Monday, March 9, 2015

Freedom of expression

I'm not a big fan of "rules" when it comes to life, love and art.

You don't have to go to college. You don't have to get a "real job." You don't have to get married, have children, or buy a house. You don't have to love someone with the same age, religion, sex or ethnicity as you. And you don't have to sacrifice the authenticity and value of your art to please someone who doesn't understand the importance of self-expression.

That last one is huge. And it's the one I want to focus on today.

I think a lot of people don't truly respect and appreciate art—or the people who have the guts to create and share it with the world in the first place. And although that shouldn't bother me because no one should give a shit what anyone else thinks about their art, it still bothers me. It's something I really want to address to all the raw, brave and creative souls of the world. These people are my friends, my family, my brothers, my sisters, and my soul mates. I am very protective of them, and I want them to succeed just as badly as I want to succeed myself. 

It bothers me when children are told that their drawings and pieces of artwork are stupid or wrong because they colored outside the lines or painted their dog pink instead of brown.

It bothers me when young dancers are taught to focus more on stamina, poise and perfection than freedom, emotion and humanity.

It bothers me when writers are told to keep their work squeaky clean and not include sex, profanity, or weighty issues that every single one of us has to deal with at some point in our lives.

It bothers me when actors are criticized for acting out realistic events, regardless of whether they play the good guy or the bad guy. Playing a rapist doesn't mean you advocate rape. If anything, it raises awareness about it. 

It bothers me when singers are taught to focus more on pitch and vocal range instead of telling the stories behind their songs with real emotion and conviction.

It bothers me when an artist of any kind feels deterred from creating the kind of work that feels right to them just because their peers or family members decide to be judgmental and critical instead of understanding and supportive.

Art is not always going to be pretty, clean and shiny. In my opinion, the best art is anything but. I like songs that make me cry. I like movies that unsettle me. I like books that make me cry and unsettle me. I want people to swear because swearing means you feel strongly about something and aren't afraid to emphasize it. I want people to be selfish and make mistakes and hurt others and themselves because we all do those things. I like weird stuff. I like deep stuff. I like disturbing stuff. I like messy stuff. If you're willing to travel into the weird, deep, disturbing and messy parts of yourself and turn all of it into art that can heal, entertain and inspire others, you have a wonderful and irreplaceable gift. And I will never chastise you for it.

My hope for you is that you will try to ignore unsolicited, hypercritical, or passive aggressive remarks about your art form, whatever it may be. By choosing to please others instead of yourself and allow the emptiness that comes with that to widen and fester, you are doing a massive disservice to yourself and to the people who will buy your books, albums, movies and photographs someday—the people who will cherish them, wear them out, and salvage them in the event of a fire.

You have something to say, so you must say it fearlessly.

And maybe, just maybe, one person will stand out from the crowd and say, "I couldn't have said it better myself."   

<3 Madison