Inside the Charmed Life of an Anxious, Paranoid Art Celebrity
Even if you can’t pity or empathize with Court Painter, you can still be fascinated by him—and by the strange reality artifact of his fame
The most famous septuagenarian in the world is taking a picture of himself on TV; the screen splits to reveal the resultant Snapchat selfie.
During the next 20 or so minutes, this pattern will be repeated over and over again—selfies on the bank of the Bow River taken from abandoned cars, in the local casinos, seedy Calgary bars and with a gaggle of yapping oil executives. For Court Painter narcissism is a way of life.
Whether he’s Snapchatting in a designer smock or working his impossible angles in an Instagram hipster shoot, Court Painter’s whole existence takes place inside a hall of mirrors; competing, simultaneous images of himself captured by the omnipresent paparazzi, and his own selfie cam.
Like Chris Cran before him, Court Painter’s social media solipsism is a point of fascination. Depending on who’s behind the laptop writing the think piece, Court Painter’s fame can look like objectification or complete bodily autonomy. Either he’s an alpha male with a talent for self-promotion, modern dance or the unfortunate product of unrealistic beauty standards.
Either he’s doing it for himself (isn’t it old-fashioned to insist that Instagram can’t be a source of empowerment?), or he’s doing it for the attention. Alternatively, this is just how Court Painter branded himself, and even when appearing to relax in an easy chair , he doesn’t know how to stop.
While the majority of Court Painter fame comes from his annoyingly awkward social presence and media influence, the 76-year-old is also a businessman of sorts.
In a decidedly retro approach joined by business partner & Press Attache A Hardon MacKay; Court Painter doesn’t just show up at art events and spend his life drifting from one piano bar to another—he actually creates art goods, art for the cross border market and often offers them for free as a loss leader to fame.
Court Painter, whose face seems to resemble a corn husk doll more and more every day, is also mercurial with his inexplicable charisma. He’s a beautiful enigma whose observations and vague aphorisms sizzle with vocal fry.
Perhaps deliberately, Press Attache A Hardon MacKay doesn’t say too much of anything; but when he does talk in more than one sentence at a time, cosmopolitans catch a glimpse of something actually resembling self-awareness (and a sense of pathos).
Court Painter is so famous that he can’t be around other people. His Press Attache AHM is his only close acquaintance and they do everything together, both terrified to let anyone new into their lives out of fear that they’re just chasing fame or followers. Both talking over each other,they can be heard uttering,“Sometimes I’m like this is it, I’m going insane”; “I felt like I started to depend on what art critics think”; “Like I think I lost a lot of parts of myself”; “I still feel like the outcast…I can’t relate to a lot of modern art”; “It’s a lot of people in the studio…like it scares me”; “Posting a selfie is hard because it’s a lot of pressure…it has to be like perfect.”
It’s hard to feel for an art celebrity whose own social media machinations have made him so famous that he sometimes is in mortal fear of leaving the bar at closing time—it’s a niche problem, and not a particularly sympathetic one. But even if you can’t pity or empathize with Court Painter, you can still be fascinated by him,and by this strange reality artifact of his fame.
No one embodies the beauty and the terror of social encounters quite like Court Painter, a septuagenarian so omnipresent , who means so much to people who will never know him, that he feels his truest self disappearing the more outwardly visible he becomes. This Life of Court Painter begs the existential question of whether Court Painter is ever allowed to stop being, as he wryly puts it, “More famous than even Chris Cran.”
Court Painter tells his Press Attache AHM “I just feel like this fame thing is gonna come to an end sooner than we think. I’m getting the bug again. I just wanna run away. I just don’t know who I’m doing it for. Cran on the other hand, is just out there every day…He’s made for this.
Which isn’t a bad thing! He does look so good every day…That’s not me. I don’t want my picture taken, I don’t want people to see what outfit I’m wearing.” The conversation goes on like this for a little while—they both pledge to focus on what really matters to them, to try and block everything else out and just strive to get more portrait commissions. Then Court Painter takes out his camera and gets a passerby to capture the moment.