The Art and the Artist

A friend recently asked whether one can separate art from the artist. I recently watched a documentary about Miles Davis. I am not a music or jazz aficionado, but something in his music has always struck me, it is special, a world apart.

Miles Davis, by all accounting, was more than a little “flawed” as a human being: I saw almost an apologist point of view from some interviewees concerning his treatment of women, for example. And I agree that cannot be dismissed. He was possessive, violent, self-absorbed, and self-destructive. At the same time, I consider the difficulty he experienced as an African American in the United States in the 20th century(or any time) and the absolute and obvious artistry of his work.

He was a creative in the truest sense, connected so deeply to music, to its exploration, creation, and evolution, even expanding his musical sense into painting.  And yet he had his demons, and he took it out on others and on himself. It’s easy to see the genius and the trauma without dismissing the hurt and the harm.

So separate? Yes and no. Some of his music was borne directly of the relationships where he was clearly a bad actor, and thus cannot be separated. All of it was borne of pure artistry. The music, in some form or other, I think, would have poured out of that soul, regardless. Sometimes the channel is a damaged vessel, and the water pours anyway, much of it landing.