Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

I was talking to my new blog friend (if I can loosely call her that) Mehreen Kasana about fame and I realized I still haven’t written about what I think it is. Fame is almost a pre-requisite to the path of being an artist. It is an expectation, if nothing else. We all start with the idea of fame and then move on with our careers. I often ask my students if they want to be famous. And the honest ones always say yes. I love honesty.

We all start out on the yellow brick road. We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of oz. We want fame, oh yes. We want greatness. We want to be written about and talked about. We have vague ideas before art school. And art school gives us more ideas. Ideas about shows in galleries. Ideas about articles in the papers. Ideas about catalogues and residencies. Ideas, ideas, ideas. And then its over and we have to start on our own and we have to be everywhere and know everyone and suffer minor and major indignities. Some of us are lost in those moments, while others find their way to the wizard of fame. And some hang somewhere in the middle. Like yours truly.

I have noticed what being famous means now. It means your work sells for shitloads of money. It means everyone sings praises or bitches about you at the same time. It means you have endless PR and you know it. It means you walk the walk and talk the talk but insist you’re not like the others. It means you get invited to almost every residency and art exhibition abroad and you love quoting how wonderful New York or London are all the time. You have foreign friends and you use your Pakistani identity shamelessly because after all the Quaid (as the staff superintendent in college told me today) is still working for the country. His face on the Rupee notes has the greatest value. Integrity and honesty be damned because fame and riches go hand in hand and there is no room for anyone else, or anything else.

Gosh I’m furious. And cynical. When I reinsert hope in my life, I will write about fame again. Maybe my attitude is all wrong – a case of sour grapes even. But I should give myself credit – I have been around in this art “scene” for a long, long time.


One response to “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

  1. Mehreen Kasana

    So glad to read you consider me a friend of yours. It’s the truth: Nothing’s better than having an artistic and outspoken friend.

    It’s great that you were honest about your take on fame. I mean, for God’s sake, show me someone who doesn’t want to be popular. Raise your hands, people? I don’t see any.

    I’ve seen your work and it’s exceptional in terms of appeal and the ferocity of your statement. And this is amplified since, like it or not, the Quaid is still working for the country. The Pakistani card plays well everywhere.

    Don’t be cynical yet. I have a feeling you’re going to make it big soon.

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