Friday, October 29, 2010

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: What’s in a Name?

Things Artists do That Annoy Me: What’s in a Name?

Having been an art writer for half a decade I must say that I’ve seen a lot as far observing how visual artists promote themselves. Sometimes the choices that artists make in striving for exposure are downright annoying. I’m not talking about blinged out websites or ‘rate my art’ bombardments-- no, I’m referring to things far more sinister. Specifically, ways that artists present themselves in order to stroke their own ego-- or to lure novice art collectors into buying their artwork due to reasons that at heart are very trivial.

The main issue I would like to tackle with this writing is the fact that some artists use the fame of their relatives in order to try and secure their own mark in the art world. For example, I know of one artist who is quick to state on her bio that she is directly related to Georgia O’Keeffe. While it is perfectly acceptable to be proud of ones heritage I don’t think it is admirable to family namedrop simply to promote ones own artwork-- which is obviously what this artist is doing. After all, it is one of the first things she mentions when writing about herself or her art. Not to mention that she spelled Georgia’s name wrong!

The namedropping does not stop there. I’m aware of another artist-- well, a musician to be exact-- who often makes his family connection to Pablo Picasso very clear. It is an interesting bit of family history. That said, I find it tacky that this individual proclaims his connection to Picasso in promotional material. Honestly, what does that family fact have to do with his music? Nothing. I suppose his mentality is that since he is related to Picasso people should see his own work as overly creative-- in fact, he has stated that genius runs in his family. Did I mention that he is only related to Picasso by adoption?

 (I want to make clear that I’m not knocking adoption in general-- an adopted child is just as much family as blood relatives. That said, this individual never met Picasso and obviously does not share his genetics. The only connection he has to Picasso is the adoption itself.)

I think it is safe to say that most people are related to at least one famous or semi-famous person somewhere in their family history. I know that I’m related to a few very well known people. However, you don’t see me mentioning their names in order to promote myself. It is boring, tacky, and a downright waste of information as far as ones own ambition is concerned. I for one want to be known for what I do-- not for what someone in my family line achieved. Thus, I don’t really comprehend why some individuals place so much focus on namedropping family connections-- perhaps it is a sign of insecurity. That is the only reason for mentioning famous connections in most cases-- I suppose these individuals view it as a way to validate themselves.

I can understand mentioning the family connection-- specifically if the famous relative is also an artist-- if the artist, musician, what have you happened to be taught in some way by his or her famous relative. However, in most of the examples I find of family namedropping that is simply not the case-- more often than not the individual using that connection for self-promotion has never even met the person they are using to spin their own career. Furthermore, even if they did receive some form of training from the famous relative I don’t see why it should be mentioned in the first sentence or two of an artist bio or promotional material. There is a difference between being proud of ones family and being a vulture.

That is just one of the things that artists do that annoy. I’ll most likely cover other annoyances in future posts. Consider this an open topic concerning namedropping of family connections. Do you feel that it is acceptable or do you agree that it is self-serving and utterly tacky? And no-- I'm not going to drop the names of these two individuals. I'll just say that they have a following in the social networking scene.

Take care, stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. Achei a matéria muito inteligente e realista.A meu
    ver em se tratando de arte,É preciso ser muito mais do que um nome.É preciso possuir talento,competência e fôlego.O artista tem que possuir muito mais do que um nome! pois nome é meramente um rotulo.

  2. Brian, you've raised an interesting point. I personally detest name-dropping in any form because it's boring. I don't learn anything firsthand about the person, only that he or she is insecure and needs someone else's name to prop up their own.

    It's like the story about the guy who knew the guy who shook the hand of the tailor who made Abe Lincoln's inaugural jacket. My reaction--so what?

    Good art will speak for itself.
    Looking forward to your second round with this topic!

  3. good art does not need words... let alone boorish words

  4. Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT related to the Lipton Tea manufacturer.... so if that was the reason you agreed to interview me, Brian, I am sorry! LL xx

  5. I was wondering where my life supply of tea was! ;p