Please to meet a new term: fartist, a portmanteau of “famous person” and “artist.”
James Franco, our civilization’s leading fartist, believes everything he touches turns to art. Shia LeBeouf, who has been balancing art making with plagiarism of late, is an up-and-comer in the field.
In an open letter published in yesterday’s New York Times, Franco explains the rules. The system actors volunteer themselves into is a confining one. Every so often, it’s good to shake off those self-imposed shackles by behaving crazily enough to provoke a reaction from the unsuspecting public. This is art.
All is not tolerated though. A colleague should not, Franco warns, “use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist.”
Well then -- which of our greatest fartists are using up too much good will?
1. James Franco
Career highlights: Took a goofy part in “General Hospital,” while simultaneously -- as he makes clear in the NYT -- courting Oscars; made a great parody of an even greater music video (#allrespecttothenewuncanny).
Lowlights: Missing a ton of classes-others-wanted-to-take during his whirlwind tour of America’s higher institutions all while keeping on loudly making art no one seems to want. Billing himself as a "modern day 'Renaissance Man'" on his Artspace profile.
Reception: Even Thought Catalog has grown weary.
Goodwill-ometer: The best case scenario for James Franco is that he's doing a great performance art piece on how to use up all the good will.
2. Shia LeBeouf
Career highlights: Disturbing a jaded reporter with a crying spell during his ongoing bag hat stare show #IAMSORRY. “The wet spot on his bag kept growing. I couldn't take it anymore,” wrote the only witness in the room, a Defamer staffer.
Reception: “Shia labeouf music video meaning” is a suggested Google search term. People are at the very least mildly curious about the spirit of what he’s doing.
Goodwill-ometer: Shia LeBeouf is drinking deep from the good will cup. It could really go either way at this point.
3. Kristen Stewart
Career highlights: Publishing the poem My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole in the unpretentious pages of Marie Claire.
Lowlights: Doing interviews that by Franco’s definition could be performance art, but are definitely not.
Goodwill-ometer: The question may be moot here. How much good will is Kristen Stewart even coming in with? Girl's got nothing to lose. (Bless her.)
4. Macaulay Culkin
Career highlights: Making the kind of art a grown up Kevin McAllister nursed on millions of dollars would make. For instance, this painting of E.T., Waldo and the devil at a Korn concert. And, obviously, his “pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band,” the Pizza Underground.
Lowlights: Drawing in audiences due to curiosity, but not being able to keep them.
Reception: “Gimmick’ is too strong a term,” says Brad Pfeifer, 31, a Bushwick musician.” (From a NY Post review of a Pizza Underground show).
Goodwill-ometer: There’s arguably no harsher critic than a 31-year-old Bushwick musician. Based on Brad’s lukewarm review, aka high praise, Macauley Culkin still has good will to spare.
5. Jay Z
Lowlights: Swiping the marathon concept from...Marina Abramovic. Offering a vague reason for his guest list. If he really wanted to close the gap between the “haves and the have nots,” why stage a supersecret invite-only party for the cool kids?
Reception: Romancing the art world had the accidental effect of exposing its flaws. "The discussion [inside] might be the best part of the enterprise,” wrote a Vulture commenter. “You can see people who are really smart about this stuff getting a little flummoxed. Don't want to get taken in by a hustle, but don't want to miss something cool and interesting either. It's a legitimate dilemma when you let a new element like Jay Z in.”
Goodwill-ometer: If immunity exists in Franco’s paradigm, Jay Z has it.
6. George W. Bush
Reception: “Bad reputations are mitigated by good (or, in the instance of Bush, surprisingly not-terrible) art,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner, finding shades of Alex Katz in the W oeuvre. “Bush’s transmutation from iPod-threatening lameness monster into smiling blog mascot aligns closely with his painting career.”
Goodwill-ometer: Much like Kristen Stewart, Bush has little to lose. He may actually be accruing good will, an outcome Franco did not even consider.