Mining life for art

Pretty much everyone experiences intense emotional experiences, of elation or sadness or just about anything in between. One thing that distinguishes artists (in whatever medium) is that they mine these very real emotions to create their art.

In many cases, some large group of people finds their lives enriched by this endeavor. Think of Mozart’s “Requiem”, or Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, or “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge.

But what then is the relationship between the artist and his/her own personal life? Does the artist have sole ownership over this source material? What about the other people who were part of whatever emotional turmoil was mined in order to create this art? Why don’t they have a say?

The artist might say to these people: “Because it is art, and art belongs to the world.”

It’s an odd sort of conflict. Perhaps if Shakespeare or Austen had been a bit more circumspect about exploiting the emotional crises of people they knew (and perhaps loved), today we would not have “Much Ado about Nothing” or “Emma”.

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