Sunday, March 4, 2018

What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?

In the wake of allegations by creditable women that horrible albeit talented Hollywood men  have  harassed, molested, fondled , raped them over long periods of time, it merits asking , as The Paris Review does, what we do with the work of artists who are simply monsters . It's not a fashionable thing to suggest, but I go with Trust the tale, not the teller. I am inclined to think that artists, good- natured or foul in personal relationships, make sincere attempts to make art that represents some better version of themselves. Art making, whether writing or making movies, composing poems or painting in realistic or abstract variations, is a process that, at bottom, tries to make sense of a problematic world and the individual's responses to it. Even terrible people, monsters even, can provide creations that provide insight insight, wisdom, a sense of useful irony in the guise of metaphor and other devices. So yes, we should continue to honor the work of monstrous men who've been long praised as great artists. whoever we happen to be talking about, the critical consensus has long been in place, formed over decades of critical review. 

This assume, of course,that the host of critics haven't been shilling for these horrible males. Let us assume, then, the novels, the movies, the poems, the plays, the paintings, the TV shows that have been highly regarded by critics and audiences are indeed good as quality, worthwhile items of art that have met rigorous criteria. criticism, popular criticism, needs to learn again an old lesson, that depth of talent does not indicate quality of character.Art has a tendency to outlive the awful men who created it. Picasso, from all accounts a genuine creep, remains in discussions and continues to be shown in museums because he was a great artist who changed the way we think about art. Pound remains important as poet and theoretician of art and poetics despite his antisemitism penchant for  treason and racism.Sinatra will likely remain the shining example of what a singer-crooner-interpreter needs to be in spite of his horrendous treatment of women and his tie ins with the Mob.We could go on.Art is long, life is short, and the reputations of truly gifted artists who were, as well,monsters in personal behavior lingers much, much longer in the historical memory than do a ignoble acts. I've no problem factoring personal aspects of artists into discussions of their art as a means to understand how specific works achieve their power, but for flushing whole bodies of work because of vetted and not so vetted accusations of being less than wholesome would remove an unbelievable amount of aesthetic benefit from the world. 

Artists , even on their best days, never rise above the status of being human; there is no requirement for them to be saints. There are requirements,namely laws,for them being acceptable citizens, and they must be held accountable for their actions in the world they live in. The work, though, is a different matter. My nose offends me because I think its too large, but I will not cut it off nor spend the time to repair it through surgery.

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