No Apologies for Art

I never apologize for anything I create. Do you?

Products of the creative mind may offend, but my advice: never apologize.

If I’ve created something then it came from somewhere. It came from me. Who can understand what lies inside of us? And if we cannot understand it, we are lucky at least to have a look at it, or a facet of it. Maybe it is the observational scientist in me, but I have to accept the view that’s offered, I have to be happy to see it for what it is, I have to welcome it. Censorship makes us dull.

It happens at times that I create something flat, boring, or too short, or too long.  It is an experiment to create, I don’t know how it will come out finally. To be truthful, at times I create something, a drawing, or poem, or story, that disturbs or even horrifies me the next day. In my case, this is most often the little drawing I make that precedes the story, or a photo I’m not sure why I took. I put some of those away in a safe place at the back of the notebook, don’t scan them, don’t share them immediately until I can work on them and understand them.

For example, I’m not sure yet why in Rome the blackbirds fascinated me, or why I had to capture the pigeon in front of the Arc of Augustus, nor on the beautiful beach in Puerto Rico why a dead tree. But I’m working on it.

Still, honestly I’m delighted when creative thoughts emerge, these colorful bits from deep inside me. I’m not sorry. We even need to be disturbed sometimes, we need to stir the subconscious, we need to uncover, to reveal, to see.

Every rule has exceptions.

Two cases come to mind as possible exceptions for apology, Goethe in 1774 for Sorrows of Young Werther, and Orson Welles reading HG Wells in 1938 from War of the Worlds. In both these cases some readers or listeners despaired or panicked or lost hope. Here, “to entertain” crossed over into “to horrify”. In the case of Werther, people died in copycat suicides mimicking the main character of the story, followed by “Werther Effect” concerns.  Even here, the way I understand it, the listener who panics or the reader who despairs is where the action is controlled, rather than the writer as creator being at fault.

What do you think about the agency when art is deemed offensive?

Is it the artist, the art, or the audience?

Please leave a comment to join the discussion.

13 responses to “No Apologies for Art”

  1. I’ve always maintained that I’ve never seen a violent film in my life. Reality is much more violent than any fiction imagined. Someone murdered in a Scorsese film or Stephen king novel can not compare to the very real videos of men being decapitated. Art is not meant to be exclusively beautiful, it’s meant to provoke thought. If a piece is ugly (or deemed offensive), it’s just a reflection of the world we live in. Artists should have the right to create without fear of censorship and/or apology. I scoff at the parents who forbid their children to read Harry Potter, yet allow (or even force) them to read The Bible. Everyone knows which is more violent. I suppose it all comes down to freedom of expression. Let the viewer decide what is offensive, form their opinion, and choose whether or not they wish to partake in it. The agencies have no right to police morality.


    • Michael I never thought of it quite this way, but definitely agree that truth is stranger than fiction. Having read the Bible as I child I certainly know what you mean there. The right to create is like breathing and I’m happy we have it mostly protected here, in my lifetime, for sure. Thank you for showing these insights here, so much, thanks.


  2. I agree that the author/artists job is to create. If the reader/viewer if offended then its because of something within themselves that makes them see it in such a light. And the easy solution to being offended by something is to ignore it.
    Many a time people get all het up by something that offended them and want it removed or destroyed. That to me is wrong. They are forcing their morality and values on the artwork. Just ignore it if you don’t like it or don’t agree with it.


  3. Hi, I love the idea of the reader, viewer, claiming responsibility for reactions. This is not something I often see in reviews and reactions, or hear in discussions. Thanks for sharing these ideas.



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