By Rick Rotante
For a long time, there has been a myth about the relationship between madness and creativity that glamorizes mental illness in artists and provides an alibi for destructive art and bad behavior; whereas sanity has become equated with normality and conformity. My opinion is the sane artist can include their madness without being overwhelmed by it.
When does one enter a state of madness? Is it when obsessions, compulsions, moods, or addictions take possession of your motivations, that you no longer decide what you do? Viewed that way, madness is a state that is to be avoided, a state that is irrational in a highly undesirable way.
This comes with lack of control as well as a lack of freedom. For artists to function, clearly they need to have control their faculties. One might think it boring for an artist to be rational or sane.
When one shows excitement and enthusiasm about something, one might insist that a certain kind of craziness leads to the better things in life; love, philosophy, art, science, and so on. We find fault with the instinct to draw a line between rationality and madness in artists. Is not some kind of madness a powerful ingredient of an artists life, as one might rationally pursue it?
Being a little crazy might just be good for artists. You can release inhibitions in this madness while still seemingly in control. These questions bring to mind Plato’s views on madness. It would be naive to consider all madness bad, or to consider madness a remote phenomenon, absent from the lives of most artists. Madness is deeply connected to rationality and irrationality. Plato’s approach has much to recommend it: it addresses madness from the point of view of a person who aims to lead a good life.
From an artist’s perspective, the relationships between rationality, irrationality, and madness are crucially important. We don’t want to lapse into the kinds of madness that impedes our lives; taking us captive to obsessions, compulsions, mood disorders and the like, but we also do not want to miss out on forms of madness that make our art richer and more interesting.
As stated earlier, loss of control as seen through an artist makes one think that for an artist this is the way to creativity and imagination. The artist has to be a bit mad to conjure up images that endlessly fascinate those thought to be rational and in control.
For the “sane” rational person, any suspicion of madness would be detrimental to his or her reputation and cause others to question their activities. Although a small amount of craziness is acceptable in today’s society. The underlying fact is one must eventually return to a rational state.
The truth of the matter is artists are not mad at all. Society finds it more appealing to believe art was created through great madness. It not only adds to the mystery but also to the eventual worth and prestige of the artist.