Title

Artists as Avatars

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Are artists crazy? Are creators more likely to be mad, or madder, than the rest of us? Does mental distress deepen artistic vision? Correlate to genius? Is the drive to fashion a personal pictorial or plastic universe pathological? Bettina Gockel's hefty Tübingen Habilitationsschrift, “The Pathologizing of the Artist: Artist Legends in Modernity,” documents the significant amount of mental energy expended exploring these and related questions from the mid-nineteenth century into the 1920s. Matthew Biro's The Dada Cyborg argues that the Dadaists’ montages, assemblages, and raucous agitational activities in the public sphere of World War I-era Berlin indicate modernity's disruption of stable subject positions and suggest instead hybrid, “cyborgian” identities. These included challenges to normative notions of sanity, but also to those of gender, ethnicity, race, and national and political allegiance. James van Dyke's study of the Weimar- and Nazi-era career of painter Franz Radziwill, a World War I veteran and self-taught reactionary modernist realist, provides a detailed case study of an artist whom one might, in retrospect, suspect of a degree of grandiosity and careerism bordering on the pathological, but who was driven by a complex of motivations as political as they were personal.

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