Art, by definition, is simply an expression of one's imagination and creativity. Anyone who creates said 'art' is an artist. Simple, right? Well, not really. In the age where social media gives just about everyone the idea their opinion is more valuable than everyone else's, many people have become what I call 'art snobs.' I won't sugarcoat it when I say I hate 'art snobs' and if you are one, I hope you become a little more open-minded after you read the remainder of this article.
Back in the day, I was one of those people I now hate, at least when it came to the artistic expression known as hip-hop. I would listen to the rappers who were known to be more socially conscious and hate on those who were not. I was closed-minded when it came to rap and because of that, I missed out on a lot of music. One day I was in the car with someone and they played some stuff I wouldn't normally pay attention to and I just remained quiet and listened. I heard the rapper spit out words that were actually clever, and that's when it hit me. Everyone has pictures, music and words inside their heads they want to get out to the world, but too many times the masses won't accept their 'art.' That's when I vowed not to judge things on how I thought they would be, I would simply see how they were.
Now, it doesn't matter if someone is playing Waka, Common, Nicki Minaj, The Roots, Talib, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Soulja Boy, T-Pain, Too $hort, Lil' Kim, Drake, Jean Grae or anyone else because they all, at times, have clever lines. They all, at some point or another, say something that makes me think "How did they come up with that?" They all have a story to tell and art to share. It goes beyond music when it comes to 'art snobs,' though. In the world of paintings/drawings and writing, the problem of artistic acceptance seems to be even bigger.
Sure, the work of famous painters such as Rembrandt and Michelangelo should be respected because they were great, but so should the work of lesser (internationally) known artists such as my father, Gregory Grovey, Sr (RIP). Sure, my opinion may be biased, but his work should be no less the subject of admiration than the work of the others. Not just my father, but the countless other painters and talented tattoo and graffiti artists across the world whose work is often looked down upon because it never caught the positive attention of the snobs.
Poets such as Big Rube, Saul Williams and Georgia Me don't get the attention they deserve because some may view what they say and write as 'street poetry' or 'urban.' If such is the case, what did they think of Langston Hughes? Contrary to how he is viewed now, Mr. Hughes' work was also looked down upon when it was initially created. Why? Well, he was also urban. His work and legacy are both looked upon differently as the years pass, though. This brings me to the actual point of this rant, which is the 'artistic life cycle.'
Too many times, when it comes to art, we go through these artistic life cycles. The steps may vary, but the artistic life cycle generally goes like this: (1) Recognition (2) Persecution and then after death comes (3) Appreciation/ Understanding. Quickly explained, it goes like this. When a new artists becomes popular, or recognized, the majority of the people love him/her. They are like new toys in which we can't get enough of. We play and play until we start to notice flaws. This is the start of step two.
After the initial phase of popularity starts to wear off, we start seeing things a little bit differently. The things we used to like about the artist are the things we grow to hate. We used to love the style and colors used by a particular artist, but now we can't stand them. We used to enjoy the southern slang and dialect of a certain rapper, now he just sounds 'country.' This is the persecution stage. This is the stage where most people's career goes downhill and they are never able to regain what they once had. Life passes and the artist continues to do what they love (sometimes), but it seems the people have forgotten about, or dismissed their talent. Then, after their life comes step three: understanding.
This portion of the cycle is somewhat like a revert to step one when we recognize, accept and understand their talent. We dismiss the negativity from step two simply because we know we will not be able to get more work from the artist. We start to look at their work and life in a different light and we suddenly feel as though we understand the artist's struggle. We understand why certain words were used in verses. We can see why the artist used so much red in their later paintings. We buy everything we can so the artist will once again be appreciated, but the sad thing is, it's too late.
The last thing that artist knew before his/her death is how the people who were once their fans, turned their backs, and in turn, seemed to stab them in theirs. I think this is why many times there is such an onslaught of support after an artist passes. Two major examples of this is how record sales for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston shot up after their deaths. This trend actually saddens me. It seems too many times we fail to realize artists (even the famous ones) are still just human. They will make mistakes like we do. They will stumble and fall, like we all do, and just like the rest of us, they will need a helping hand every now and then.
We should never be judgmental of anyone because of who we think they are. It is one thing to not like a person's art because we all have the right to do so, but it is wrong to actually say we dislike the person, especially when we don't know them. Let me also reiterate how we all need to be more open-minded when it comes to art. Step outside of your normal confines and more than likely, you'll discover something new that you truly enjoy. Don't be afraid of what others may think, just stay true to who you are and have confidence that your opinion is valid (but not more important than the next person's).
All in all, I guess I am trying to say, we simply need to respect one another. We need to respect everyone's right to express themselves however they may see fit. We all have stories to tell, but we must realize everyone is not going to agree with our artistic visions. If we do these simple things, art criticism will be taken away from the snobs and the ability to appreciate every form of art will be given to us all. Not only that, but the artistic life cycle, that has been a part of so many people's creativity, will crumble. We should not wait to show appreciation and love to an artist once they are gone, we should honor everyone's artistic integrity while they are still creating.
Life is art, so be careful how your picture is being painted.