The Transcendent Nature of Great Artists
Every time a great artist dies (and this has been happening with increasing regularity as I get older), I am always struck by how entwined their lives are with so much other great art.
David Bowie died today, and one of the things that I’ve been thinking about most is just how much he touched, even just among the things that I love. There’s his duet with Freddie Mercury in Under Pressure, one of my favorite songs in college. There’s the use of his song Space Oddity in a great scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – a moment I use as an example of how to integrate music into a scene. There’s illustrations of him by fellow great artist and illustrator Yoshitaka Amano which in turn were inspiration for a short story by the great writer Neil Gaiman. He influenced not just other musicians, but filmmakers, fashion designers, even writers. He was even something of a father figure to John Lennon’s son. Great art not only touches a wide swath of culture, but great artists also end up drawn to each other.
To me, this is what sets apart the greats – the David Bowies, the Robin Williams, the Philip K. Dicks, the Rembrandts of the world – this seeming ability to make their chosen art transcend its boundaries and weep over into other art; the threads get picked up by other greats and woven into a whole new fabric of meaning. Maybe it’s because they have personalities too grand to be contained in their own oeuvre, but I like to think that this is the true beauty of great art – its ability not just to provoke thought, but to be reworked over and over again and in doing so, create an opus all on its own.
And with that, I would like to say: David Bowie, you know that you’ve truly transcended your medium when you inspire not just other artists, but scientists and even astronauts: