Maria Rovito
Opinion Editor

Watching the news this weekend, I came across a report of the pop singer Lady Gaga walking out of the Roseland Ballroom in NYC, clad in a see-through mesh outfit, with only rose buds covering her private parts. Oh, and a headdress covered with blooming roses and layers of red fabric.

“I don’t understand it,” I told my friend, sitting next to me. “She continues to rip-off avant-garde icons like Grace Jones and Leigh Bowery. At this point, she’s irrelevant.”

“I think everyone can be traced back to ripping off someone else,” he said. “I think she is just trying to do her own thing.”

Leigh Bowery (left) in 1986, Lady Gaga (right) in 2009.
Leigh Bowery (left) in 1986, Lady Gaga (right) in 2009.

Not to beat a dead horse yet again, but the question of creativity arises every time Gaga places a foot on the red carpet. Is there anything that is truly “original” in the creative and artistic fields?

The Book of Ecclesiastes states, “There is nothing new under the sun.” In some cases, this might be true: we are constantly influenced by many of the legends of our past. Plato was a student of Socrates; Hildegard von Bingen studied with Jutta von Sponheim; and Roy Liechtenstein influenced Andy Warhol.

Of course, many of the artists I enjoy and appreciate are shaped by those who came before them. The AIDS epidemic influenced a great deal of Keith Haring’s artwork; manga and anime helped form the themes of Takashi Murakami’s superflat art style; and the experimental music group Throbbing Gristle was a counter-movement against the punk rock bands of Britain in the 1970s.

There is a fine line, however, between being naturally inspired and blatantly copying someone else’s work.

If people would truly appreciate the avant-garde artistic movements of the past, and the experimental periods of today, we find an answer to our current predicament:

Yes, creativity and originality certainly exist today, but only come to those who strive and yearn for it.

Takashi Murakami exhibiting his superflat art in 2011.
Takashi Murakami exhibiting his superflat art in 2011.

I believe art has a certain function deliberate to our society: we need to merge ideas that have never been brought together before. We need to question our norms and ideals every day, and change our ideas about the world around us constantly.

For me, and possibly other English majors as well, I use poetry and creative writing as an outlet for expression. I might be influenced by authors such as Sylvia Plath, T.S. Elliot, and Ezra Pound; however, the very last thing I would want my poetry to be is a complete rip-off of their works. Artists need to create their own interpretation of the world, without relying too much on the works of others.

I believe that as a society, we should promote and value those artists whose creativity comes organically to them. We should strive to advocate creative thinking and artistic activities, especially to the developing minds of young children. We need to tell ourselves that it’s okay to outwardly express our thoughts and emotions. Teach a child to play an instrument, to paint, to write poetry, to draw all over his or her homework. It will forever change the way that child thinks and feels about the world around him or her.

The predicament our society faces concerning creative thinking boils down to our appreciation of originally created concepts and visions. If we truly embrace the experimental and underground artistic movements, we wouldn’t be swarmed with so many plagiarists and wanna-bees.