Below is my reaction to Picasso’s quote, “Good taste is the enemy of great art.”Image

I’ll start out with an example. One of this year’s best and most acclaimed albums, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, is a metal album that oftentimes doesn’t even sound like metal. I like how one reviewer said that, “Metal, however, is not a genre concerned with simply meeting expectations; it wants to destroy and subvert them.” My point is, while Deafheaven were successfully in creating something unique, I don’t think this band would have been able to make such a great and genre-bending album if they hadn’t had a solid understanding of what good metal was.
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I think Picasso’s point here is that, if you think you have really great taste in art and only like really good art, then your own art will simply be a mimicry of this art you think to be so great. Well, let’s look at the flipside, to people who do have bad taste in art. Does this help them at all? Look at pop music today, where the music industry is filled with second-rate and third-rate artists. And when someone big like Katy Perry releases a new album, it’s followed by a lot of wannabes who copy her style. But they’re copying crap and just making more crap! The fact that they didn’t have good taste didn’t help their art at all.
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The fact of the matter is, we are imitators by nature. That’s how we live, how we learn. Even the most groundbreaking of artists still broke ground from the foundation that they learned from others. No one starts from scratch. But if someone wants to be like Picasso and break all the rules, they shouldn’t be accidentally breaking the rules because they didn’t know what they were doing in the first place – instead, they should know the ‘rules’ of what constitutes ‘great’ art so they can break these rules on purpose.
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Furthermore, let’s take his concept and apply it elsewhere. How about religion. Christianity doesn’t give us much room to try to be unique and super-original, as God’s plan for us is to CONFORM us to the image of Christ. We do that by learning Christ’s nature and by imitating it. Paul even asks us to imitate him. Christianity would fail if we thought the best way to learn would be by learning from cheap-rate heretics or blasphemous priests, or by simply trying to be different than who is worst. Is it wrong for us not to have ‘good taste’ in picking whom we will imitate? Of course not, so we imitate the absolute best! We imitate Christ.
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To join those points together into something different, it’s also worth mentioning that we mess this up a lot as Christian artists. We try to be as inventive as possible and hope that God blesses our art. I’m not convinced that’s how things should be. We say God created, God created us in His image, so we should be creative and create, too…but don’t you think it’s more possible that God created us so that He could continue creating more things through us? We aren’t supposed to be the ones making the decisions, the Holy Spirit wants to be doing those things through us. If more Christians understood this principle, then I believe the world would turn back around to the way things were long, long ago, when a Christian’s art was the best art around.
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When I think about this concept, it reminds me of a scene from Pixar’s Ratatouille. The mediocre chef Linguini is being taught the ways of the master chef Gusteau, and so is taught about how Gusteau would do something different and imaginative with each dish. Linguini writes down the note, “always do something special,” but he is immediately corrected that it is not his job to do something special. Gusteau already did that, so now it is Linguini’s job to simply follow the recipe. Should not this be our job as well? And don’t even get me started on the similarities between Remy’s controlling of Linguini and us following the Holy Spirit.