“Music can get at a part of us that is hard to open up to.” -Will Schuester, Glee (“Comeback,” 2/15/11)
Since the beginning of human history, artists have played a vital role in nurturing the human spirit. Whether in the concert hall, the dance hall, the gallery, or the sanctuary, art holds power far beyond words to reach people at their deepest level. Art comes in many forms. Music gives us permission to feel emotions buried deeply beneath the surface. Visual art allows us to see the world through another’s eyes. Works of art can feel sacred, touching our most vulnerable and intimate spots, or they can feel hostile, challenging our basic perceptions and understanding.
Art is inherently relational. It arises in the interaction between artist, environment, and audience. As the world shapes and forms the artist, the artist shapes and forms her work, and her work creates a response in others. The artist is most creative when she acts without fear of judgment. The artist who seeks to please or meet expectations loses her expressive capabilities.
Since the advent of recorded music, art has been made accessible to larger audiences than ever before. An expanded market has also led to more competition among artists. Artists are rewarded with commercial success when they can hold the attention of the media or when they can find a niche market of dedicated fans. The artist whose popularity spans across the masses is rare. (NPR has done an interesting series on this)
In my next post, I will examine the newest song by one of my favorite artists, Lady Gaga! Gaga is a rare performer who knows how to operate within a celebrity-obsessed, commercially-driven culture without being beholden to it. Just like any pop star, she knows how to keep the attention of the news media, but unlike others, it does not determine her success. She owes her success instead to old-fashioned work ethic and the niche-like support of dedicated fans.
Gaga is a free woman and a true artist who continues to break new ground. What artists do you admire and respect? Whose work has inspired you across the decades?