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Quentin Tarantino vs. Townes Van Zandt

There are two general reasons that we love works of art. Either it thrills or dazzles us with stylistic innovation, formal leaps, and buzzing novelty, or it speaks to a deep part of our self, touches our emotional core, and shines light on a completely unironic aspect of our humanity. Sometimes the two phenomena meet in a creation, but usually, one strongly outweighs the other. For example: Kill Bill Vol. 1 was one of the most aesthetically titillating movies I've ever seen, but on a dark and lonely night, the Pussy Wagon isn't going to provide me with a sense of belonging. Conversely, "Greensboro Woman" by Townes Van Zandt can give me goosebumps and make me weep like a little bitch, but after listening to it for a while, I want to hear some breakbeats, sassy rhymes, and intricate polyrhythms.

Tired of riding this pendulum that oscillates between intellectual, aesthetic originality and more traditional matters of the heart, I've assembled a list of artists who manage to strike the perfect balance.

Haruki Murakami (novelist)--The opening pages of Norwegian Wood perfectly describe one of the most personal emotions that I live with, yet in his latest novel, the KFC Colonel hooks another character up with a killer blowjob.

Melody Owen (artist)--A well-curated show of Owen's work from the past five or six years would literally make the world a better place to live.

Jim Jarmusch (filmmaker)--Jarmusch's methodical style has been copped so heavily in the past 15 years that it's easy to forget he's the one who revived the long shots and the long silences in his stories about anti-heroes on their Homeric travels.

Bill Viola (video artist)--He's dangerously close to falling into an abyss of kitschiness, but works like The Crossing and The Sleep of Reason were both groundbreaking and emotionally devastating.

Vija Celmins (artist)--Sometimes I think she ought to be wildly famous, but then I'm glad she's not, because it makes her more like a special handshake for those of us who really care.

Chris Ware (graphic novelist)--I'll be the first to admit that Ware desperately needs some new material, but Jimmy Corrigan was one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read, and set a still-unmatched level of sophistication for the genre.

Philip Lorca diCorcia (photographer)--Not only did diCorcia's tableaux of his friends and family jumpstart the whole stagey-documentary photography wave of the late '90s, but they were also deeply humane and metaphorically touching.

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