The outlook for fame
by Robert Genn

March 2, 2010

Dear Rodney,Andy Warhol figured everyone was now going to get their fifteen minutes of 
fame. Courting celebrities and his own celebrity, he needed more time at it 
than that. J.D. Salinger wrote a novel and a few short stories he didn't want 
to talk about. Thus he became famous for not wanting to be famous.

We are living at a time of obsession with celebrity. People substitute 
celebrities for friends and acquaintances. TV heads are good enough. Question 
is, I know David Letterman but does he know me?

"There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society," said the noted 
priest/psychologist Henri Nouwen. "Our newspapers and television keep giving 
us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired. Still, real 
greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It has become 
difficult to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We 
must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the 
greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by 
people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing 
was their call, and they did it with patience, perseverance, and love."

"Fame, for a painter," said Pablo Picasso, "means sales, gains, fortune, 
riches. And today, as you know, I am celebrated. I am rich." Emerson thought 
fame only proof that people were gullible. Valuing study and depth of 
understanding, the 4th century Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu said, "He who 
pursues fame at the risk of losing his self is not a scholar." And Winslow 
Homer, in yet another moment of privacy, noted, "The most interesting part of 
my life is of no concern to the public."

Where I live there are green shoots everywhere. Crocuses are here and even 
daffodils poke through. The park pathways are fresh with volunteers and there 
are new puppies in the district. In the daily ritual of creation, ordinary 
plain canvases have paint added and become something they were not. In such a 
place, at such a time, in such a life, perhaps we do not need to confuse 
things with fame.

Best regards,


PS: "Fame is like a river that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns 
things weighty and solid." (Sir Francis Bacon)

Esoterica: Last summer I was helping out one of my dealers by personally 
delivering a large painting to a guy who already had a pile of New York 
biggies at his various ranches. He was one of those oversize, meat-handed 
characters who made his dough in oil or something and was now sunning by his 
pool with his third trophy wife. Contemplating my painting with a cool 
connoisseur's eye for about three seconds, he read my name at the bottom and 
said, "I think I've heard of you." I thanked him for hearing of me, and then 
his wife thoughtfully added, "We got you because we'd heard of you. You're 
fairly famous."