When your idols dabble in mediocrity

Or: When celebrities start to paint and the rest of us want to take selfies with them.

It seems to be a thing : rockstar or filmstar gone painter. As a painter I cringe, silently roll my eyes and think: please don’t. At least not in public. There’s nothing wrong with a fulfilling hobby. There is nothing wrong even with being good at a hobby. Just don’t pretend to be a pro. I used to live in a neighborhood with celebrities hidden in the wooded hills. And yes I used to brag about living in the neighborhood of rockstars. Excused by my love of rock’n roll and my past as a record collector. When I lived in the boondocks in Sweden’s deepest forests, spotting Santana in a parka downtown or the “pope of filth” John Waters in his turquoise Citroën on the parking lot of a grocery store, was just not in the stars.

Now flashback a few years back, when I walked home from the bus station, because my car had broken down forever and I couldn’t afford another one (the life of real artists), I looked into a shop window and looked right into Joan Baez. Beautiful woman, amazing activist and musician…and mediocre painter. Her painting Schtick is to make generic portraits on canvas of activists like Greta Thunberg, Bob Dylan, Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi and herself. So there was her solo show in an art gallery and everybody precipitated her/himself to take a selfie with her. Her being more of my mom’s heroine, I myself am a big fan of Joni Mitchell, the singer songwriter-not the painter. She sees herself as a painter and why not paint your own album covers, when you can ? ‘Garish, color-blind distortions with a brush’ could be one headline. And why wouldn’t you ride on your own wave, if you can ? I’m not gonna say much about Ron Wood, let’s just skip the guy. And Bob Dylan paints as well ! He’s not even half-bad, just not good. I bet had he been awarded the Turner Prize he’d shown up to the ceremony. Grace Slick, hmm yeah, her and Ron Wood…

What about Sir Paul McCartney ? Is there anything this man can’t do ? Yes, paint. A brush with DeKooning does not rub off just by osmosis. There are some cross-disciplinary artists to be reckoned with as visual artists: Patti Smith, Don Van Vliet, David Lynch.

Why would it matter ? Perhaps because celebrity triumphs over quality, the inability of the public to recognize the difference between art making that derives from decades of studying art history and artistic practice to develop something new and the mere copying of making art. Or even posing.

Paul McCartney and DeKooning
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