After thirty years of hard work the name of Leonid Afremov has finally achieved some recognition in the Art World. But, these days, the fame of a painter can only go this far. Maybe its a good thing that no living painter can be revered by the media and the public like a rock star, a movie star,? I think of the subject of my previous post, the incredibly talented and tragic Michael Jackson, as well as other subjects of my paintings, Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Hendrix. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Janice Joplin, Elvis Presley, Jim Morison, River Phoenix , Chris Farley, lately Brittany Murphy
The list of pop celebrities who died too young and made beautiful corpses is endless. My son Boris, a budding reggae musician himself, knows far more than I do and I am of two minds as how much success a father should wish his son in this field of popular music (think Bob Marley!).
We do not hear much, if anything, about a painter, a poet, a writer, a sculptor ending up like that. Even the wildest of the wild, the writer and journalist Hunter Thompson, blew his brains out with his beloved magnum 357 at the respectable age of 68, even as few have tried so hard as he to get to the finish line of life sooner.
May be fame is like electrical voltage, which when high enough can kill. The higher the fame in a given creative field, the higher is the chance of its practitioner expiring tragically and in an untimely manner.
Think about it: no one would produce the American Idol as a poetry slam and the starving and ignored poets are safe from ending up like Kurt Cobain. If Kurt were a less successful rock star or a very successful TV script writer, maybe hed still be with us?
In addition, different groups of famous people seem to be able to handle fame and its pitfalls differently. Sports stars and politicians arguably are just as famous, if not more, than pop stars. Yet only in Japan would disgraced politician end tragically by jumping from a skyscraper. Richard Nixon, arguably the most disgraced politician of them all, and a confirmed alcoholic, went on living past ninety like a turtle. And even in Japan you have to reach a respectable middle age to become a politician important enough to be worthy of a suicidal downturn. Athletes achieve fame at a young age, much like pop stars, yet even the controversial disgraced boxer Michael Tyson is still with us and is doing reasonably well. Jake Lamotta, portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie Raging Bull, had a few bumps on his road, but is still with us! Athletes, and not only boxers, can take lifes punches, and so can the politicians.
So here is a formula for an untimely tragic death by fame: be in the high voltage field of , get hit by the voltage of fame while young, have low resistance. Paradoxically, the very vulnerability that makes one appealing to the public may turn out to be literally deadly for its possessor. I myself am content to remain an uncontroversial, if a lesser known figure and, like another artist from Vitebsk, Mark Chagall, be with my family for the longest time possible.