Seriously, can anyone think of even one?
It has to be a real artist. Meaning, an artist (in any medium) who uses her work to: actively explore her inner world and the world around her, express her emotions and values, and in some way affect her audience. What this rules out is people who are very skilled at a craft (i.e. painting) but use this aptitude only mechanically (i.e. painting lovely but meaningless sailboats over and over). I think any form of creation is art if it is used to communicate what the artist finds urgent and/or profound (communicate through symbols, probably; compiling a set of statistics of urgent importance isn’t usually art). Using this definition of art*, has there ever been a socially** conservative artist?
I’m waiting to be proven wrong here, but until I am, I’m going to stick by my gut feeling that fundamentalists and their ilk are absolutely right to demonize artists along with liberals, communists, queers, and others who threaten the current world order. Art is a direct and profound challenge to bigotry of every variety, because art attempts to communicate the truly human. Since everyone (women and black people and poor people even) is ultimately human, art erodes the idea that it’s appropriate to treat others in ways you yourself would not like to be treated.
Ironically, I think art fulfills the mission religious fundamentalists purport to be interested in: convincing everyone to love others as they love themselves. I find it damned difficult if not impossible to hate someone when I’ve seen and understood their deepest, realest self-expression. And hatred often comes easily to me.
Edited to add a note about writers: Certainly there are many conservative bloggers, writrs, thinkers; I don’t think academic and/or political writing counts, but less material writing forms like fiction and poetry certainly do (again excluding the mechanical skill thing, which in this case I think applies to things like trashy novels).
* If anyone really disagrees with the substance and intentions of this definition, feel free to quibble with it.
** I’m not talking about fiscal conservatives here. Strictly social conservatives, folks who are opposed to the progressive work of humanists like feminists, anti-racists, queer rights activists, disability advocates, anti-classism activists, etc. etc.
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