Are a person and her work necessarily linked?

I can love something and not be able to stand the author. We all have that ability. The same way we can find someone awesome and not have any affinity with their particular brand of creativity.

This question of the appreciation relationship between authorship and work has always annoyed me.

When I was still at university, I remember art history classes where I couldn’t concentrate because I was getting caught up in the problem.

Now, a statement like “I love Rihanna” – which is true, btw – would probably lead you to ask me what album/song I like best. The fact I don’t own a single piece of her music, or actually like any of her tracks, isn’t something you would assume from the previous statement. But WHERE did I mention her art/craft/work? Nowhere. We just always jump to conclusion when it comes to artists. To like them is to like ALL of them.

This is not an amalgam we make for the rest of the world’s population. If I tell you I like Emma, my mate from university, you won’t automatically assume I’m a fan of her work – in educational publishing. In fact, we can be super good friends with people and still have no idea how they make a living. Liking the work and the person are completely separate things.

Not so with “artists,” or creative people in general.

Because “creators” supposedly pour themselves into their work, an appreciation of said work should mean an appreciation, or at least, a certain connection, to the human being who created the work.

So how can we like something and not the someone behind it? Likewise, how can we like someone and not the something he or she created.

To assume creation is always an extension of one’s personality seems obvious. And yet, with this ability we have to feel a connection to a piece of work, completely separately to the connection we have with its author would lead us to believe that maybe the correlation isn’t so obvious after all.

The question is even more exacerbated in a world where we know SO MUCH about the authors of, well, everything.

The flood of information we are getting about every tiny pieces of a person’s life, actions and personality is not only unveiling the mystery behind the artists, but also giving us reasons to like or dislike someone, regardless of their work.

It’s fair to see it wasn’t an issue with Titian.

Maybe the real problem isn’t so much whether we can separate a work and its author so much as whether we can make a decision about people based solely on what we think we know about them. Where, before, the work was a window into someone’s life, it is now only a part of the kaleidoscope of what makes up public personalities.

We listen to a song and try to match its meaning to what was reported about its author’s life in gossip magazines. We look at a picture and try to figure out whether this was painted/taken before or after the very public divorce of its author.

Instead of simply appreciating a piece of work, we are looking for clues that would match a preconception of what its author is all about.

And ultimately, we are missing the point of art. That it shouldn’t be so much about who made it, so much as what it makes us find out about ourselves.

 

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