Artists have a great obligation to society. When I say "great," I mean significant. Their role is to expose, inspire, engage and entertain the masses. And, often through financial struggle or survival on goodwill of others. Art has the unique ability to move people to change. A good book can start a dialogue, act as a spotlight on society, or a mirror, reflecting truths that are otherwise obscured by life inside routine distraction. Some books become movies, message intact, and serve a larger audience with a shorter attention span. Genius is particularly evident in a superficial culture, where depth has become a rarity.
Where is the compulsion derived? What makes an artist? I used to believe it was as simple as someone who creates. Lately, it feels more intentional. The fun has gone out of spreading paint to be aesthetically pleasing alone. Without purpose, what is the point? Of course there is room for all kinds of art and artists. And truthfully, nobody begins as a master. Some can even make incredible money catering to a shallow end of society.
My point is that talent will only go so far without a story. What moves one to create? What is the artist attempting to accomplish or communicate? This is what makes art and artists important, and "dangerous," as the quote warns. A concept is a powerful tool, and a hard thing to combat.
Careful not to confuse great with popular, they are not always one in the same. How long after Van Gogh's death did his genius finally become evident? I wonder if his works would have been more or less great with acceptance among his community. Is it possible that his story was even more notable than his art?
Andy Warhol as another example, great in concept, not necessarily by traditional craftsmanship. He created a dialogue about consumerism. Do you think he was responsible, in some regard, for the self-aware materialism in our Western culture these 50 years later?
Think of Mondrian, Pollock, and Rothko. They were front runners in their perspective movements because they were doing something new and courageous, and successfully communicating with an audience willing to listen. They changed the rules, and they are remembered.
I am only using well known visual artists to simplify this conversation. Art is infinitely broad- writers, poets, documentarians, film makers, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, creatives of every sort. Equally true through each medium, it seems, originality stands higher than imitation with a story. Observation becomes inspiration becomes message becomes change.
Quick Note: I was fact checking this quote, and came across an interesting post. It was meant to be an actual warning, and is commonly attributed to Queen Victoria. She may have said it, but it actually originates in a letter from her uncle, Leopold the 1st. This is the age of information, and also misinformation, apparently. Something inaccurate goes viral... imagine that.