Written by Joshua D. Harris
Lights. Camera. Action. "They say that to suffer is to live and to live is to find meaning in the suffering." These words come from the now deceased rap artist DMX. For many X was a hero because of how openly he dealt with his issues of mental health, abandonment, and drug use. I think artist like DMX and countless others who left us far too soon are the perfect example of why as an artist mental health is super important. Today I want to use this blog to talk about mental health and how it relates to art and why I believe we should no longer judge art by how we perceive the artist who created them. This week I'm counter arguing three of the biggest myths society places on artist who struggle with mental health. Without further ado let's get into it.
1. They're a millionaire they'll be fine.
Often times an artist becomes a product of the art they create. Most artist create alter egos and over exaggerated characters to express themselves through their art. But often times I find artist become trapped in the characters they create and it forces them to live inside a false reality .. one that forces them to choose between being a star and a mortal human. As a society we need to stop demonizing artist and dismissing their mental health issues as just "crazy" or "jokes" we need to start addressing these issues head on. I believe we should be less dismissive of dramatic displays of emotions and behaviors and start asking ourselves why did they behave in that manner. Did they suffer a great amount of trauma or abuse in their past or current life? Are they currently at peace? Are they grieving the loss of a loved one? Are the media and news sources painting them as crazy even reliable sources or are these sources creating fake narratives to sell articles? As a society we need to become more aware of the amount our public scrutiny affects the daily mental health of our favorite artist. Money doesn't buy happiness and it damn sure doesn't heal trauma and mental health. Therapy, Love, and Acceptance are our best hope at keeping our artist alive.
2. Beauty is created from Pain.
The second myth I want to bust is that great art can only be created through pain. As an artist I don't discourage the making of art as an artist is going through a painful situation like a break up or death of a loved one, but to suggest that it's the only way for somebody to make art is insane. Every year we have cookouts and barbeques and listen to music filled with happiness and celebration. Artist don't have to be in a negative or toxic environment to create good art. They can just create good art because they are good at it. Art is not only just about self expression it's also about skill and talent. If you have the talent and the skills then you create anywhere you go in any environment. Saying that an artist can only create good art in a state of crisis is like saying a surgeon can only be a good surgeon if they are working on a patient that's in critical care. That's ridiculous. I encourage all my fellow artist to make art simply because you can and you enjoy doing it. You're mental health doesn't make you good or bad at making art, it just makes you human.
3. That's just the way things are.
Change is a difficult thing for most to embrace because it takes a lot of work, which is often very uncomfortable. If it wasn't for change, many of us wouldn't even be allowed to sit inside of restaurants, ride anywhere we want on public transportation, even be allowed to vote and casts ballets. Just like our leaders during the civil rights movement we as a society need to speak out for mental health especially in the hip hop community as many of our black male and female hero's are being degraded down to simply memes, pictures on t-shirts, and outrages blog titles and posts. The reason I still consider myself to be a Kanye West fan is because even with all the outbursts and brash behavior I respect the fact that the man isn't afraid to speak on his emotions, as artist, especially as a black male artist how often do we get the chance to be truly open and vulnerable with our thoughts and emotions. For somebody to suffer so much public embarrassment and to continue breaking boundaries in his career is impressive and something that we rarely ever see. I say all of this to say that he is the perfect example of why we shouldn't just write people that we don't fully understand as just crazy because people are nuanced especially artist. Going forward in the future I want all of us as a society to give artist chances to correct their behavior and find healing for some of the issues that they may be suffering through. No one is undeserving of healing and acceptance, the same people that enable certain behaviors when it's profitable shouldn't be the same people to destroy a person down when it no longer becomes tolerable. Every artist is a human being. They deserve love and understanding as they work through their issues.
To summarize todays article: 3 things we discovered today. 1. Mental Heath shouldn't be ignored just because someone is rich and famous 2. Great art doesn't have to be created only when an artist is in pain 3. Nothing is absolute when it comes to change, we can choose to do better and see results.