Point: Should art be separate from the artist?

Mari Mirasol, Opinions Editor

We often find ourselves singing and humming along to a popular song on the radio. We’ve all been there. We love the beat and the lyrics, but when we see the name of the singer, we instantly feel guilty.
It is this moral dilemma that we find ourselves facing more and more with every passing day.
“I used to love watching Woody Allen movies, but once I found out about his sexual harassment history, I didn’t want to watch any of his films. I feel conflicted over this issue. On one side, I know that it is wrong to enjoy his work, but on the other hand, he has directed great, original films,” said senior Tali Crowley.
Is it possible to separate art from the artist?
We do not need to cheat our values or moral compass in order to listen to a song or watch a movie. It is possible to condemn people for the crimes they commit, but their artwork should not bear the burden of their mistakes. We would be making a mistake ourselves if we dismissed their work without judging it for ourselves.
Think of painters, composers, and musicians from the past who have made a great impact in our society despite having controversial and troubling views or backgrounds. For example, composer Richard Wagner was known to be an anti-Semite; but his works, such as “The Ride of the Valkyries” and “The Rhine Gold,” have been greatly influential.
If we were to disregard art because of the artist’s mistakes, we would be stalling human progression. Artists learn from one another; they are constantly influenced by their predecessors. This can be seen in trends throughout the history of art. Classical art, which includes the Greek and Roman contributions, paved the way for the Renaissance. This was then met with Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, and finally, Modern Art. Art is evolutional. It is always subject to change at the hand of another. However, by choosing to alienate an artist because of his or her mistakes, we are shutting down their potential to make a contribution to our culture. A decision like this could be stalling the development of a certain art form.
“Artists are influenced by other artists. We can still learn from their work even if we disagree with the artist himself. By separating the art from the artist, we can make sure we preserve the content and quality of their work,” said senior Zach Katz.
For instance, Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain heavily used hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. The band could have easily lost its audience if we had chosen to stop listening to their songs and buying their albums in response to their lead singer’s way of life. If we had judged the band because of their mistakes, their accomplishments would have been short-lived. Their triumphs would have been ignored because of that one person’s errors. Among these triumphs, the band made way for the development of grunge and alternative music.
This thought carries over to Kevin Spacey’s sexual harassment scandal. Although Spacey’s acts are unforgivable—no one should go without punishment when they hurt another—his coworkers’ and the writers’ work should not also be punished. The hard work put in by the cast should not be dismissed because of the misdeeds of one person. We can judge someone and hold them accountable for their mistakes, but their artwork should be separated from these sentiments. We should not try to erase all memory of their work when their work is valuable and can make great contributions in the field. We would be depriving our culture’s development.
“A painting can be beautiful all on its own, and so can a song. We shouldn’t unfairly judge art because of the faults of the creator,” said junior Molly Schiff.
By separating the art from the artist, we give art its own identity. We are judging it for its worth. A painting’s beauty can be seen and appreciated by anyone, and the crimes committed by the artist should not taint its beauty. We should make our own judgements of the art, free of bias.