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My View: Artists don’t need the trappings of fame

My View: Artists don’t need the trappings of fame

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I recently had The Buffalo News publish a piece on my house in the Home & Style section. Much appreciated. I received comments from people on my “celebrity,” which made me think about Andy Warhol who said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

It worked for me as a young artist. I thought that the future looked bright. That idea didn’t last too long as I went on to become less and less famous, if that was possible.

Being famous or a celebrity isn’t all that great. Especially so when it comes early in life. That has happened to a lot of creative artists who, after spending time looking for a second act, have plodded along through the swamp of mortality.

Others who have set high goals of getting into museums as a reputation builder are sorely disappointed to find their art assigned to dark museum storage, never again to see the light of day. Being in museum collections can be an ego builder that, like bodybuilding, after time looks and feels flabby.

Artists and others should concentrate on the creative moment and how to express one’s thoughts and values. We only have one chance on this merry-go-round that increases in speed until the centrifugal forces spill you out.

Artists spend a lot of time looking at paintings of those few artists who are really famous. Liking Warhol isn’t one of the things I waste my time on. I was weaned on abstract art but now I look back on some of those artists with much less enthusiasm.

I may be jaded, way up in years, and really doubt that I have acquired much wisdom. I have only my experiences that have set my values. I just don’t get the value of looking at “pretty” art, abstract or realistic. It’s a gourmet feast until you get indigestion.

I guess I have settled in to be a socialist artist and thinker. I’m interested in the environment, global warming, social issues like war and peace. I haven’t been consistent and my art has changed over time. I once actually did some minimal art. It’s a confession I shouldn’t make in public, but who cares?

Years ago my best teacher, Lawrence Calcagno, said I should go to Mexico for good art. He was right. Good art comes out of our houses, the fields, the history of labor and struggle for equality. It’s not born of rich patrons, art auctions and the hallowed walls of museums.

We don’t need some gallery director to tell us what we should like. Yes, we can see some visual beauty in art and nature but satisfying our palates shouldn’t fatten our minds or hearts. Have we and art become callous to the realities of what many of us struggle with?

Getting old with its many problems is a license to be eccentric or opinionated. We can tell it like we see it without caring if others disagree. After all, it may be our last chance to embarrass our friends and relatives. Then they can have something to talk about over Thanksgiving dinner.

The article about my house had me thinking about how I got here. My grandfather came to this country without money or language. He worked as a laborer, started a concrete business, then built a house and a large family. He sent his children to schools and on to success. He made something out of nothing and I’m dedicating my house to his life, not mine.

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