilliant graffiti if it defaced the facade of a historical landmark? Most likely not, but I am operating under the guise of a controlled scenario I guess.

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  7. I prefer to know nothing about the personal lives of celebrities and other well know people I like to judge if I like their work on the work not on things I may have heard about them, things that may or maynot be true…………..

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  8. As i was reading this I was thinking more about the tormented souls that are so many musicians and how despite the drugs and lawbreaking and girlfriend bashing, they still get airplay and sell records.
    Many artists that we consider brilliant were often tormented and perhaps committed atrocities that in an early time, did not become public knowledge.
    Would I condemn the work of a murderer or rapist? Perhaps that would depend on the subject and inspiration of the art work. For some, creating can be a way towards defeating demons

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  9. Oooh can I play? It all depends on where your soft spots are. John Travota is my favorite example for about 10 seconds in 1979 he was coolest swinging dick on the planet (I was 12). Then disco became well … disco. And we all laghed at him for 15? years (secretly still wanting to be him) until Pulp Fiction (and Get Shorty) and then he was the man again. His meteoric rise was all because so many of us were in the closet waiting for him to be cool again. Now he’s a Scientologist and I could really give a shit I love the guy (but not a rapist)

    Mike Tyson is though. He was a cinderella story that we all watched at the time with tears in our eye. A ghetto kid came out of the gutter and knocked everyone out in the first round 30 fights in a row. He was a hero to allot of us and inspiration – if he could we could. Then he went crazy and now he’s just sad. But the hair on my neck will always stand up when I watch those highlight reels scumbag or not. I still have a soft spot for him. As for Mel I will always love Braveheart. I have been in arguments before. I’ve never gone as far as Mel did in those tapes but I wouldn’t want to be judged by my worst moments. Bigotry’s not cool but it is rampant if we dig deep enough we will find our playlist getting pretty short. We all have to figure out where that line is I guess.

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    1. I remember seeing Braveheart. Didn’t it come out at the same time as Rob Roy? For some reason, Rob Roy sticks more in my memory than Brave<3

      As far as his arguments go, I listen to Howard Stern and he loves playing his messages over and over and over and over… the out of control breathing is what freaks me out about the guy. The rage in him! But yeah, I can still watch Apocalypto and love the movie just the same and wish I didn't know his personal crap.

      Tyson has turned his public image around with The Hangover! Glad for him, he has a human side with a twist of humor…

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. You have posed an awesome question. If I have no knowledge of the artist, I can easily appreciate his/her art on its own merits. It’s a blind test at that point. Once I know, however… Yes, it is hard to *LIKE* the art of an asshat. I’d like to think I can do it, but I’m only human. I can *appreciate* that Mel Gibson still knows how to make a movie, but the knowledge that he’s an unhinged douchewad is now sitting in the back row of my mind going BOOOO. [Maris] and I have been discussing this, and we feel that we’re capable of admitting that art (or a sports feat) has worth, even when we don’t approve of the person responsible for it. But we appreciate such things very grudgingly.

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  11. What a thought provoking post. As for myself, whether it’s a writer or an artist. I tend to want to get to know them if I love what they do. Of course, then it’s a set up for disappointment, like Dorothy Parker and an example. I also can’t watch Woody Allen any more. It’s sad thought because I really do admire a lot of their stuff. 😀

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      1. She wrote that famous line: Men never make passes at girls who wear glasses — and was the toast of the town in the 20’s and 30’s for her sparkling wit. But when I started reading about her I found out she was a total bitch, which was hugely disappointing because I really wanted to like her! 😀

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  12. I like to think that art is so moving because of humanity’s conflicted nature. At some level, every man is a rapist, even without ever having unconsentual sexual intercourse, every person is a hater, no matter how considerate and gentle. We are all violent killers, no metter what philosophy we follow. Behind the facade of civilization, there is always the savagery. But it isn’t all that we are, or else there would be no civilization, no progress, no art.

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    1. Amazing point of vue! Watching a Polanski flic does not approve his past behaviors it simply is admiring the work he has produced? And yes, the art we create is a by-product of our personal demons and their inner fightings. Without hurt souls we’d never be confronted…

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