Separating Art from the Artist

Recently visiting the Ackland Art Museum with Grant individually, it had me pondering about how amazing the artwork is in the permanent and seasonal collection of our art museum. Celebrating 60 years at the nation’s first public state university, it’s interesting how Duke’s leftover was left over to us. But while this visit is like one of many, it most reminds me of what’s done behind the piece. I think about the guilt that drove Kevin Carter to his own demise after capturing the photo “The Vulture and the Little Girl,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. I try to rationalize how hip-hop and R&B artist I enjoy listening to come to untimely ends due to drugs and alcohol overdose with the potential for so much more music. Then I struggle to accept how my favorite actors were discovered to be dark sadistic beings amidst the #MeToo Movement. When Victor created Frankenstein, his vision of a handsome rectified figure from the dead didn’t turn out the way he wanted. Realizing what a monstrous creation he’d just finished, Victor forsaken Frankenstein in the way that a deadbeat dad would do away with their bastard child. However throughout the tale it was difficult to differentiate the art from the artists. Eventually it led to the creator’s demise. Comparing Bill Cosby to Victor, I’ll explain how it’s important that you do so when separating great works with not so great makers. Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable was the “Uncle Phil” before the Fresh Prince ever hit the TV screen. He gave us laughs with his in-house introductions and tears from his lessons to his children. However, in the wake of Bill Cosby (who Huxtable is portrayed by)’s guilty verdict, it’s difficult to separate the art from the artist. In this age of social media, there are still “Cosby kids.” From watching Little Bill before school began to being excited about the live-action adaptation of “Fat Albert” starring SNL’s Kenan Thompson, he’s touched consecutive generations both young and old. Cosby even has ties to Carolina, as he graced the cover of UNC Black Ink Magazine in the 1990’s ahead of his visit with the Black Student Movement. In the early 2000s, he gave the guest speaker commencement address to a crowded Kenan Stadium. Following that, he received an honorary doctorate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. But now all that and more is gone as he faces 3-10 years in solitary confinement for decades of sexual assault. Admittedly, I had trouble accepting this. Not Bill Cosby? He’s over 80 years, he couldn’t have hurt a fly now. But that’s the thing about it: now, after years of torment behind the television which he’s done to women. And when over a dozen came out with the claim that he’d sexually assaulted them, it just didn’t pass the smell test. Cosby was guilty. Little Bill, The Cosby Show and Fat Albert were the “Frankenstein” creations from Bill. However, it was the latter who was the true monster in his attempt to portray a happy image onscreen while being adulterous off camera.