Creative and performing artists have always masqueraded their real names. Lady Gaga, Mark Twain, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello and Judy Garland are all stand-ins for the real McCoys. Why would having a duplicate of one’s self make sense?
If you were to ask most talent agents and managers, they would state that a strong name can add marquee value. For example, concert ticket sales for Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner might not do as well as a performer named Sting! Yet, money’s not always the driving force behind a stage name or pseudonym.
For author George Eliot, it was to be taken more seriously as a writer. You see, George was actually a woman, Mary Anne Evans, who wanted her novels to have more prominence. During England’s Victorian era, her fabricated identity better positioned her work in a male-dominated field at the time.
Same famous creative types go by a different name professionally to avoid confusion. Actress and author Fannie Flagg was born Patricia Neal, but there was already a movie star with that name. Or, imagine being in actor Albert Brooks’ shoes? His mother and father named him Albert Einstein!
What I’ve also discovered is that it’s not just the A-listers of the talent pool who consider showcasing their creative work under a separate name. Up-and-comers, local and regional artists do so as well. And, it’s one of those gifted people who shared with me a deeper reason for an alternate name.
Born in Kentucky as Noah Church, he developed a following for his imaginative and profound paintings and murals that began in Louisville. He also nurtured other outlets for his creative energy through performance art. Even though I’d never met the guy, I’d admired his work ever since I saw one of his pieces hanging in The Kentucky Center, the state’s premier art venue, about seven years ago. We eventually had the chance to talk recently over the phone. After chatting about his collection (check him out on Instagram@allseeingthirdeye), I asked how he got the word out to art enthusiasts about his paintings.
His answer was unexpected and sincere. “In promoting my art, I prefer not to use my birth name that my parents gave me. Spiritually, that name is sacred. I want to honor it by keeping it pure.” This is where his alter ego enters. Or, as he states, “my ego-less alter.”
“We all have masks. When I wear a mask and become You Who (his artist name), I’m actually taking off the mask of everyday life and enabling myself to work outside the boundaries of roles and stereotypes.” Then, Noah made his comments more inclusive, “Who is behind the mask? You are behind the mask! You Who is You!” I got it: We all have other identities, whether physical or spiritual, yearning to be expressed.
As a psychic medium, I’ll stick with the name Tony Morris, for now; Miss Cleo is already taken.
Love and light,