The “word a week” challenge this week is CONTRAST – and when M.C. Hammer’s name came up last Sunday, I thought of his “change” in celebrity status – and how his story is a great example of the 15 minutes of fame contrast.
A few years ago, M.C. Hammer was in a commercial that used his fame loss and financial problems in a humorous way. In an insurance commercial, Hammer is dancing in front of his large mansion, with his upbeat music and some back up dancers too – but then abruptly – the music stops and it says “15 MINUTES LATER” – to show Hammer sitting on the ground next to a foreclosed sign as his art and cars get repossessed behind him.
Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” quote has been interpreted to mean that popularity is fleeting and to suggest that celebrity status will be short-lived. Now did you also know that Rembrandt, the famous painter and etcher, well during his lifetime he also experienced this contrast in popularity? Rembrandt’s loss of favor came after he released the Night Watch, but critics insist that it was not this specific painting that caused his fall from appreciation… in fact, that idea is referred to as the Rembrandt myth (more here).
Instead, Rembrandt’s lack of appreciation – and money problems, and loss of commissioned works – may have been due to those around him not “understanding him” as well as natural changes in cultural taste and preference, where society was moving towards wanting brighter colors.
Now in the art room – when it comes to contrast – one of the first things we teach students about is VALUE, which refers to the amount of contrast between dark and light. Older students try to make between 5 and 10 different values – from whisper light to very dark. And Rembrandt is often the top artist we reference while exploring VALUE because he used contrast so well.
Rembrandt was a master of contrast.
For example, in the Night Watch, Rembrandt used lighter values for the areas that he wanted the viewer to really see, and then he kept the other parts of the picture dark by using dramatic values.
When an artist uses deep contrast in a work it can create a piece that is “emotionally active.”
Even if the Night Watch was not fully appreciated at the time it was released, it is now one of the most famous paintings in the world, in part because of the genius way Rembrandt used light and dark (and be sure to check out chiaroscuro for more).
Oh yea, and the Night Watch is also NOT really a night time painting. In the 1940s – the dark varnish that covered the painting was removed, which revealed a symbolic painting that showed mood and motion in a military depiction. This also further confirmed that Rembrandt used maximum CONTRAST to create a mood and make statements, where the main light – cleverly – comes from the figure of a child.
In closing, fame WILL come and go – and as many celebs will point out = popularity is not always the joy it seems to be = and many times there is much contrast between what we think vs. what really is…..
For more on Contrast – Check out Suellewellyn’s Word in your ear blog