Andy Warhol figured everyone was now going to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Courting celebrities and his own celebrity, he needed more time at it than that. J.D. Salinger wrote a novel and a few short stories he didn’t want to talk about. Thus he became famous for not wanting to be famous. We are living at a time of obsession with celebrity. People substitute celebrities for friends and acquaintances. TV heads are good enough. Question is, I know David Letterman but does he know me? “There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society,” said the noted priest/psychologist Henri Nouwen. “Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired. Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It has become difficult to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with patience, perseverance, and love.”
“Fame, for a painter,” said Pablo Picasso, “means sales, gains, fortune, riches. And today, as you know, I am celebrated. I am rich.” Ralph Waldo Emerson thought fame only proof that people were gullible. Valuing study and depth of understanding, the 4th century Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu said, “He who pursues fame at the risk of losing his self is not a scholar.” And Winslow Homer, in yet another moment of privacy, noted, “The most interesting part of my life is of no concern to the public.”
Where I live there are green shoots everywhere. Crocuses are here and even daffodils poke through. The park pathways are fresh with volunteers and there are new puppies in the district. In the daily ritual of creation, ordinary plain canvases have paint added and become something they were not. In such a place, at such a time, in such a life, perhaps we do not need to confuse things with fame.
PS: “Fame is like a river that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.” (Sir Francis Bacon)
Esoterica: Last summer I was helping out one of my dealers by personally delivering a large painting to a guy who already had a pile of New York biggies at his various ranches. He was one of those oversize, meat-handed characters who made his dough in oil or something and was now sunning by his pool with his third trophy wife. Contemplating my painting with a cool connoisseur’s eye for about three seconds, he read my name at the bottom and said, “I think I’ve heard of you.” I thanked him for hearing of me, and then his wife thoughtfully added, “We got you because we’d heard of you. You’re fairly famous.”
This letter was originally published as “The outlook for fame” on March 2, 2010.
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“If you’re put on a pedestal, you’re supposed to behave yourself like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.” (Margaret Atwood)
Have some experience painting, but want to explore the elements of non-objective painting in more depth, increase your confidence and creative intelligence? Boldly Abstract 2 is for you. As in Boldly Abstract 1 we will cover aspects of color, composition and mark making however through a series of more challenging exercises meant for those with more painting experience. Learn how to fix an unsatisfying painting. We will share our extensive knowledge of the art business with you, covering such topics as the mechanics of running your own art business, applying to galleries and the ins and outs participation in art fairs.
August 19, 20 and 21
9 am to 4:30 pm
$950 Bring a friend and save $50 each. Take both workshops and save $100
My statement is pretty short. I love all kinds of paintings and I think Robert Genn is Canada’s finest painter. A great feature of his work are his designs — so beautifully conceived.