It’s not the job of artists to create only uplifting or lighthearted work that makes everybody feel good. That can be part of the job. But the primary job is to tell the truth. Some kind of aspect of the truth. Sometimes the truth is something joyful, elating, comical, optimistic, inspirational. But the truth can also be brutal. Life can be incredibly brutal sometimes. And the worst of it, is when we are made to feel that our less palatable reactions to such brutalities should be any different than what they are.
There is a time and a place to look on the bright side. Or to “act as if.” But the artist is mirroring. Reflecting all of it. Not just the one artist, but all artists. Art is just consciousness. And its patterns. And we will never be done with that. Consciousness is always evolving. Sometimes art needs to show us what we already have and know, cast in a new light. Sometimes it needs to show us what we can’t see. What we would rather ignore. Art can show up for that. It won’t always make the artist look good. It won’t always make the artist look for that moment “enlightened,” at least not in the mainstream understanding of that word. But this is the whole point of art — to bring things to light. To expand what is seen. Whether that is dark, playful, ironic, simple, etc. But art is not here simply to make us feel better. Nor does art need to act like a winner. Art doesn’t need to project a million dollar smile.
To assert that some emotions and experiences are worthy of attention but disregard or insult the existence of others is to fail to recognize the total abundance of all that is, the total fullness of life. So it’s not about just telling people what they want to hear, or only showing them what they want to see. It’s not about what we think should be said or done to “make the world a better place” in the common understanding. It’s about getting all of it down, whatever is speaking to us, and be willing to be that honest. Because what makes the world is a better place is also when honesty and integrity are valued and expressed and held. The result of honesty and integrity should not be to run. It should be to come closer.
A world that just only agrees with you all the time, that’s a world in which no one grows. That would be a very stale world, a world in which we stagnate. Art is capable of appreciating all of it. What we cherish, and what pains us.
Hackneyed optimism and hope — trite, dismissive, insincere, and even inappropriate as they often are — help no one.