The famous pop artist and American icon Andy Warhol, in one of his most quoted lines, said, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Is that really an aspiration? To be famous for just 15 minutes? And what is fame?
The Encarta definition of fame is “The condition of being very well known.” Then it goes on to give this example: “The fame that goes with being a recording star.” So when I saw the small item in this morning’s newspaper that Taylor Hicks the American Idol winner of 2006 was dropped by his record label, presumably because of poor audience acceptance, my mind went on a “15 minutes of fame” free fall. Andy Warhol understood the power of the media. At the time of his statement he was probably referring to the television media. (Note his picture at the right clutching a TV set.)
The media with its ability to bring people and events into our living rooms has the ability to create and recreate people of fame and notoriety. Can the same media take away that fame by transferring its interest to the next up-and-comer? Does fame have anything to do with artistry? I believe it is only when the artist has nurtured that talent through the process of his/her craft that fame has a chance of becoming more than a flickering candle.
As artists we can’t allow the pursuit of fame to overcome the passion of our craft. As the proliferation of “reality” shows continues the temptation is to believe that all we need to do is polish a performance for a few judges, allow the American television audience to vote, and a career is born. First of all, the producers of those shows are only interested in viewing audience numbers. What brings viewers back show after show is not necessarily talent and artistry. Television viewers are often notoriously fickle. Last year’s idol is just that…last year’s. That is unless that “idol” is able to continue to give a solid performance with each and every appearance.
There are no short cuts to artistic fame. Lasting artistic fame comes with work on ones’ self and ones’ craft that never ends. The passion we have for it kindles the flame that fans the joy that comes from this work. The fame might not even be with the masses but rather within our own peer community that keeps us working forever. The adulation should be our own pleasure in our craft that comes with pursuing gainfully what we love to do.
So, the watchword of US Performing Arts for the artist: “Work, work, work. Watch and DO!”