By literally painting celebrity icons on top of 18th and 19th-century religious icons of saints (purchased on e-bay), British artist Robert Priseman examines the contemporary obsession with celebrity and how in it has mimicked or even replaced religious faith.
Selecting celebrities whose lives ended prematurely in self-destructive or otherwise traumatic ways, the Fame series repurposes the religious definition of martyrdom and redefines it for the sake of celebrity lifestyle and status. This exhibition celebrates one of the UAMA’s most recent and major acquisitions—71 of the more than 100 works in the Fame series will be displayed and are now part of the UAMA permanent collection.
Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, in Fame, the internationally acclaimed artist Robert Priseman presents 100 antique religious icons, purchased from e-bay and over-painted with the portrait of a 20th century celebrity who died prematurely from suicide or as a result of a self-destructive lifestyle. Celebrities like Peg Entwistle, who, on Friday 16th September 1932 left her Los Angeles home and walked to the foot of the Hollywood sign where she climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the letter “H” and leaped to her death. Peg Entwistle had performed in 10 New York plays yet nurtured an ambition to appear in movies. She finally achieved her dream when she gained the role of “Hazel Cousins” in the film Thirteen Women (1932). Yet when no further roles materialized she began drinking heavily and is now remembered as a symbol for the lost aspirations of actors who move to Hollywood to become stars. Other portraits in this landmark project include Ernest Hemingway, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, million selling American jazz singer Billie Holiday who died guarded by police in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, with only $0.70 in the bank, rock legend Kurt Cobain and writer Virginia Woolf. Fame it seems, has a dark side. "These beautiful new works look at the parallels between religion and celebrity."