Artists as public property

People have some mighty funny ideas about artists.

They think we become open to public scrutiny and obliged to defend our work and even our lifestyles and families the minute we make art and put it out in public.

This one misconception kills millions of creative dreams.

13901500_1267592673275334_8436995073005668262_nThe thought that you must sacrifice your privacy and peace of mind on the altar of your art is, quite understandably, enough to frighten off many a sensitive, privacy-loving creative person.

This misconception also unfairly targets women, as we already come into this world with a heavy burden of public commentary on our bodies, behaviour and family life. Often the additional stress of public scrutiny which art brings is too much. I can only guess but imagine other marginalised groups face specific challenges here, too.

I assert that this ‘you are public property now that you did something public’ lie is exactly that – an utter falsehood and a harmful one at that.
History is filled with artists about whom we know very little. Even in this very publicity-addicted age, it is up to *you* how much of yourself you share with the world at large.

I remember a journalist accosting Freddie Mercury and asking him for an interview – to be rebuffed with a ‘Don’t be ridiculous’. In his long career he rarely spoke to the press, he let his performances and music speak for themselves.

Your life, your art, your career: you get to do it YOUR way. You owe the public nothing but your art.

I’ll say it again: you owe the public NOTHING but your art.

You never have to share, defend, or explain, one thing about yourself if you don’t choose to.

Certainly, fear of visibility is a massive block for artists. Sharing the story behind your art is powerful and if you want to do it, do it.

But it is not *compulsory* and allowing public intrusion on your life to block your creative work is pointless.

In this I say what I always say: 

Do what you need to do to make and share your art. The world needs your art. It is why you are here: to make meaning of the world and to share that with others.

Some do that by baring their souls.

Some by baring their bodies – as many powerful feminist artists have done.

But nobody does it by surrendering their rights to freedom and privacy. Hold firm.

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