Stars: They're Just Like Us! Except For, You Know, The Giant Life-Sized Portraits Of Themselves.


The recession has not hurt Hollywood’s booming terrible-portrait business, although the stars make a big show of finding the likenesses embarrassing. They should.

As the NY Times would have it, commissions for enormous vanity portraits are on the rise in La-La Land. Salma, Angelina, George Hamilton (who, oddly, has eight portraits) and a slew of producers and directors have exercised the rich person’s time-honored prerogative of having an artist slave for hundreds of hours over a life-sized likeness of themselves. Many cited in the article claim to have “agreed” to have themselves painted to help out an artist friend, several of whom are described as the wives of big execs. It must also be said that the portraits appear to generally be cheesy and awful. But it’s not all fun and vanity!

Still, even for those used to being trailed by a crowd of photographers and sized up in every waking moment, living with a portrait can cause a certain amount of angst. What, after all, does hanging a life-size portrait of yourself in your living room or bedroom risk saying to others about the depth of your narcissism? Even in a town famous for ardent self-love, isn’t there a real possibility that your portrait will make you the butt of jokes at the Grill?

Many, after all, face the narcissist’s dilemma of not wanting to appear narcissistic while still, you know, owning life-sized portraits of themselves. Where, after all, to hang it? This begs the question: what’s the point of having these done? Is it just the irresistible, ancient allure of making an artisan slave for you? Is it not enough to have the objective record of a camera: you need the trappings of classic wealth, and the carefully orchestrated proof that someone was forced to view and portray you a certain way? I’ve seen some beautiful portraits of people’s children, and in these cases it’s clear that there is a more timeless quality to a piece of art than a standard baby picture. But there’s also something far… weirder.

There is a six-foot portrait of me and my ex-boyfriend that hangs over his bed, which is…strange. I have never seen the painting, which a friend did based on an old photograph and delivered post-breakup. The ex has explained that the placement is purely a subject of geography: there is no other wall in his studio big enough to accommodate it. I don’t know how his girlfriend feels about my staring down from the wall judgmentally all the time; I know I feel weird having a Dorian Gray-style representation of myself hanging out in South Brooklyn. Which, I guess, sheds a little light on Hollywood’s mania: with so much manipulation out of their purview, it’s got to be comforting to have one representation they can totally control, own and display when – and if – they see fit. A literal and figurative reclaiming of their images. Or am I giving them too much credit?

Enough About Me. Like My Portrait? [NY Times]

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