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Archive for March 19th, 2018

Brancusi on Fame

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Brancusi The Kiss Phila Museum of ArtOne day in Switzerland, in front of a beautiful mountain there was the most beautiful of cows, and she was contemplating me in ecstasy.  I said to myself, ” I must be someone if even this cow admires me.”   I came closer; she wasn’t looking at me, and she was relieving herself.  That tells you what you need to know about fame.

–Constantin Brancusi

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This was a favorite anecdote of famed sculptor Constantin Brancusi(1876-1957) concerning an incident as he took the long trek on foot from Bucharest to Paris as a poor young man seeking fame and fortune. He found both but the influence of his peasant roots in Romania remained with him.

His story of the unimpressed Swiss cow is a pretty good reflection on the nature of fame, even the type acquired through great deeds. Fame is something created by other people, not something that is displayed on oneself. When all is said and done, we’re all pretty much the same– famous or not– in the eyes of that peeing cow.

It reminds me of when I first began showing my work in a gallery while I was still working as a waiter in a pancake house. I would go to openings and people would praise my work, telling me how great I was. I could barely get in my car to drive home because my head was so big by the end of the evening. But at 6 the next morning, there I was, pouring coffee for truckers and families who were less than impressed by the praise lavished on me the night before.

A big pin prick that brought my head quickly back to a more normal size.

Those folks at the restaurant were my peeing cows.

It’s a lesson that I try to remember when things are going too well and I find myself beginning to believe that I am something more than what I really am– a simple schlub watching a cow pee.

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