An artist's responsibilty to be accessible

I know some of you jumped in here to yell at me that there is no such thing, but here’s my example:

Alice Cooper is by all accounts these day an actual Christian. He’s also releasing albums about serial killers who want to collect limbs. He’s touring with his usual coterie of shock-gags. (I think) He says it all illustrates a horrible personality who needs to be killed off, and of course he’s the title character who gets “killed” in an unusually on-stage realistically depicted way.

So, he says there’s a morality tale in his work (and has even had a feud with Marilyn Manson for being so pointedly anti-Christian in his shows and statements), but I can’t help feeling that almost none of his fans get his point. Now that in itself is pretty common to art, but if he’s transmitting the opposite idea of what he’s intended, and seemingly one he would pointedly rather not, does that make him a self serving greedy doofus, an ignorant windbag, an incompetent artist, or a genius whose fans are not worthy of his work?

I’m willing to be corrected on the specifics of Cooper and his work, but also please give thoughts on the overall idea of “artistic responsibility.”

I think Alice defines himself as a rock performer who happens to be a Christian. He takes his job (art?) seriously and puts on a damn good show. You might as well question Christian actors that choose to play the parts of murderers.

An artist’s only responsibility is to himself.

Not necessarily, especially as my point is that many of his fans will come away with the idea that he’s glorifying things that he says he’s only depicting. There is a difference.

In practical terms, there’s little difference between the fan who walks away troubled by philosophical issues and the dichotomy of man, and the fan who walks away thinking what a kick-ass concert that was. They both paid their $49.95.

I see your point, but I’d guess that most of Cooper’s fans have been following him for years and know that he’s a Christian. I’ve had conversations with people while waiting in line for his concerts and it seems to be pretty much common knowledge.

Well, if people watch him portray this awful character who then gets graphically killed, and take away from that that he’s glorifying rather than condemning said character…that ain’t on his head. This sounds like it’s about the same level of subtlety as The Fierce Bad Rabbit, where the bad rabbit engages in fierce badness and then the farmer shoots him. You might as well argue that children or parents might think Beatrix Potter was glorifying stealing other rabbits’ carrots.

Some people just don’t get irony or satire. And some people don’t get the distinction between an author/poet/songwriter and the character/persona/speaker of one of their compositions. Didn’t C. S. Lewis get some flak from people who missed the point of The Screwtape Letters and read it “straight”?

Thudlow Boink states the problem exactly. When you deal with art it’s subjective and some people are not going to get what you’re going for. In fact I’ve written songs where I seem to be the only one that knows what I’m trying to say

But it can be a play, a book, a poem or song or whatever. Everyone comes out with a different idea of what the artist is going for. This is why we have things like book clubs to discuss a book.

The OP says

“…if he’s transmitting the opposite idea of what he’s intended, and seemingly one he would pointedly rather not…”

A good example of this is Oprah Winfrey. She used to have KKK and Neo-Nazis on her show, she later refused to have them on. When asked about it she said that giving them exposure was supposed to REDUCE their number by showing how bad they were. But in reality it had an opposite effect by providing them a forum to attract new members, so she quit having them on her show.

So I think there is a responsiblity there. If you’re position is XXX and no one is getting it, then what’s the point?

This. I’m a visual artist, and my work was held back for several decades, because I was consumed by ideas of what it “should” be. That is death to creativity.