Britney, Katy on display at Smithsonian A painting of singer Katy Perry, by artist Will Cotton. A painting of Brad Pitt appears at left (AP photos)
Britney, Katy on display at Smithsonian
Lexile

Its the age of selfies, social media and streaming videos. The idea of what makes a celebrity has expanded far beyond the Hollywood icons of the past. Now scientists, technology geeks, designers, writers and YouTube stars achieve fame. They can be seen right alongside athletes and entertainers.

Curators at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. have examined how celebrity images are cultivated. They are also looking at how they've evolved. It is all part of a new exhibition, "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze."

The exhibition includes dozens of new paintings, photographs, sculptures and digital portraits. They were produced by leading artists. The museum acquired the artwork in recent years. "Eye Pop" will be on view through July 2016.

Curators narrowed their list to 54 influential figures still living and active in their fields. Images of Brad Pitt, Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey and Katy Perry made the cut. They are there along with the founders of Google, star architect Cesar Pelli and food-to-table pioneer Alice Waters.

Many of the portraits are being shown to the public for the first time.

Asma Naeem, one of six curators on the exhibit, said everyone these days is trying to reach celebrity status in some way. They post carefully selected images on social media sites. The goal is to shape how they are seen by others. Quick access to information and photos online makes it easier to recognize stars in many fields.

"Celebrity is really a very elastic concept now. It's far-reaching. It dips into fields that we would never have considered typical of celebrity 50 years ago," Naeem said. "It also has many different edges to it. Celebrity encompasses not just somebody who is accomplished and who garners our admiration but somebody who has also fallen ... has been able to put themselves back together again."

Britney Spears' new portrait at the Smithsonian was created by multimedia artist Luke DuBois. It was produced as a mashup of images from her music videos. The small piece is housed within a decorative gilt frame that would normally surround a religious artwork. It plays on the idea that the pop icon is an object of veneration. Instead of playing Spears' music with the moving images, DuBois used the white noise reverberations of an Italian basilica.

Katy Perry's portrait was the culmination of her collaboration with artist Will Cotton. He designed the candy-land theme of Perry's "California Girls" music video. Cotton went on to design the album cover. Then he painted Perry's portrait dressed in a cupcake wrapper and candy tiara. Perry visited the National Portrait Gallery after the painting arrived. She took a selfie with her image.

"This to me shows how art is intersecting with celebrity-making in such interesting ways," Naeem said.

Other artists would try to strip away any notion of celebrity. That also drew the attention of museum curators.

Pitt's painted portrait is being revealed for the first time in the exhibit with a newly acquired large-scale piece by artist Colin Davidson. The two began collaborating in 2012. It is when Pitt asked Davidson to give him painting lessons. Pitt was drawn to Davidson's style from other portraits.

When they agreed that Davidson would paint Pitt's portrait just before the actor's 50th birthday, "he knew it wasn't going to be the airbrushed, flattering way in which we normally see him," Davidson told The Associated Press. Instead, the artist spent time with a jet-lagged Pitt. They talked while the artist was drawing. They wanted to try to catch a raw moment of humanity.

The result is a rugged picture with thick brushwork. It captures the scruffiness of Pitt's face and long hair. And it has a glassy-eyed look.

"My interest in him was very much as a fellow human being, rather than as the actor or producer or celebrity," Davidson said from his studio in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "I'm putting forward something else and actually encouraging us to look at people again as fellow humans, rather than anything else."

Critical thinking challenge: What has changed to allow people other than athletes and entertainers to become celebrities?

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COMMENTS (17)
  • MasynHBlue
    5/26/2015 - 04:41 p.m.

    I thought that this was an interesting topic because people like to take selfies on their free time. I personally think that selfies are useless.

  • KathrynSPink
    5/26/2015 - 04:45 p.m.

    To me it is very interesting that artists are creating portrets of famous people. In the painting of Katy Perry at first I didn't even know it was real it is amazing.

  • KellerB-2
    5/26/2015 - 10:19 p.m.

    i think that it is good to recognize the artists and their abilities by using things or people that interest people today. this article is about artists creating paintings of actors and musicians.

  • HannaB-Kut
    5/27/2015 - 07:51 a.m.

    This is a very good to the owners of that museum to add a consept to the artist around the world to draw fa mous people or celebrities i would love to go to that museum.

  • TiffanyR-Bru
    5/27/2015 - 11:17 a.m.

    These celebrates are being painted by other people which is called "Eye Pop". Katy Perry was painted which it the top one. Brad Pitt was also painted the one that is on the left of the words and screen. Will Cotton painted Katy Perry from her music video "California Gurls". Cotton then went on to paint Katy Perry in cupcake wrapper, and candy tiara. Katy went to the art gallery the day the painting arrived and took a selfie with the painting. Britney Spears also was painted. The person the painted Britney Spears didn't listen to Britney's music, but to Italian music.

  • RachelE-Kut
    5/27/2015 - 12:41 p.m.

    I thought that this was an fun topic because people like to take selfies on their free time. I personally think that selfies are fun too its a way to express your feelings through a picture.

  • SummerT-Mit
    5/27/2015 - 12:47 p.m.

    This article was so cool that I just want to read it again I like were the dates are there to tell you when and what

  • christines-Fit
    5/28/2015 - 07:18 a.m.

    Many things have changed to allow other people to get famous. The biggest example: the internet. Youtube and other sites have broadcasted ordinary people's talents, hilarity, and music videos for the whole word to see. If someone likes what the person does, they will share it for others to look at. Then, before you know it, it has over a million views and likes! People can get access to almost anything on the internet, good or bad. Hopefully, Katy Perry and Brad Pitt don't let the latter on websites for someone to get a hold of. Other things have changed too, like social media and better movie effects and such, but I think the whole idea of the internet is the biggest game changer ever.

  • Rachelc-Pav
    5/28/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    I think this is really cool because it really showcases what our time era focuses more on and our culture. For people looking back on these paintings in 50-100 years, our present will be their past.

  • TaytenTGreen
    5/28/2015 - 04:47 p.m.

    I think this is actually pretty cool that selfies have expanded in to museums is pretty funny and cool. Yet it's kinda stupid that you have to make the cut to get your picture in the exhibit but your a star they need to get money for it.

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