Obama as muse


Much has been said and written recently about the potential impact our new president could have on the arts in America. Obama is literary and tech-savvy. When he described the prose from a book he was reading as “sparkling,” the loins of writers everywhere briefly tingled. There’s even a petition circulating to add a culture czar to Obama’s cabinet.

While it’s true that artists were drawn into the Obama campaign in record numbers (not that surprising, artists tend to be politically liberal) and maybe were even inspired by his message of optimistic realism, I have a hard time understanding how the man himself–his taste and perception–will influence artistic expression or somehow set cultural trends, which is what is being implied.

Did watered-down country music thrive under Bush’s reign? Was literature dumbed down in response to W’s malnourished vocabulary? Maybe the anger he inspired influenced certain works, especially in music but it’s doubtful his own cultural ouevre had an impact on the arts.

Even Shepard Fairey’s (pictured) rise to fame via his iconic portrait of Obama was not a departure. He translated his response to the man in his signature style. The fact that the mainstream finally caught on to something many of us were already hip to doesn’t say anything to me about Obama’s influence on art and culture.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan. I voted for him and I wept all the way through the inauguration ceremony, but I’m having trouble with the idea that the leader of our country, a political figure, will influence the arts. I don’t even think it’s a question we should ponder. The creative process is deeply personal and organic. Why would we even entertain the notion that a public figure could somehow sway the artists output? This idea must be a product of the cult of celebrity much of our culture is currently under the spell of.  Obama is our president and that’s a great thing. But, is our muse? God, I hope not.

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3 Responses to “Obama as muse”

  1. ” but I’m having trouble with the idea that the leader of our country, a political figure, will influence the arts. ”

    I don’t know where you have been, but he already influenced the arts during the election. It’s not that he will, it’s that he DID.

    • I understand this. What I’m saying is that while it’s expected that his influence will undoubtedtly have a soliton effect on the arts and pretty much every other sector of culture, to expect it, to lay in wait for it is so counter to the artistic experience. Sorry if this isn’t translating, maybe it’s just my own perception.


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