Readers React: Expecting artists to be political puts them on a dangerous slippery slope

A woman walks by Pablo Picasso's "Guernica" at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain, in 2017.
(Denis Doyle / Getty Images)
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To the editor: Mary Gabriel’s op-ed article on an artist’s obligation in difficult times is an example of attempts to entrap the artist with bogus responsibilities that defeat the greater purpose of artistic expression. That purpose is the creation of an opening in the wall of convention that every society builds around itself.

Artists who desire to ignore those conventions must find that opening through which they can express what is important to themselves, as individuals, regardless of what anyone else might think is appropriate. The inherent risk here is that an artist’s ideas may be condemned, but to make every artist into a kind of “soldier” is an attack on both the meaning of art and the freedom of the individual.

I have experienced firsthand how well-meaning people (especially and most dangerously bureaucrats) make it their mission to dictate how artists “should” be using their talents. The consequence is that one’s desire for self-expression disappears, and the artist is conscripted into taking sides.


Please don’t encourage this process. It’s the last thing humanity needs.

Jeffrey O’Connell, Los Angeles


To the editor: In 1937, Pablo Picasso said, “I have always believed and still believe that artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilization are at stake.”

In 2018, many of our representatives in Washington say that they don’t have enough facts or information to even comment on the Trump administration’s actions that are destroying our democracy. Gabriel’s article on the urgency to stand up for our democratic values is a call to all — artists, writers, poets, teachers, farmers, businessmen and women, doctors, lawyers, students and veterans.

Our humanity demands that we speak out against President Trump’s inhumanity.

Susan Kogan, Oceanside


To the editor: Not every artist is a political artist

Gabriel writes about Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” and the works of Jackson Pollock. Picasso obviously wanted to make an anti-war statement, but in Pollock’s case, I believe he was creating a new style of painting and most likely was more involved with that idea than making a statement about the horror of the recent past.


I suppose one could consider today’s art as reflecting the current state of affairs, but in many cases art can provide some relief from the pressures of our world.

Lynn Leatart, Sherman Oaks

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