This explosion of vitriol illustrates the absurd standard America holds artists to. It’s a dangerous, impossible standard that is repressing self-expression and killing culture. It’s not dissimilar in impact to the political arguments that keep so many living in poverty by voting against their own interests for politicians who take away services that were at least intended to make the middle class accessible to all. The American artist is expected to be both a saint and a martyr.
Operate outside the capitalist system and we’ll praise you for your creations, call your poverty a quaint kind of martyrdom that has nothing to do with us, and at the same time resent you for being holier than thou. Try to operate within the capitalist system and we’ll call you out as an imposter.
This resentment is something we have to take a long hard look at. We might think it comes from the idea that a tiny percentage of artists can get famous and filthy rich, or that others – despite financial struggles – have interesting and exciting lives where they perform and create while we’re stuck in a 9-5. But really, this resentment comes from the fact that when we devalue the arts, we devalue our own creative impulse.