This is a story about the Public Art-Private Artist dilemma–defined as the struggle between what an artist creates for public consumption and the private artist who does the creating. The relationship between creative people (famous or not) and their audience raises an observation, and begs a question. The audience consumes the art produced by an artist, but can it claim ownership of either?
The issue occurred to me a couple days ago when this tweet captured my attention.
“Will you ever listen to Eric Clapton’s music again, now that you know he’s a Trump supporter?”
The tweet stopped me cold. And it’s had me thinking.
First, I love Eric Clapton’s music. I have many of his albums, listen to them with joy, and I can even play a serviceable Layla on acoustic guitar.
Second, prior to the tweet, I knew as much about Clapton’s political views as he knows about mine.
Third, I don’t give a damn about his politics. What I care about is the way the music makes me feel. Who he votes for or thinks I should vote for has no bearing.
When you write, or sing, or paint, or dance, or act, or play your instrument, I am moved by what you create–exclusively. If you move me so much I internalize what you created, it’s mine now. You made it part of me; the greatest success an artist can achieve. You still own the copyright, but you don’t own the effects.
The best artists speak to us, move us, and shape us despite themselves. Only an artist knows the inner demons they wrestle to create something worth giving away; and the courage it takes to summon the vulnerability to give it. Creating art is an act of faith performed despite fear of failure and struggles with imperfection.
So I don’t really care about your non-PC views, neuroses, or other hang-ups. I don’t feel compelled to cancel all your unpopular opinions. I promise to stress about your politics only if you write a political piece. Even then, I’m going to evaluate what you’ve created for me by how it makes me feel, and whether I incorporate it into my life, not by who you vote for, and regardless of whether you hold all the right opinions…mine.
The shared bond between artist and audience is the art. When you make your art public, I own how it makes me feel. But I don’t own you. That’s private.