If you cringe every time actor-turned-artist James Franco sells an imaginary artwork or artist-turned-filmmaker Miranda July makes a movie about a talking cat, too bad. The age of the hyphenated artist is upon us! Whether they’re exhibiting versatile ways of rounding up media hoopla with attention-seeking genre crossovers or they are just so damn talented, one form of artistic expression is clearly not enough, here are some contemporary Jacks and Jills of all — or at least two — trades, in a roughly lovable-to-detestable order.
In 1977, Variety called Eraserhead “a sickening bad-taste exercise,” but that deformed, sore-speckled parasite barfed the way for David Lynch’s storied, cultishly beloved and Oscar-approved career in film. Also, in television, animation, art, photography, music, furniture making, fine coffee purveying and meditation guru-ing. Also, he makes good quinoa. Lynch may have started out as a painter, but he spread his definitive flavor of weird into the crevices of almost every artistic genre possible. You don’t have to like it. Don’t. It will make those lines to get into his new nightclub in Paris shorter.
David Lynch’s nastiest villain and writer and director of Easy Rider — New Hollywood’s first completely independent film — the late, great Dennis Hopper was celebrated for his cinematic career, but he was also an art collector, painter, and a damn good photographer… exactly the kind of talent you wanted inside Hollywood with Jane Fonda in a bikini with a bow and arrow in the backyard. Snap.
Love her, hate her, but Miranda July has not worked a day job since she started doing performance art in Portland at 23. She’ll continue to write stories for magazines, make art for the Internet/museums/public parks, make movies about aforementioned talking cats and tell you how she lost her virginity. And she will do it in her same so-sweet-its-bitter, so-so-awkward way, from genre to genre, “back and forth, forever.” ))<>((
Surely the only street artist whose work gets protected by Plexiglas and chiseled out of warehouse walls because it’s so-o-o expensive, Banksy knows the notion of hype well. After nearly winning an Oscar for his street/art world commentary piece Exit Through the Gift Shop, the disputably anonymous still has people talking about whether it was a documentary or a big prank. Touché.
With a few well-placed alliances in the art world and the movie star’s movie star looks, James Franco’s art career has been well publicized. Whether his talent — like his art work Fresh Air, recently sold for $10K — exists mostly in his simile-filled head is a matter of opinion. One thing’s certain: The kid’s confident. Getting-grinded-in-the-parking-lot-by-a-crew-of-nude-gals-while-remaining-ridiculously-stoic confident. Hey, he’s not your average Hollywood actor, alright?
Naturally, the man responsible for the James Franco racially-tinged grind-fest is Harmony Korine, who wrote the screenplay to Kids as a teenager and broke through into the art world by making video art with Johnny Depp in blackface, sticking fingers in sensitive body orifices. It’s really easy to hate Korine — he’s one of the most obnoxious people ever interviewed — but he’s definitely onto something, raveling in low fi “hick” horror that can’t be called just “film” or “art” and treading risque waters.
“You’re breaking up the band, Yoko!” is catchy for a reason. With all the awesome things performance artist turned John Lennon co-musician and the distracted Beatle did together, there are a few post mortem collaborations that are… uncomfortable. Like putting your murdered husband’s bloody glasses on the cover of your music album. Eh.
We wouldn’t dream of denying the poetic prowess and cultural significance of Bob Dylan, but we could point out the fact that the formerly politically-relevant singer-songwriter’s demonstrative ambivalence to the imprisonment of persecuted artist Ai Weiwei combined with these really, really expensive prints of his meh paintings of fancy pools and other harmless things is pretty disappointing.
He’s revolutionary, legendary and relevant, but nearly everyone who has ever worked in the factory, starred in his films and collaborated with Andy Warhol — from art stars to “superstars” — was exploited in one way or another. According to one interview with Warhol superstar Taylor Mead, “he manipulated people but on the other hand he made them all famous, semi-famous” and “was a genius” who “loved his power” and “knew he was important.” Or, according to the same superstar’s poetry reading at the Bowery Poetry club, “Fuck Andy!”