I believe that great artists make our lives richer, more intellectually stimulating, and more inspiring. I think that they make the world a better place.
I don’t think, however, that great artists make their own lives any better. Boundary-pushing creativity is motivated by extreme dissatisfaction. And groundbreaking art tends to lead to rejection and alienation.
Vincent Van Gogh was clearly not surrounded by love, support, and positivity.
When he showed the girl he liked his first paintings, I’ll bet she didn’t say, “Those are nice flowers, Vinny. You’re pretty talented and exceptionally good-looking – especially your ears. Come live happily ever after with me.” It was probably more like, “This out-of-focus yellow nonsense is the big painting you’ve been working on? Really? Dude, I wouldn’t give you my number even if the telephone had been invented at this point in history. You are officially weird and ginger. You should take an Introduction to Art class; preferably one that is taught inside a loony bin.”
Great art comes from a place of desperation and even madness.
“Whiplash” is a provocative film about two men who want to create great art and don’t care who they have to destroy to do it.
The film chronicles a couple of intense months in the young life of jazz drummer Andrew Neiman.
When we meet him, Andrew is beginning his first year at a prestigious New York music school. One fateful day, the school’s most respected teacher hears Andrew practicing and invites the freshman to play in his exclusive jazz music seminar.
The teacher – Terence Fletcher – orders Andrew to arrive at 6 a.m. sharp. Andrew gets up and sprints to class before dawn. Three hours later, Fletcher and the rest of the class arrives. This is just the first of many head games Fletcher plays with his prize student – and hardly the most sadistic.
Most people know J.K. Simmons from his comedy roles like the supportive dad in “Juno” and the cigar-chomping newspaper publisher in “Spider-Man.” In his Oscar-winning performance as Fletcher, Simmons shows us a completely different side of his talents. He’s intense, intimidating, and brimming with humorless venom.
Fletcher is like a marine drill sergeant whose goal is to push young men past their limits so that they either become fearless soldiers or emotionally-broken drop-outs. You’ll definitely hate Fletcher. But you may find yourself admiring him, too.
Andrew, meanwhile, isn’t just a meek victim.
Being a lead player in Fletcher’s elite band makes him anti-socially focused, relentlessly competitive, and arrogant. I liked him even less than Fletcher.
If you don’t believe in the inherent virtue of art, Andrew is nothing but a self-destructive loner and Fletcher is an abusive megalomaniac.
The moral of the story is that great art is a blessing for the world but a burden to the artist who creates it. Better to keep your sanity – and your ear – and stay away from the art world.