Dance, sing, act, paint, craft, write!
We’ve been hearing that a lot lately – especially coming from people who take umbrage to artist’s expressing a certain political view.
“We don’t pay you to hear about your politics,” they say.
But you do, Blanche, you do.
From the paintings on the Sistine Chapel to the man who picks a banjo and writes simple lyrics – art is created. And artists have had a job which goes far beyond aesthetics or entertainment. The late great Nina Simone nailed it when she said, “An artist’s duty as far as I’m concerned is to reflect the times.”
Because artists have been doing just that for centuries.
Think of Francis Scott Key’s Lyrics in the American National Anthem.
According to History.com “…. in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812.
“….rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.”
Key was able to write those lyrics because KEY was there. He saw it. He was there when the British attacked Fort McHenry and so he wrote it down in a poem.
Art is often referred to as part of the humanities – or the study of human culture. Like Key’s poem, it’s one thing to learn about the war of 1812 in history but it’s another totally to read something from someone who lived through it.
Think about your favorite song. Why is it your favorite? Is it the lyrics? Is there something in that song that you relate to? Think about your favorite actor? Your favorite painting? What draws you to them?
For me, it’s the ‘I get that’ moment. And that is the point a connection is made between the artists and the observer THROUGH their chose medium.
Telling an artist to shut up and _______ (fill in the blank) is an oxymoron. They can’t. That’s like telling the sun not to shine.
When we ask an artist to shut up – we’re telling ourselves to shut up. Which, in the end, just doesn’t make sense.
Furthermore, the compulsion to create art is not dependent upon economic demands. Nor is the worth of the art or artist tied up in monetary gain. Should a person not find the art (or artist ) appealing, they have the right not to buy it.
However, the Customer is always right – doesn’t work here.
Because an artist’s true nature will always be focused on one thing.
And that is being the one who holds a mirror up to society and letting it get a good long hard look at itself.
Artists are, and they should be, witnesses of their times giving testimony for present and future generations