Have you ever noticed that artists seem to be… well, yes, as the meme suggests, a bit weird? Of course, I mean weird in a good way. I take pride in my weirdness, and I imagine you take pride in your weirdness, as well. So, let’s celebrate weirdness today, shall we?
Recently as part of an “art quiz” feature, I shared a bit of information about Gustave Courbet. Oh, what an interesting life he led! I wished I had time to read more and learn more about his political activities as well as his art! If you visit Wikipedia to read his life story, you’ll find headings about his notoriety, about scandals he was involved in, about his attempts to hide, his capture, his arrest, and ultimately, his exile. Indeed, quite an interesting life he led, am I right?
But Courbet is not the only interesting artist. Let’s look quickly at one of my favorites, Egon Schiele. A visit to Wikipedia mentions how he and his young lover (a 17-year-old model) were driven out of town, how later he was arrested on charges of seduction involving another young girl and jailed for several weeks. The seduction charges were dropped, but he was charged with exhibiting pornographic drawings in an area where they might be viewed by children.
And how about Pablo Picasso? We might think we know most of his life story, but did you know he was once accused of stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre? Although he wasn’t guilty of that crime, he was found to be in the possession of a bit of stolen Iberian statuary. Picasso is known not only for his art, but for his numerous affairs. In addition, his political views were clearly expressed in his work. His is a very interesting story to read.
Most certainly you know about the tragic life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, about the pain and suffering she endured throughout her life. Browse through her life story on Wikipedia and you’ll find — again — strong political associations as well as intense love.
In doing the “art quiz” questions and answers, I’ve become acquainted with many artists. Each time I begin reading another biography I find myself totally fascinated. Many stories are tragic, like that of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock whose alcoholism and infidelities led to his death in an auto crash in 1956.
Some stories are curious, such as the story of Victorine Meurent. Never heard of her? Well, you’ve probably seen her. She was Edouard Manet’s favorite model, the woman who posed for his shocking painting of Olympia which caused a bit of scandal when it was first exhibited, not because of the nudity on display, but because the subject of the painting was clearly seen as a prostitute. What you might not know about Victorine is that she was also an accomplished artist.
And do you remember Judith Leyster? I’ve written about her before. Undoubtedly hers was an interesting life, as well, although we don’t know a lot of details.
Manet, Matisse, van Gogh, Gaugin, Degas… read about them and again and again you’ll find political activism, love affairs, scandals, and larger-than-life personalities. You’ll find color, brilliance, experimentation, and boldness. You’ll find the sort of intense creativity that can only be called weirdness.
And maybe the weirdest of them all was Gustav Klimt, known as the “crazy cat lady” of artists. You have to love a fellow who let dozens of cats run freely around his studio, right? Well, I love him. I wish I could have known him.
I could go on and on for days, listing artists, sharing little glimpses into their life stories, and over and over again, we would find that creative weirdness. I think every artist has it, and that means that we have it too. While I’m not advocating that we flaunt customs, commit crimes, or indulge in bad habits, I will strongly advocate for us to appreciate the powerful forces we possess — the desire to express ourselves, our need to share our thoughts and our personal view of the world, our determination to explore new ideas, and our commitment to living as fully as we can — to take the emotions inside of us and accept ourselves as the unique individuals that we are.
So, yes, I’m celebrating weirdness in a good way. I’m celebrating life, love, joy, and sorrow. I’m celebrating all that it means to be a creative individual, all that it means to be an artist.