Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How Much Right Do We Have?

I haven't made one of those posts in a while. But I think I am going to this morning. I am quite fond of saying that things are a matter of perspective. I am also quite fond of saying that art is subjective. While I stand by those statements, sometimes we encounter things that are questionable. If not to the world at large, at least to our own sensibilities. I think that many times artists tend to draw from something that is or was lacking in their life when they choose what to create. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. We all know that we aren't going to like every thing that every one makes.

Thankfully teddy bears are not particularly controversial. Tonight however I came across something while I was strolling down the virtual highway that made me pause. When I was a little girl I was taught to be respectful of other people. Sometimes I don't quite succeed, but I try for the most part. I think there are certain core elements that make up every person. One of those is their religious beliefs. I know religion is a touchy subject for many people. I am not sure why, we live in a tell all world. We can sit and casually discuss many MANY aspects of our personal lives over coffee, but the minute someone mentions religion people want no part of it. I believe that adults can discuss anything as long as they are respectful of the other person's right to their own opinion. I have no problem telling people I am a Lutheran. I also have no problem with what people believe as long as it's not hurting anyone else.

But I think when we start incorporating and changing accepted religious ideas into our work we are opening up a whole new can of worms. So the person who created the piece that gave me pause was rather surprised that what she had made was getting some negative feedback. She had taken a part of religious history and changed it to suit herself. In so doing she had gone against the very principals of that belief. There were a wide array of reactions, some people were outraged, others applauded her. They said it was great she was making people think. But I didn't see anything to think about other than that she was making a big fuss and dressing up a shameless grab for attention to sell the piece. Sell it she did. I wasn't outraged, but I was left with the feeling that she shouldn't have made the piece because it was blasphemous.

I sat back and thought about it for a while after, I tried to be objective and look at it from a several different perspectives. I understood her motivation for making it. She wanted the world to be accepting. She wanted to fill a niche that is lacking. Ok fine. But you can't change history or the core of an entire religion just to fill a gap in commerce. To think you can is pretty presumptuous. To try to completely change the entire meaning of something that so many hold sacred is unconscionable in my book. I think if I did that with another religion there would be torch bearing mobs on my front lawn. Rightfully so. There was a time in Christianity when religious art wasn't even legal because they felt it negated the whole point of faith.

But after all was said and done, I was left with a question. How much right do we have as artists? Where do we draw the line? Is anything permissible if it's in the name of art or is that just an excuse to make a mockery of something we don't agree with? I guess those are questions that we can only answer with our conscience. But I sincerely hope whatever answer you come up with doesn't lead you to deeply offend a huge part of what a lot of people are. If your goal is to make people think, there are certainly a lot better ways to accomplish that.

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