Did you ever get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re constantly being pushed an idea or product? Welcome to James Franco’s hobby!
Franco is an established actor who now fancies himself an “artist.” However, I can barely bring myself to use that word to define what he does.
When an actor or rock star wants to dabble in the visual arts, it’s fine with me. Usually, it’s out of sight, out of mind… a hobby behind closed doors. But Franco’s situation is different—and irritatingly so. The promotional machinery for his so-called art is in overdrive, and it shows no signs of slowing. It is being trumpeted everywhere. It is seeking me out… stalking me.
For example, his Scion TV commercial refers to him as an “experimental artist.” In my opinion, the only experimenting going on is an experiment in how to waste art materials. We are told that Franco is someone who suffers for his art. I think the viewers are the only ones who are suffering.
In a recent Art and Design issue of New York magazine, Franco appears on the cover with a cloth bandage covering his ear, à la Vincent van Gogh. The title of the article is “What Won’t James Franco Do for His Art? A Confrontation with His Critic Jerry Saltz.”
My response to this question is, “Let me know when he actually starts making art.” And confrontation? I’ve seen more confrontation in “Love Is” cartoons, butterflies, puppy dogs, and Wolf Blitzer interviews of Donald Trump. (Well, just barely.)
The article finds Franco whining that his art isn’t being viewed fairly because people only see it through his acting. Sniff, sniff! In fact, without his fame as an actor, no one would give a rat’s ass about his hobby. Buck up, Jim—the art world isn’t a sympathetic industry. But clearly, Franco’s acting reputation has carried him along. By the end of the love fest in this article, I half-expected Saltz to invite Franco out to dinner and pre-chew his food.
It seems that Franco is more passionate about playing the role of an artist than actually being one. If you want to see a funny, awkward, and stereotypical depiction of this, watch his portrayal of an artist on the soap opera General Hospital. His character and performance are so hackneyed that I was surprised he wasn’t wearing the clichéd artist’s beret.
I believe that getting attention is Franco’s real goal here—or, to put it another way, the more fame, the better. Franco seems to be a firm believer in the old adage, “There is no bad press. Just make sure you spell my name correctly.” The end result—in this case, his paintings—comes in a distant second to the goal of publicity.
Is it all that surprising that Franco’s fame has even won him the opportunity to exhibit with Pace Gallery in New York City? “New York, New York”—they named it twice because we lost interest after the first mention. How does that song go about New York?
If you can fake it there,
You can fake it anywhere.
It’s up to you,
New York, New York.
This applies nicely to the Franco situation. Come to think of it, though, Franco’s unwarranted success with his art hobby may be best summed up by another song parody:
All you need is fame.
All you need is fame.
All you need is fame, fame.
Fame is all you need.
Fame of the artist is not an enticement for me to visit an art gallery or museum. Dealing with fame dulls my senses and brings about a state of lethargy. Quality of the work is what brings me to a gallery—not level of publicity.
By no means is it a new phenomenon for the success of a celebrity in one area to inexplicably carry over to another. However, lately it is rearing its ugly head in places where it can have devastating consequences. Look no further than the Republican candidate for president. Once again: All you need is fame, fame…
Michael Hopkins is a writer and artist who makes drawings, paintings, and sculptures. He has work in numerous museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago. He has work in numerous corporate art collections including the Progressive Collection and the Wellcome Trust Collection in London, England. He is a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant recipient. michaelhopkinsdrawings.com
Top image: stock photo collage by Norbert Marszalek