• Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, delivered the Commencement address at Stanford University on 17 June 2007. He deplored the coarsening of culture in the United States, pointing out that so much of what is valued there is celebrity rather than culture. He pointed out that much of what Americans see on TV talk shows consists basically of people flogging products, whether CDs, live performances, movies, or books. Creating a memorable image, he said, “I have a recurring nightmare. I am in Rome visiting the Sistine Chapel. I look up at Michelangelo’s incomparable fresco of the ‘Creation of Man.’ I see God stretching out his arm to touch the reclining Adam’s finger. And then I notice in the other hand Adam is holding a Diet Pepsi.”
• Celebrity photographer Richard Young once shot an advertisement for Olympus Cameras. The advertisement was supposed to show that the cameras were waterproof and could survive being doused with water, so in the ad Ivana Trump threw a glass of champagne over Mr. Young. His shot caught the champagne in flight. By the time he was done shooting, he was soaked in champagne, but the ad was a great success. A couple of weeks later, he saw Ivana Trump backstage at the Royal Festival Hall. She was drinking champagne, and with great glee, she threw it on him. Ever the professional, Mr. Young had his camera with him and he managed to get a great shot.
• As a legitimate author of children’s books, Hugh Troy was annoyed by “as told to” books and other books that are written by ghostwriters. To satirize the use of ghostwriters, Mr. Troy published an advertisement for ghost painters, pretending to be an artist who was willing to paint an art work, then allow someone with money to sign it and claim the credit for it: “We Paint It—You Sign It.” The idea, however, backfired. He was besieged by people who wanted to hire him as a ghost painter, and soon copycat ghost painters started advertising for real.
• Portrait painters of society women — and men — sometimes find a good way to advertise their work. In France in the 18thcentury, Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun painted many, many flattering self-portraits. People in society looked at the portraits, saw how the artist had flattered herself, and realized that she would also similarly flatter them if they commissioned a portrait. Many people did exactly that.
• Musician Laurie Anderson and comedian Andy Kaufman seem like an unlikely team, but they used to do put-ons together. They would go to a place that had a Test-Your-Strength machine. Mr. Kaufman would try but fail to win a stuffed rabbit for Ms. Anderson. Then Mr. Kaufman would angrily denounce the machine, yelling that it was rigged, and Ms. Anderson would angrily demand the stuffed rabbit that Mr. Kaufman would have won for her if the machine had not been rigged. By the way, Ms. Anderson has some advice for people who would like to be creative: “My approach as an artist has been to always remember that I’m free. That’s what I tell young artists. You hear them say, ‘I can’t be an artist! Michelangelo was an artist! What would people say?’ Well, most people don’t care about what you do. So knock yourself out. You’re free.”
• Artist Andy Warhol was often monosyllabic, saying things such as “wow,” “gee,” and “great,” although on occasion he could speak fluently. When Tony Shafrazi, who became the owner of art galleries in New York, visited the Factory, Andy spoke to him: “Oh, wow! I love the way you look — it’s so great! Where are you staying? … Oh, great! Wow! Then where do you go? … Oh, how great! I love LA! What are you going to do there?” Tony replied, “Visit my mom who lives in Hollywood,” and Andy said, “Oh, gee! How great! Can I come, too?” By the way, young people often would ask Andy whether they should do this one thing or that other thing. Andy’s usual reply was, “Do everything.”
• Children’s book author and illustrator Graeme Base, who created AnimaliaandThe Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery, is sometimes asked what advice he would give a young person who wants to create their own books. Mr. Base’s advice is simple: “Sell the TV.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART
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