Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Insane Artist Myth

There are many romantic scenarios of the solitary artist. Living alone in a loft, with plenty of lovers of course. The misunderstood artist who can not create and be in a relationship, the working spouse just doesn’t understand. The all consuming artist the one that does nothing but breathes, eats and sleeps art. Basically lives his or her art. The latter is the most favorite of patrons. It feeds in to the myth of artist being so different that they are insane. It also raises the value of art. It raises the adrenaline rush, which quickens the blood and loosens the wallet.

In no small way the gossip spreads.

Before Hollywood gossip there were artist gossip. Did you know Van Gogh cut off his ear? Picasso was known not only to save his hair but that of his son’s. Oh and Hemingway….could that man drink! Gossip still goes with art today. Yet gossip, even odd behavior, does not make you insane. It’s good press. That’s all. Ok maybe it’s just press.

Today we know that Van Gogh is like to have been an epileptic. The depression that he wrote about was by some believed to be manic depression. If he had either or both would he be…insane today? Or would he be part of the thousands that take medication or are otherwise treated? Hemingway was an alcoholic. Know one? Are they insane? OK Picasso he was nuts. you got me there. Or not. We could take apart each artist and see what made them tick, what “damage” we could find. Yet that would only lead to post mortem therapy (possible- many famously dead are on twitter, go ahead check) or it would lead to us finding out simply that artists are human. Each with their own quirks, manners and abilities.
The equation
artist = insanity or artist =odd or that artist = solitary or artist =broken is wrong. And a bit insulting because it is much too simplistic.

What the insane artist myth mean to an artist? ….Next time.

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