I’ve discussed before what I feel is a persistent discord between how art and artists are perceived and subsequently treated and how songs and musicians are perceived and subsequently treated. I’ve talked about some of these differences in two other posts titled Double Standards and Bodies. However, there is quite a large divide in how all art forms are viewed and sometimes I feel as though I could write a whole dissertation on the incongruities between art forms. When I talk about the arts I tend to focus on visual art and music because they are the two that, allow me just a moment to engage in theatrics, “make my soul leap, twirl, and pirouette.” Yeah, I did that … couldn’t help myself, anyway … This is another post on the ways art and music are treated differently.
I know a guy who plays 10 instruments. If it has strings he can play it and he knows a few others including drums so essentially he could be his own band if he wanted to sing. He can play songs that are classified country or rock-n-roll or blues. Yet no one ever says to him “you play too many instruments” or “you should just stick to country music.” It’s more like “Hey! Can you play Sweet Home Alabama? Ohh, oh how about Stairway to Heaven? Now play …”
However, visual artists are strongly encouraged to stick to one medium and cultivate one ‘style’ by other artists, gallery owners, art critics, and collectors. It is a huge institutional conspiracy to attempt to force visual artists into a particular box. It’s not even a large box (and it has no air holes poked in it either.) The thing is, if you look at prominent artists throughout history, there has always been a small set of artists who work in a multitude of mediums and who have been successful doing so. It’s a little like how throughout time about 5% of the population is purposefully vegetarian – not everyone is eating broccoli and hummus for breakfast but at least everyone knows someone who knows someone who is a vegetarian. Most people choose to only work in one medium. A few don’t – and that is cool – much cooler than hummus. Perhaps the viewers of art work need to learn to be more flexible like music fans. For example, I liked Hootie and the Blowfish because of their style of music, their lyrics, and their vocals. I was a little surprised when I heard their lead singer, Darius Rucker, was putting out a solo country album but because I liked his voice I listened to it. It’s not at all surprising that I liked him singing country music too.
Another reason the one medium/one style thing is silly is because most visual art uses the same basic skills. Drawing is an important skill in visual art like reading music is an important skill for a musician – it’s a building block to the rest of it. You don’t have to draw to be an artist just like you don’t have to read music to be a musician but it helps if you can. Other basic art skills also translate across mediums so if you understand composition, color theory, and proportion you are in good shape in any medium you choose. If you have a really good understanding of design then you really only need to learn how the actual medium works and handles.
In closing, enjoy some Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame performing Mack the Knife off of his 2012 release Dee Does Broadway.