Art Focus: Everything is Famous if You Notice It

Andy Warhol famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” The current exhibit at the Pomona College Museum of Art explores Warhol’s vision in today’s world of video phones and papparazzi.

Carrie Dedon PO’10 recently curated the exhibition “Famous for 15: From Andy Warhol to Your Camera-Phone,” which speculates on Warhol’s obsession with fame and emphasizes the conceptual and artistic influence of Dedon herself. She juxtaposes Andy Warhol’s celebrity-as-everyone, everyone-as-celebrity photos with a slideshow of camera-phone photos taken by students. This comparison explores the fast-paced world created by technology and the role of images in fostering celebrity. What emerges is the paradox that spurred Warhol’s work in the first place: How can fame exist if everyone can be famous? Is fame a collection of behaviors and aesthetic techniques, or does an elusive star quality truly exist?

Warhol did not answer these questions, but he brought considerable attention to them. Dedon’s exhibit functions in the same way, with the added variable of the new possibilities offered by technology. As Dedon puts it, “As we strive to get our 15 minutes, we should ask ourselves: Was Warhol’s prophetic statement an optimistic promise of an equal moment in the spotlight, or a warning that the moment would come to be meaningless?” And it’s true—who’s famous on Facebook?

Dedon is the first intern of the newly-endowed Kilsby Museum Internship. Her exhibition takes advantage of Pomona’s recently attained collection of 159 Warhol photographs, given in 2008 by the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program. At a talk she gave last Wednesday, Dedon told how she had been presented with three boxes of photographs and told to “see what [she] could make of them.” What she has made of them is a relevant, pleasant, and understated exhibit that places faces you probably recognize from the mailroom next to washed-out Polaroids of Debbie Harry. There are 36 photos in all; some of them are famous people, and some are titled “Unknown.”

Tulsi Mehta PO ‘12 requested the honor of a personal exhibit tour from Dedon. What Mehta found most exciting about the show was its focus on Warhol’s lesser-known work. “[People] usually think of the big colorful paintings of Marilyn Monroe,” she said. Mehta’s room is dotted with Marilyn glamour shots, and she has no objection to the iconic status of Warhol’s Marilyn. Warhol used Polaroids like the ones at the exhibit in his silkscreening process, and Mehta was pleased to be closer to the origins and process of these more recognizable pieces.

To become part of this exhibition, students can submit their own camera-phone portraits by sending them to famousfor15.cameraphone@picasaweb.com. The exhibition will run until Apr. 11. The portraits submitted so far can also be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/FamousFor15. The museum will be accepting applications for next year’s Kilsby Museum Internship later in the semester. This internship is open to students who are interested in the visual arts or museum work and can commit to working for the full academic year.

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