Of course offensive art has a right to exist, and is necessary. All art has a right to exist—but its status as art is not protection from others' opinions. Art’s interpretations by the audience that receives it is as much a part of it as its creator’s intentions.
Emphasis mine. Great article overall, but that particular slice of it caught my eye and demands some expansion. It puts in the baldest possible terms one of those unspoken assumptions about art and creation that too often get handwaved off.
E.g.: I remember hearing someone defending Rob Liefield's (terrible) art and (questionable) aesthetics with the argument that his critics hadn't created anything of their own, and he had, so their criticisms didn't mean anything. Never mind that some of Liefield's most vocal critics have been other comic artists, and not just random fans, so that alone sends such a lame justification into the circular file. But the underlying motive — he's an artist, he's above reproach, beyond good and evil — stuck in my craw something fierce.
Two separate issues deserve teasing apart here. One is the legitimacy of artistic endeavor, which is unbounded; I can put a totally blank canvas on a wall and call that art if I want to. The other is how anything artistic always produces a response, and that the response is not something the artist can control. In fact, it's not something he should want to control, because sometimes the best insights into one's own work come from someone else's totally unanticipated reaction.
So who gets their Hanes in a Gordian knot over this? Artists — mainly male ones, I've noticed — who don't see a feedback loop (e.g., other people) as being part of what they do. In their minds, nobody else deserves to be the arbiter of what the work is, what it does, how acceptable it seems, etc. The fact that they're doing something is supposed to be its own defense.
Sure, it's a defense of the doing. But it's not a defense of the consequences. Some artists want the only reactions to their work to be either indifference or adoration, and that explains why some of those who are fetishized the most by other artists are those who made a point of never listening to what critics had to say. (That many critics are in fact boorish or incompetent doesn't help; the good ones get drowned out, in much the same way bad cops make it hard to trust cops generally.) We're past the point now where the mere fact of being an artist is a license to be exempt from social feedback.
If the only audience that matters to you is an adoring one, if the only feedback worth hearing is that of yes-men, do everyone a favor. Stop making art. Get a body-length mirror, hang it on the wall, stand in front of it, and consider the discussion closed.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind