Is James Franco's Art Even Worth Criticizing?

May 10, 2017

|Daniel Morales Olea

Many of our favorite artists come from different walks of life, Brian May is not only one of the best guitar players in the world and part of legendary band Queen, but he also has a doctorate degree in Astrophysics. Greg Graffin is the lead singer of Bad Religion –an important band in the punk scene–, and he has a doctorate in Anthropology and Geology from the University Of California. If these musicians have felt the intellectual need to go beyond music and learn about completely different subjects, why is James Franco so criticized for doing the same?

He is not the first actor to explore new disciplines. We have seen similar and successful examples, like Scarlet Johansson's music album, or Michael Cera and his experimental, yet memorable album. Why can't James Franco be considered just as eclectic and multitalented?

James Franco

Franco grew up in Palo Alto California, one of the most expensive cities in the United States and one of the most educated as well. He had the opportunity to explore many artistic disciplines because his parents were liberal, cultivated, and open-minded intellectuals. Franco received the best artistic education his parents could provide. He dropped out of his English Literature degree to pursue his acting career. After setting up a successful career as an actor, he returned to California to finish his degree and study creative writing, cinema, and fiction and poetry.

James Franco

Credentials and diplomas don't necessarily make an artist, but Franco is definitely an established artist in his main field. He has been nominated for an Academy Award, but this hasn't been enough to satisfy his curiosity. He continues to pursue other subjects, like plastic arts. 

Many of his works have been exhibited in several galleries in Europe and the United States. In addition, he has written poetry, short stories, and carried out the difficult job of writing screenplay adaptations of works by complex authors like William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. Despite his great passion and efforts, the world is reluctant to recognize him as a legitimate plastic or literary figure.

James Franco

Franco is a multifaceted man who can express himself in more than a single artistic discipline. His Comedy Central Roast, for example, shows a different side of his performances through irony and jokes; some have even called it his best performance.

James Franco
 Franco's performances are of undeniable quality. As for his paintings, it is clear that they do not deliver the same level of quality. He likes to paint fat corgis, actors in sexual poses, and obese horses. His technique doesn't even surpass that of a plastic arts student, but when has the world cared about quality? If there are museums interested in having George W. Bush's paintings without questioning his technique, why is James Franco's art judged so harshly?

  "This is James Franco being allowed to make just about anything his heart desires because the gatekeepers to the creative industries involved know it will all blow up if Franco’s name is attached, even if the resultant blogpost or newspaper article aims only to roll its eyes at his proficiency."

–Brian Moylan, The Guardian

James Franco

Franco may have taken advantage of his fame in order to exhibit his art, but I don't say this to cast doubt or aspersions on his literary output. I'm sure he takes his time while reading James Joyce and takes a break from rehearsing his lines for a comedy about stoners. The thing is that his name is marketable, just that. Nobody would buy any of his paintings if Franco wasn't who he is. 

"Ode to Sean Penn"
In Milk, you were such
A fine homo.
And when You and I kissed
On Castro Street, it was for a full minute.
Your beard was like my father’s.

You may also like:

Can We Really Call James Franco And Shia La Beouf Artists?

Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia
Daniel Morales Olea

Daniel Morales Olea