They say art is in the eye of the beholder, and that creativity shouldn’t be bounded by criticism. They also say that the Tooth Fairy is real. (Oh, that’s mean.) Everyone has the right to express themselves and do the things they like, but sometimes liking something isn’t enough to put you in the ranks of the greats. Even if you’re famous.
Famous people–actors, singers, etc.–can usually be found, at some point in their careers, trying their hands at new things. They don’t have to worry about losing money on the endeavor, and their names are already well-known, so rising out of obscurity isn’t an issue either. Talent, though, is not always something that can translate from one area to another. Remember Eddie Murphy’s singing career? Neither do we.
So we present to you some famous people you know and possibly love, and their forays into the world of visual arts. Bless them, they’re trying, and they definitely all get gold stars for effort, and with practice, everyone can improve. I’ll never tell someone to stop making art if that’s what they like, but at the same time, a famous name shouldn’t hold more value in breaking into the art world when there are unknowns with more, ahem, finesse out there. Let’s take a look.
1.) Sylvester Stallone
“I think I’m a much better actor than painter,” he famously said. And everyone really had to think about that because let’s be real, it’s a hard call. Sly’s been painting for over 30 years, and he’s inexplicably popular in Russia. It looks like he’s going for a Willem de Kooning
, abstract-expressionist thing, and a lot of his work consists, perhaps unsurprisingly, of self-portraits, including one of himself in his famous role as Rocky Balboa, although much of his work comes out looking like the way he talks. His strongest pieces are the ones with less color and more restraint, but “restraint” and “Sylvester Stallone” are not known for occurring in the same place.
2.) Miley Cyrus
Oh Miley. In her words, these “sculptures” came about because “I just sit around and smoke weed anyway, so I might as well sit around, smoke weed, and do something.” The pop star, known best for her ever-protruding tongue, decided to create these collage sculptures out of bright toys, hair extensions and everyday items including drugs. She said in an interview
that creating these is therapeutic, and that the objects chosen and compiled are metaphorical for her life. She also says that this is her attempt to be seen as something other than a “pop star dumbass.” This collection, entitled “Dirty Hippie” and being shown in NYC, is her first foray into the visual art world, and while that’s fairly obvious, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I can actually see some potential, at least conceptually. Some of them incorporate functioning iPods and cameras, and she’s developing a visual theme of headwear like masks and hats. We all did stuff like this in college trying to be deep, right? Maybe with some guidance, she’ll tone down the distracting color and make more streamlined, cohesive pieces. She’s also figured out that doing lots of drugs is not
the way to making better art. She even says herself that they became “much weirder when I started doing it while I was sober.”
3.) Paul McCartney
is the Beatle best known for his, um, artistic endeavors, but let’s talk about Paul for a minute. I’ve seen a number or disturbing art pieces in my time, but this is actually giving me the creeps. It’s called “Bowie Spewing.” “Spewing” is apt. Is the face melting? Bleeding? What is happening? Are its eyes gouged out? I’m not sure what McCartney is going for with his paintings. The Liverpool Museum, where McCartney exhibited in 2002, calls his style “intuitive,” which is a nice diplomatic term that can mean anything. His collection of distorted, seemingly dripping faces are bizarrely reminiscent of Michael Hussar’s
work. Maybe the art is effective if its intent is to frighten, but much of it, stylistically, is extremely derivative.
4.) George W. Bush
The paintings of the 43rd president have garnered a strange cult following, half-ironic, in the past few years. Bush turned to painting in his retirement; he’s clearly a beginner, and that’s okay. There’s some actual ability visible in the grapes, though, which appear to be painted from life, unlike the deformed dogs. If Bush weren’t a well-known and controversial figure, I highly doubt his work would be getting the recognition it does. In fact, the images were unleashed on the world by a hacker called “Guccifer,” so they may not have ever been intended to be made public. If that’s the case, the joke’s on us. Especially when you consider those uncomfortably personal bathtub self-portraits
5.) Rosie O’Donnell
View host Rosie O’Donnell opened a show in 2007 called “Solace,” with paintings about her reaction to 9/11. Attaching a national tragedy to art, though, doesn’t make it good. O’Donnell shows some potential with her ragey, energetic images, but, as with the one pictured above, they hit a trying-too-hard note and the heavy inclusion of text doesn’t help. We hope she’s reined it in a little in the past 7 years.
6.) Shia LeBeouf
Performance art is always a questionable choice. Even if you’re an actor. LeBeouf has been making the tabloid rounds in the recent past for some erratic behavior that’s had people calling his mental health into question. This behavior seemed to be set off last year, when LeBeouf was accused of plagiarizing a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes in one of his short films. He apologized, but it turns out his apology was also plagiarized. Was it all one big performance, or did the original accusation set off a spiral of weirdness? We may never know. What we do know, however, is that he showed up to a film premiere with a paper bag on his head reading “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE,” and later, an almost Marina Abramović
-like performance called #IAMSORRY where he sat in a small room with artifacts from his films and a bowl of printed angry tweets about the plagiarism, while he sat with the famous bag over his head, crying. So…what exactly is this? Is it an overwrought attempt at art? Or is it a stunt? Whatever it is, it’s making me really uncomfortable.
7.) James Franco
In case you weren’t sick of James Franco already, this should be the final nail in the wanna-be Renaissance man’s coffin. Sure, he was endearing in Pineapple Express
and he’s a good actor. But the poetry and the visual art (not to mention the careless Instagramming)? Not so much. In an exhibit that the Pace Gallery, Franco decided it would be a good idea to recreate Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills
.” You might not be into Sherman’s work, but you can’t deny that they’re better than this. For one thing, Sherman’s work was based on her ever-changing appearance, but Franco, despite the women’s clothing, won’t lose the beard, which makes the pieces come off even more arrogant and self-serving. You could argue that it’s a really meta piece on celebrity narcissism and desperation, and maybe it is, but I’m not sure it’s intentional. New York Times
critic Roberta Smith summed it up
nicely when she said she wished “someone or something would make him stop.”
8.) Pierce Brosnan
His abstracted landscapes are the strongest pieces in his collection, while his portraiture, um, isn’t. His bold use of color is commendable, but his style is a strange, often jarring mixture of periods and themes that results in a childish-looking jumble of colors with no real composition. And text is not your friend. Brosnan might be the only one on this list who actually has formal training in art–commercial art, specifically, which gives his work a graphic edge, which is why his work, though vibrant in terms of color, can read as slick and superficial, like an advertisement. For Brosnan, the hurdle here is merging his commercial training with the more personal subject matter. To his credit, though, all proceeds from his art sales go to charity.
9.) Jane Seymour
Best known for her role in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Jane Seymour now offers an instructional painting kit so people can replicate her style. Frankly, I don’t think her style is the issue. Her Impressionist approach is a loose, easy style that’s actually perfect for beginners, and can be built upon for more advanced painters. Her technique is somewhat rudimentary, and some paintings are technically better than others. Her subject matter, though, remains in the realm of the bland with a lot of “home-decor” themes. There’s not anything wrong with that, though, and Seymour’s work, compared to a lot of other pieces here, is refreshing in its lack of pretentiousness; she seems to know exactly what niche her art fills. I would argue that she and Pierce Brosnan are the best of this bunch.
So what do we think of these artistic endeavors? Do they have a place in art history, or do you need to go look at pictures of kittens to forget them? Do they have potential, or should these celebs stick to their day jobs? How should art even be judged?
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