Mark Pellegrino on Ayn Rand and art

“I think when Rand defined art in The Romantic Manifesto, she was right. She’s saying that ‘art is this’. Whether you know it or not, or think it or not, or whether that’s the topic of discussion, doesn’t matter. Art is a concretization of values.”

“And so, when you see a play like Cyrano de Bergerac, it’s concretizing certain values and saying ‘this is the most important thing in the world’. One of the examples she used that I thought profoundly expressed this was: if you see a painting with a beautiful woman in an elegant evening gown, that says one thing about the artist’s sense of life, their sense of what matters in the world. If you see that same painting and the artist has put a herpes sore on her lip, he’s making a very different statement about what’s important in the world. In fact, he’s probably saying that all your attempts at glamour and beauty are frivolous. They can’t work because you’ll be undone by a little virus.”

“And you’ll see that art largely is that. The person who paints a beautiful painting, like Renoir. I don’t think he was ever satisfied with his painting but he loved beauty and painting — you see it in his paintings! And you also see the dissembler, and the person who’s trying to rip apart values, or the nihilist, or the emotionalist. They’re saying something about reality. What they’re putting on the canvas is their notion of what’s metaphysically important.”

“Your taste in art, what you respond to, tells you a lot about what you value.”

“So I think she’s correct in understanding what art is and its relationship to people. As an actor, I think you see it in the narratives we produce, in the types of heroes and villains. That says something about the philosophy and the ethics of people writing the show and, if it’s a popular show, about society at large.”

Source: Mark Pellegrino on Spoiler Country (2020)