Can You Separate Art From The Artist?


One of the most beautiful things in the world, is art. Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” Art can be anything from a painting, to a performance of theatre. Art is every song you hear, and every movie you watch.

Art is just as important to life as things like science and math. The contributions that artists make to this world are just as important as anything done by Sir Isaac Newton, or Einstein. However, art faces problems that do not occur in other contributions. Problems that do not come from the art itself, but from the creator.

We live in a time where people are being held more accountable for their actions than ever before. Which is an incredible thing, and a big step forward in humanity. But leaves us with a complex issue when the person being held accountable, is an artist.

A musician whose music has moved and changed the lives of millions of people. An actor or actress whose performances have inspired countless of human beings. A writer, A painter, A poet, whose art has truly changed the world and left it in a different way than when they found it.

What do we do when these people, these artist, are terrible and vile monsters? Do we get rid of their contributions altogether? Do we try to ignore the things they’ve done and just enjoy the art as usual? How do we separate the art from the artist? And should we?

If art is as important to humanity as science and math. Maybe we should look at how we would handle the situation when controversy strikes in their realm. If it came out tomorrow that Sir Isaac Newton was a violent, crazed, serial killer what would we do?

Would we throw out calculus? No longer believe in gravity? Would we rename Newton’s Laws of Motion? I don’t think we would. I think we would continue to use and appreciate the contributions that he had made, while still detesting him for the murders that he committed.

Should we do the same thing for art? Can we continue to watch House of Cards and enjoy the show, while hating Kevin Spacey for committing terrible crimes in real life? Does listening to Thriller on Halloween, show support and appreciation for just the song, or does it also show support to the man who sings it?

Perhaps it depends on the situation. I’ve heard people say that they can separate the art from the artist usually, but certain cases give them chills. They can watch The Cosby Show and still laugh, but when R Kelly comes on the radio, they change the station.

One certain response to this question gave me chills. Stating that you absolutely must separate the art from the artist because the greatest art comes from the most broken people. And it is the most broken people, who hurt others the most.

Another person told me that they will never separate the two. Because everything that a person makes, reflects who that person is. The art and the artist are one and the same.

I think that the answer to all of this is beautifully simple. Every individual interprets art differently. Two people can look at the same work of art and feel very different things. Art is and has always been subjective. Perhaps how we decide to separate or not separate the art from the artist is just as subjective.

Maybe how we each personally decide to deal with a certain song and their singer, an actor and their film, a painter and their painting. Is an art form of it’s own.

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