The "Starving Artist" Trope Is Dangerous
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Politics and Activism

The "Starving Artist" Trope Is Dangerous

Tapping into our feelings in a world of Ostentatious Display.

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The "Starving Artist" Trope Is Dangerous
feelgrafix

I don't believe in the trope of the starving artist. I love art. I think art is an expression of one's soul. Art = writing, painting, theater, dancing, conversing. Society tells us two things, in a one-two punch format. First: be practical. Major in engineering, business, or something that will get you a job. But society also tells us to follow our heart. It's contradictory and confusing, dammit! It's like being a driver, stopping for a pedestrian, and the pedestrian motions for you to drive, when he is half way through the cross-walk. What the hell do you want me to do?

As to the practicality concern, I have no doubt that there is merit to that position. There was a Forbes article which listed high underemployment rates by major. Is it society's fault if you choose a major that isn't in high demand? I see the merit in choosing wisely.

But that's why there are always those who say, "follow your heart!" But the people who say that, say that there are strings attached. The follow-your-hearters say that if you want to follow your heart, you have to sacrifice money. This is the "Starving Artist" trope that you hear. But I think the "starving artist" trope is disingenuous. I don't think the choice is between following your heart and making money. I think the two can co-exist. The "starving-artist" trope only glorifies poverty, which no one should do. Read JK Rowling's book "Casual Vacancy" to see the point that it is never wise to glorify being poor. I'm not saying that we can all become the next Bruno Mars, and be so rich that money is no object. But I just don't think the choice is so stark as society makes it out to be. To conclude that the only way to practically pursue art is to be a "starving artist" is to miss the point, to miss the allure of art. Art is about self-expression. Selena Gomez has a fashion line called "Dream out Loud." Art fulfills the same purpose: it allows you to dream out loud. I would never say "I want to be a writer." But I think writing is the most important thing in the world. Writing: spiritual health. Bread: physical health. Writing -- and art in general -- is a means by which you express your dreams.

I am aware that art has a dangerous side to it, too. North Korea values the artist above any other profession for nefarious reasons. Artists in North Korea make propaganda films to North Koreans, saying how America's free-enterprise system is the worst, and how North Korea's socialism is the best. But that is the worst feature of art.

President Kennedy gave a speech about artists, exalting them, for more noble reasons. He said:

"The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth."

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