Thursday, August 28, 2008

Marc Quinn and his Golden Idol

Detail of "Siren"-- British Museum/PA Wire

If you want to make headlines with your art you need only knock on the door of celebrity-- or so it seems. We have seen this time and time again in recent years. Since I’ve been cynical of Daniel Edwards work involving celebrities in the past I feel that I must stick to my guns and cast an eye at Marc Quinn’s most recent work. Quinn has created a sculpture of British supermodel Kate Moss-- again.
This is not the first time that Marc Quinn has used Kate Moss as his muse. In 2006, he unveiled his Sphinx, a painted bronze statue of Moss that caused some controversy due to the provocative yoga pose of the statue. The end result then was the same as now-- headlines for the artist. Quinn’s new sculpture of Kate Moss, titled Siren, is a 110-pound statue worth over $2 million in solid gold. Detailed images of the statue have yet to be made public. However, some sources have suggested that the statue of Moss involves the same edgy pose as Sphinx-- why break from a successful formula, right?
When asked about Siren, Quinn stated, "I thought the next thing to do would be to make a sculpture of the person who's the ideal beauty of the moment, but even Kate Moss doesn't live up to the image.". Maybe Kate Moss is his ideal of beauty? She certainly is not mine. Maybe the next thing to do is for certain aspects of the art world to go beyond bling and celebrity. Britney Spears pregnant on all fours as imagined by Daniel Edwards, a diamond skull thanks to Damien Hirst, and now Kate Moss made out of gold by Marc Quinn! I don’t think I can handle much more of this meshing of celebrity and bling. What say you?
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New contributor to the myartspace blog

The myartspace team is happy to welcome Chadwick Gibson as a Myartspace Blog contributor. Mr. Gibson will also serve as Product Manager of Education for the community. Mr. Gibson will work to facilitate relationships with schools and students while exploring the potential for student growth and opportunities on the myartspace site. Gibson will be instrumental in the myartspace scholarship competition program by networking with art schools, colleges, and universities throughout the world. The myartspace scholarship program was founded this year. The competition awards cash prizes to both undergraduate and graduate art students. For more information about the current scholarship competition

Art Space Talk: Mike Solomon

Mike Solomon-- originally a painter--now primarily focuses on sculpture. He views his sculpture as a visual manifestation of sound. In a sense, his work is a visualization of energy moving through matter existing in space. Mike holds an MFA from Hunter College. He is currently represented by Salomon Contemporary.

Studio installation with Panta Rhei, New Seah and Bolster (l-r)

Brian Sherwin: Mike, you studied at the Skowhegan School of Sculpture & Painting, Yale Summer School of Music & Art, the College of Creative Studies U.C.S.B., and you earned an MFA at Hunter College. What can you tell us about your academic years? In your opinion, what is important about studying art on the academic level?

Mike Solomon: History is essential. One has to put one's self into context to be relevant in any field. How can this be done unless one studies the history of ones' chosen field ? A lot of the artists of my father's generation were self taught. The advantage there is perhaps that whatever one encounters, it has not been excessively filtered. College taught means that one is required to follow a curriculum that has been filtered and therefore may be not so raw or original. Perhaps this accounts for the lack of originality in much of the art made by the generations that are college taught. Everyone gets the same information and emphasis, so only a few escape into authentic experience. It's really in how you process the historical information, what talents you have and perhaps most importantly, what your intentions are.

The Deborah Number, 2008, net, fiberglass, epoxy and tint, 44 dia. x 9 inches

BS: You were originally a painter, correct? At what point did you decide to take on sculpting?

MS: My paintings have always had a relationship with materiality and at some point it expanded into the third dimension. After reading a lot about the mythology and philosophy of yoga, how space was created to provide a context for sound, I had the notion that sculpture was in a sense, a visual manifestation of sound. My sculptures are the visualization of energy moving through matter existing in space.

BS: Mike, your father is the late Abstract Expressionist painter Syd Solomon. Can you discuss the influence that he had on you both as your father and as an artist?

MS: When one's progenitor is also one's art teacher, things can get complicated. In some ways it is an advantage and in some ways a disadvantage. I can't, in this context, tear it all apart for you. Certainly the artistic lifestyle was influential. Whether one is born into an art family or not, one still has to deal with the influences of art history and there are no "get in free" cards to succeeding in any way, in art.

Siphon, 2008, net, fiberglass, epoxy and tint, 59 x 41.5 x 12.5 Inches

BS: I understand that you had conversations with Willem de Kooning. Can you recall that experience?

MS: When I was quite young Bill would sometimes come around to see us, or my dad might take me over with him, when he visited Bill. I was always excited at the thought of seeing him. His aura was so compelling… it was always a special thing to see him like seeing a magic deer. Bill was brilliant, even in the smallest of observations and his language was marvelous, so original.
When I started painting (at 15) he saw something I had done, I think it was a watercolor. He was kind and encouraging. That was more than enough. I had friendships with many of my dad's friends because they saw in me a sincere interest in learning about art. James Brooks, Charlotte Park, Alfonso Ossorio, David Budd, Ray Parker, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Neil Williams... the list goes on. I was Chamberlain's assistant for a few years. I was lucky to be responsive, given the context I was put into by birth.
Panta Rhei, 2008, net, fiberglass, epoxy and tint, 44 x 42 x 32 inches

BS: Based on those experiences one might think that you would have ended up exploring some of the same directions that your father and de Kooning explored. Yet you obviously broke away from that path, so to speak. What attracted you to exploring minimalism within the context of your art?

MS: Everyone is born into a certain time and place. My generation was most influenced by the 70s because that's when we were hitting maturity. The art we aspired to was pop, minimalism and post minimalism, early performance.. etc. After assimilating those ideas (and they did get very pure and esoteric) some of us became reactionary and decided to revert to art that was filled with personal content and expressionism. Some of this impetus came from Europe which was another reversal/ rebellion in art world power. Raw, autobiographical and psychological painting took over and the idea of a progressive formalism was abandoned by many. In a sense it was the neglected side of Surrealism that had to return.
The Abstract Expressionists had taken some things from Surrealism, particularly " automatic writing" and working from the unconscious, but they didn't really deal with how language was transformed by the psyche. In attempting to find the language of "paint itself" they abandoned a large portion of the history of visual language in art, all that was mimetic, even if the formal qualities had been retained by them. The whole of visual language had to return, as it did with a vengeance in the 80s.
Having come from a deepened understanding of Abstract Expressionism and being of the generation where everything they had started was taken to a logical conclusion by Minimalism, and then having everything turn so reactionary, my generation has had a lot to digest. Perhaps a reason my work "sneaks up on you" as the late writer Robert Long put it, is because my process in dealing with it all, has become nuanced, attempting to not "throwing the baby out with the bath-water" in the situations and choices between very divergent paths I had to make.
Louise Bourgeois's big spider now at the Guggenheim is a perfect balance between the purely formal aspect augmenting the literary one. But Richard Serra also has perfected this balance, the only difference between the two, is that one starts on the left foot and the other with the right. She starts with personal imagery and it becomes formal, he starts with the formal and it becomes personal.
Bolster, 2008, net, fiberglass, epoxy and tint, 103 x 32 x 30 inches

BS: Mike, you have been involved with several exhibits. Including exhibits at Salomon Contemporary and Greene Contemporary. Where can our readers view your work in person at this time? Are you represented by a gallery?

MS: Right now I have a work in at The Parrish Art Museum, in the exhibition, Sand: Metaphor, Memory and Meaning. It's a wonderful show up through Sept. My website is : I am represented by James Salomon ( no relation) ( I also work with Beth McNeill (

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

MS: The dates are not set yet. Check my web site in a month or so.

BS: Your work was displayed at the Scope Art Fair in 2007. What is your opinion of art fairs in general? Did you enjoy the experience or do feel that the bombardment of artwork takes away from the viewing experience as a whole? There has been a lot of debate about art fairs lately so I would enjoy your take on them.

MS: I have had work in art fairs for several years. It seems a necessary (?) evil. They say it's good exposure for young dealers and their artists and they say it's convenient for collectors. I can't tell whether it's the beginning of the end of how art is exhibited or just an ancillary activity.

Rideau, 2008, net, fiberglass, epoxy and tint, 30 x 47 x 18 inches

BS: Do you have any advice for young artists who are striving to land their first exhibits, so to speak?

MS: When I was beginning, the artists of my father's generation forbade me from showing for 20 years, saying that I needed that amount of time to find my voice.. and I think they were absolutely right. Of what lasting value is it to society to choose, as the emblems of culture's high points, student works? That is essentially what the art world is into now, the work of the quite young and untested. Of course, there will always be a few truly gifted young artists. But the process now is that the dealers throw a net over the whole of the art school scene hoping they will inadvertently catch that one talent among the many destined for other things.
In this respect, "art" is being generated from the top down, dealers are looking to "groom" young talent, their collectors (investors) are "in on the ground floor". In a sense they have adopted the music world model.. it's become a corporate thing. The current trend has little to do with an organic process that has historically needed to happen to form our important artists and lasting art. Like the rest of our systems, everything has become ass backwards and top down. So my advice is, don't get suckered in so quick.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or art in general?

MS: "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." - Delmore Schwartz
You can learn more about Mike Solomon by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vanity Galleries: The cost of being ‘accepted’ can be more than you realize.

Vanity Galleries: The cost of being ‘accepted’ can be more than you realize.

Several members of the community have contacted me recently about vanity galleries. The questions asked varied, but they all ended with similar versions of “is it worth it?”. My direct answer is-- NO.

As you know-- or should -- a vanity gallery is an art gallery that charges a high fee for exhibiting your work often without observing any of your art beforehand. Their acceptance policy is normally based on the money you are willing to put down rather than the validity of your art. Their payment plans are often set up as a monthly fee, but some allow you to ’buy’ an exhibit as well-- as in you pay to have a weekend exhibit of your art in their space. This may sound good, but if your work is of high caliber you run the risk of exhibiting alongside artists who are no where near your level. So in the end you will have had your show, but you will not gain the reputation you seek from established venues.

Some people compare vanity galleries to cooperative galleries ran by artists. The comparison has caused some confusion based on some of the questions I’ve received. The two are NOT the same. However, I am certain that there are probably some vanity cooperative galleries as well. Artists just need to know what to look for when they are seeking a gallery or cooperative space. Thus, I will explain the difference between vanity galleries and cooperative galleries.

In most cases a cooperative gallery will establish a jury pool in order to decide who is accepted into the cooperative and who is denied. In other words, a decent artist cooperative gallery will not accept someone based on the transaction of money alone. Instead they will consider the value of the art and in some cases the reputation of the artist in question. The jury will debate about the art of the potential member and how he or she will benefit the cooperative as a whole. After deliberation the cooperative will come to a decision based on the collective judgment of the jury members. If accepted the new member will agree to share in gallery expenses-- such as the cost of having an exhibit, publicity, and in some cases utilities. Not all cooperative galleries are the same, but most function in this manner... and if they don't you should probably do further research before accepting membership. Vanity galleries are not the same!

Vanity galleries are a completely different beast. A vanity gallery will exhibit anyone who is willing to pay and they will often accept an artist into their roster without having viewed an example of said artists work. In some cases a vanity gallery will state that they have a selection process and deny an artist. However, that practice is deceptive because in reality they are simply booked as far as exhibit scheduling is concerned. If a vanity gallery has a full roster they will deny at artist… if they have an opening they will consider anyone willing to pay-- it is as simple as that. You can be the 'art star' of a vanity gallery simply by paying the most or buying several solo exhibit slots. Trust me though, that star will crash fast if you walk your papertiger accomplishments over to a legitimate gallery OR if you are unable to continue paying your vanity gallery.

Vanity galleries will indeed ask an artist to pay… and pay, and pay-- with fees that often range from a couple hundred bucks per month to as much as $3,000 per solo show from what I’ve been told by victims. A vanity gallery will keep an artist in their roster regardless if that artist makes a profit. In other words, as long as they get their payments they will be more than happy to keep you and to give you shows. (True, a legitimate gallery may ask for certain fees, but they don’t ever reach the level of a vanity gallery… and unlike a vanity gallery they will drop you if your work is not profitable-- unless your reputation warrants you staying-- that is why they are selective in the first place.)

I’ve said it before and I will say it again-- exhibiting at vanity galleries can HURT your reputation and thus hurt your career. Don’t think for a second that exhibiting at vanity galleries will increase your chances of exhibiting at a legitimate gallery. Don’t think that it will improve your chances of being noticed by a wealthy collector. Trust me, the legitimate gallery owners and their collectors know of these places and they will not be impressed that you have had dozens of shows at them. Behind closed doors they may even tell your how foolish you’ve been with your money! It is an obstruction on your path to success that you can avoid simply by not being duped. Why spend thousands on a vanity gallery when you could be using that money for art materials, art classes, or simply your own advertising or marketing plan.

How do you know if a gallery is a vanity gallery? Research. You want to research any space that you desire to exhibit in. Where you exhibit is a reflection of you and of your work. Even if someone tells you that a gallery is a legitimate gallery you should still do your own research about it. Find out what you can about the artists who are represented by the gallery. Find out where they have shown before, what awards or grants they have earned, and anything else that will tell you that the gallery is focused on artists that increase their reputation-- and your reputation if you are accepted.

On a side note, I often read art forums that involve topics about how galleries take advantage of artists. I know for a fact that there are many horror stories involving legitimate galleries-- I‘m not going to say that bad things do not happen. However, they are not all deceptive and I think a lot of artists simply don’t understand how legitimate galleries function… or they have a bad experience with a vanity gallery and assume that every gallery is the same because they are not aware that their negative gallery experience was with a vanity gallery in the first place.

So here it is in a nutshell, legitimate gallery owners spend thousands of dollars per year in order to establish-- and keep-- the reputation of their gallery. They will spend money on press, utilities, rent for the gallery space if needed, social functions in order to build-- and keep-- good rapport with collectors, and other aspects of advertising and marketing that most artists simply don‘t want to deal with… all of which largely comes at the gallery owners expense. If legitimate galleries were a racket you would not see so many closing! In contrast, the only fear that a vanity gallery owner has is the fear that at some point he or she will not be able to dupe new artists or that the artists in his or her roster will catch on to the vanity scheme.

Again, don't be duped by vanity galleries!

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Art Space Talk: Debra Baxter

Debra Baxter is an artist who explores themes of vulnerability, fragility, longing and failure with her art. Debra is known for utilizing seemingly contradictory designs within the context of her work. Her choice of materials tend to reveal the tension between repulsion and attraction and the juxtaposition of old and new.

What To Do With The Missing, alabaster, concrete, marble dust, 4ft x 3ft x 3ft, 2007

Brian Sherwin: Debra, you have studied at several institutions-- earning an MFA in 2007. Did you have any influential instructors?

Debra Baxter: Nancy Shaver, Nayland Blake, Taylor Davis and Karyn Olivier have all been influential.

Speed bag (love tap), glass, steel, 12 x 12 x 16 in, 2007 (detail below)

BS: Your works often seems to question the fragility of the human spirit… at least that is my interpretation. For example, with Speed Bag (love tap) you utilized glass and steel to create the form of a speed bag… as you know speed bags are used by boxers in order to train their speed and endurance. One could suggest that this piece represents the career of the average boxer-- one that often leads to a body broken down by the peril of prize fighting and a mind ravaged by what could have been. In that sense the piece reveals the inevitable weakness of those fighters because the end result of their career often leaves them in a state of fragility-- in mind, body, and spirit. Again, that is my interpretation. Can you discuss the meaning behind this piece?

DB: Something you want to punch will break if you do. So yes, it is about fragility, vulnerability, aggression, and what the body is called to do to this object. It has NOTHING to do with prize fighting. The alabaster punching bag is similar but has to do with levity an weight both physical and physiological. The balloon defying gravity has to do with hope.

BS: The titles and subject of your work sometimes reference aspects of popular culture… such as references to Gene Simmons of KISS and the rapper Outkast. Can you discuss this connection? What are the social implications of your work?

DB: Much of it is humor based and being somewhat absurd. I am interested in how popular culture more specifically hip hop. Because one of my main media is stone carving, a prehistoric art method. I am interested in the juxtaposition of old and new. I think it is important to make a nod to pop culture and not just make art that is purely emotion based.

Untitled (Gene Simmons Inspires Me), alabaster, Weathered Foam, 2006 (detail below)

BS: You have stated that you enjoy working in the tradition of Bernini and Michelangelo as far as some of your works are concerned. What else can you tell us about your influences?

DB: Their is a very obvious Eva Hess and Louise Bourgeois influence. But others are Bas Jan Ader and Tracey Emin, artists that wear their hearts on their sleeves and make work about longing and failure. I'm interested in the power that comes from being vulnerable and giving up.

BS: Can you discuss your process? For example, do you create preliminary drawings? Or do you work intuitively, so to speak?

DB: I work by making drawings, doing research, looking at anatomy books. Then I usually make a clay model before I make the final piece out of stone because there is very little room for mistake in stone. So other pieces come from me just fucking around in my studio with different things I have collected, pieces of wood, agate, cypress knees.

Outkast Gave Me An Asthma Attack, alabaster, 4.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 inches, 2007

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

DB: I am working on a ramp with agate embedded in it...hoping to ride a BMX bike off it. I am carving an inside out glove out of alabaster called.." you turn me inside out ( like a glove)" and I am working on a glass balloon/hourglass. I also just received a grant to make an beautiful insanely long table to display my work on much like archaeological finds. So I am working on many pieces for that table as well.

BS: Finally, my understanding is that you are currently represented by Massimo Audiello Gallery. Do you have any upcoming exhibits with the gallery?

DB: I will show with Massimo again, but it is not on the books yet.
You can learn more about Debra Baxter by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Friday, August 22, 2008

Art Space Talk: Paul Ruiz

Paul Ruiz studied Visual Arts at Melbourne University under artists David Thomas, Claire Day, John Neeson and Godwin Bradbeer. Paul was engaged in technology-driven projects for over ten years across several industries whilst deepening his continued fascination with the visual analysis, drawing and painting of the human figure. After launching his first solo exhibition in November 2005, Ruiz work found eager collectors in Australia and abroad whilst represented by Red Gallery and later Jenny Port Gallery. Currently the artist's work is showcased alongside prominent emerging and mid-career artists at the newly opened Lindberg Contemporary Art gallery based in Melbourne, Australia.

Saltimbanque, 2008, oil on linen, 20 x 15 cm

Brian Sherwin: Paul, you studied Visual Arts at Melbourne University under David Thomas, Claire Day, John Neeson and Godwin Bradbeer. Can you discuss your academic years and the influence said instructors had on you?

Paul Ruiz: Yes I had the privilege of learning from several respected Australian artists, but I am most indebted to these lecturers for their ability to challenge my preconceptions as an ambitious though frustrated youth. From Neeson and Day I received a solid grounding in studio methodology and practice, Bradbeer fueled my passion for studying the human form but from David Thomas I was challenged to re-think much of my work from a conceptual basis. I was sitting in my studio one night ready to pack the course in, forget the teaching degree and focus solely on art. David Thomas encouraged me to stick with it. He may never know it but David helped steer me through one of the darkest seasons in my life, feeling so directionless at times because I had never considered a career as an artist or teacher seriously. You may not always see eye to eye with your lecturers but when you still hear their voices years later, they made a difference, and that's all that counts to me.

I had some great supportive friends in the course, too, not all of them went on to practice art but the hunger was there to learn regardless and we took courage from each other because we were not taken so seriously by other art colleges - but none of that matters now I guess. It's what you do after that really counts.

Untitled Man, 2007, oil on linen, 38 x 30 cm

BS: You have exhibited in several Australian galleries, including, Red Gallery, Jenny Port Gallery, Yume Yah Gallery and the Lindberg Contemporary Art gallery. What can you tell us about the art scene in Australia… specifically in Melbourne?

PR: The Melbourne art scene is vigorous and thriving - this was confirmed by the success of the recently held Melbourne Art Fair which brought together over 80 national and international galleries. The quality and variety of the works on show reinforces the view that Melbourne is a significant cultural hub in the Asia Pacific region and I am proud to be living in it. It enables artists, represented or not, to network and be exposed to global currents and emerging or experimental practices.

Events like these help to dissolve Antipodean insecurities and perceptions of cultural isolation here in Australia. But this has begun happening more and more anyway, with the proliferation of online art communities which has for many artists enabled the show-casing of their art online and an exchange of ideas engaging both domestic and international audiences.

In broader sense too our key advocacy body, the National Association for the Visual Arts, is consistently lobbying at a governmental level on behalf of artists to ensure policy, legislation and advocacy continues to provide support mechanisms for artists. While there is no shortage of creative endeavor here in Australia, recent events such as the furore over Bill Hensons photography demonstrate that a broader cultural shift is required before the role of the artist can be said to be truly respected amongst the wider community.

Endangered Species Painting No.V, 2008, oil on linen, 38 x 30 cm

BS: Your portraits and figures seem to have a level of psychology about them… as if you are exploring the human condition with your process. Can you discuss your works and the motive behind them?

PR: My motive for beginning any work is intrigue. Intrigue about the human form, how it might be observed, remembered or imagined over time. Intrigue about how the form and subject will develop and mutate on the canvas, sometimes by will and sometimes by the materials used to make them. This change is integral not just to the work but to my experience and understanding of our human condition. I am both fascinated and somewhat frightened by it's unpredictable nature. We only need look around us to know that painting can continue to be a powerful response to the vagaries of life.

When engaged by the human figure as your subject, there are various mental, physical and emotional energies which need to be negotiated in the work. But I also firmly believe my art practice is informed by a metaphysical awareness, perhaps just the consciousness of depicting a vulnerable, living subject over an inanimate one - it is difficult for me to pin down but something which I try to remain sensitive to throughout the creative process.

I believe the works are ambiguous and suggestive enough for different states (be it psychological, emotional, material) to be perceived over time, and perhaps why the works can elicit such varied responses from people. For the most part, I don't set out to make psychological studies of specific people - if anyone's mental state is being disclosed it's usually my own.

BS: So what are the specific social implications of your art? Is there a specific message that you strive to convey to viewers?

PR: Before dedicating myself to full time practice, I spent nearly ten years working in a highly regulated, technology driven environment. I could not help but be affected by the growing extent to which our human relations and interactions are being mediated by technology. For me, being involved in the ritual and process of painting itself is a way of resisting this tendency of contemporary experience, of provoking a shift in the opposite direction - a shift from the generic, ephemeral and virtual nature of technology and media-saturated experience, to the specific, hand-crafted and material one of making and engaging in art.

I aim for my work to provoke reflection on the importance of this in our lives, to affirm that art making is not merely self-indulgence. I believe it is fundamentally linked to our capacity and need for a broader aesthetic, social and cultural awareness - I believe this to be quite an instinctive human aspiration.
Endangered Species Painting No. IV, 2008, oil on linen, 100 x 100 cm

BS: Tell us more about your painting process.. The methods and techniques that you utilize. Do you work from preliminary drawings or would you say that your work is very intuitive, so to speak?

PR: I often begin with source drawings, perhaps old life drawings or I will engage a model for series of new studies. I do not paint preliminary small scale versions of my works and prefer to map out a few options with charcoal first, photocopying and considering variations. I prefer a broad mental outline and then set to work, drawing with paint effectively and knocking back areas with a rag or palette knife as required. Sometimes the work is scraped right back or sanded back in areas to expose more of the ground. It sounds process-laden however I leave plenty of scope for instinct and intuition to drive changes and keep the painting alive.

I often photograph a painting throughout its development. This is a key tool used for reviewing and studying my paintings at a later date, usually towards the end of a painting where I can review the major shifts that have taken place and if required, make changes that will recharge the painting - a sort of defibrillation for work that has stopped dead in it's tracks.

BS: What attracted you to painting?

PR: I am obsessed with the ritual of painting. For me it is a practice which thrives on moments of observation, intimacy, reflection - quiet creative moments that are then counterbalanced by the destructive aspect of art making - the desperate uncertainty, resistance or anger I experience in the studio. I could never be a sculptor, I think I might accidentally kill someone or myself with a powertool or something. Besides I am not so good at collaborations on creative work, I enjoy the privacy and independence that painting affords me.

BS: Can you discuss some of your other influences?

PR: As a student I spent countless hours observing and drawing people on public transport and stations; I love the unaware human subject- I believe this has fueled the voyeurism in my work and persists to this day, though more often now the observation occurs in cafes, bars, restaurants, anywhere public really.

I feel the work is also influenced by my responses to contemporary film and photography, some times subconsciously in ways that affect mood, composition and lighting. At other times the work is a complete reaction against some of the conventions of photography, especially digitally manipulated works. I am not saying I dislike it all, but I think it justifies the need for the plastic arts - unique works crafted over time and with a material substance that might be informed but cannot be consumed by film or photography - they each have their own place in contemporary culture.

I also love walking around my neighborhood and photographing cold abandoned lane-ways; the dampness and melancholy of inner city suburbs enchant me. I plan to do a series of large drawings as a homage to them one day.

In terms of other artists there are so many contemporary ones, but key modernists that have influenced my practice are Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Sean Scully. I always keep books on them close at hand, like life-lines.

Divided You Stand, 2006, oil on canvas, 111 x 111 cm

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

PR: I have just completed two large commissioned paintings for a private collector. The works were not prescribed too me however, and so they are in keeping with a new series of paintings I will be exhibiting later in the year which, without giving too much away, will continue to explore issues of representation, disconnection and personae. The show is entitled Masquerade.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

PR: My next solo exhibition 'Masquerade' will run from 29 November to 24 December at Linderberg Contemporary Art gallery in Melbourne. I have also been invited to exhibit at other national and international events but the details are yet to be confirmed.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?
PR: Just that you can be kept up to date with my works and progress through my website at
You can learn more about Paul Ruiz by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Appropriation Art and the Internet

Appropriation Art and the Internet

To appropriate is defined as taking exclusive possession of, to set apart for or assign to a particular purpose or use, or to take or make use of without authority or right. With the advent of the Internet works based on direct appropriation, as in borrowing the whole of an image in order to produce a new work of art, has taken an entirely different meaning and many observe it as a growing threat as far as displaying art online is concerned. In many cases the appropriation that one can discover online is observed as nothing more than mere theft no matter how the laws define it. Due to recent concerns over copyright issues, such as the Orphan Works bill, I am certain that people will view those specific images with great disdain and the artists behind those works with utter disgust.

Needless to say, appropriation art involves taking possession of an image for ones own use or to “borrow” aspects of a piece in order to create a new work of art. With that said, people need to think about the history of art before arming themselves for battle, so to speak. In a sense, we all appropriate to some degree regardless if we acknowledge it or not. We are influenced by historical works of art and that influence is reflected in the art that we create, true? For example, have you observed a contemporary work of art that reminds you of a piece created by Picasso? It is safe to say that we all have-- and one could say that Picasso was a master of appropriating styles and techniques in his own right.

We all appropriate from our environment and from subjects outside of art to some degree. However, when an artist ‘borrows’ an image that he or she has found online and alters said image digitally for his or her own purpose the act of appropriation often becomes clouded with questions of ethics over the use of the original work and of the integrity of the artist who has ‘trespassed’ on the creative grounds of another artist, so to speak. At that point the acceptance of appropriation throughout the history of art is forgotten-- lost with the concerns that “maybe my art will be stolen next?”.

Is appropriation within the context of visual art a form of theft? If so we are all thieves. To not acknowledge this fact would be like, as they say, the pot calling the kettle black. I think the ease in which someone can appropriate images today is the main source for this frustration and the denial of our own creative trespasses. With the technology of today it is easier than ever to utilize direct appropriation in this manner. One need only save an image from a website in order to print it for physical use or to use it digitally with a program that can alter the work beyond the intention of the artist who created the piece in the first place. That is where the panic is rooted-- and in many cases I’m certain the panic is warranted. At the same time, one must remain rational.

Based on conversations I’ve had with artists and collectors it seems that this ‘ease of use’ is what concerns people the most. One negative aspect of digital forms of art appropriation-- in the opinion of a collector I spoke with about the issue-- is the concern that people will appropriate the work of successful artists in the hopes that they too will have some degree of success riding the coat tails, so to speak. Another concern involves the possibility of original works of art or prints being devalued due to appropriation art based off of them-- which could harm the financial success of the artist involved. One digital artist that I spoke with expressed her concern that appropriation art involving the Internet and image programs cheapens works of digital and computer based art as a whole in the minds of a countless number of individuals. She went on to say that appropriation of this manner-- and the concerns that stem from it-- is one reason why people tend to question the validity of works that have been created with computers in general.

As mentioned, appropriation within the context of art is nothing new. It has been with us since the dawn of human existence. In many ways it is a natural response as far as the urge to create is concerned. However, the term ‘appropriation art’ did not come into common use until the 1970s and 80s. Artists, such as Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, and Barbara Kruger, addressed the act of appropriating itself as a theme or method-- as a point of creative exploration-- in order to delve into other possibilities via the use of images that had been created by others. Supporters of appropriation art that is based on the application of the Internet will often use these specific artists as a form of validation for the work that they are creating and their use of appropriation. However, as the collector I spoke with mentioned… one could say they are still “riding the coat tails” by enforcing that validation. The question is, are they “riding” more than artists who create art in a more traditional manner-- such as painting, sculpting,.. etc.? Again, we all appropriate to some degree.

Appropriation artists who utilize images that they have found online will often proclaim that it is within their rights to create new works from those images due to fair use or parody. When reminded that original works are copyrighted and that photographs of original works have protection as well they will often spout names of specific artists, like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons, in order to prove the validation of their work. However, they often are not aware of the fact that Warhol was challenged with several lawsuits involving appropriation and that he was known to settle out of court over those issues. Fair use and parody as a defense does not always work.

When reminded of those facts some appropriation artists utilizing the net will state that their work is “revolutionary” because they have “challenged” the laws. In other words, some feel that appropriation artists attempt to manipulate laws that protect visual artists in general only to lash out at those same laws when their defense is crushed. This is another reason why you will find debates online that are hostile against the idea of appropriating images by digital means. Again, appropriation in general is nothing new… it is not revolutionary as some would have you believe in order to validate their work. The application of appropriation art by utilization of the Internet might be considered revolutionary by some, but the act itself is not in my opinion.

Do you have concerns about this issue? Do you support appropriation artists who utilize the Internet for inspiration? Should an appropriation artist inform other artists that they plan to use their images? Is it ’theft’ if they don’t? Should we observe the historic context of appropriation and art? How can artists combat appropriation art that is considered unethical? Should ethics be an issue? What role will the Orphan Works bill play in the validation of Internet based appropriation art if it is passed? Consider this an open debate about appropriation art and the Internet.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Art Space Talk: Leslie Holt

Leslie Holt is from Bethesda, Maryland but considers herself a naturalized citizen of St. Louis, MO. She earned her BFA in Painting at Washington University in St. Louis in 1992 and her MFA in Painting at Washington State University in 2003. Between undergraduate and graduate school, she worked in St. Louis as a social worker and advocate for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and people receiving welfare benefits. These experiences have influenced her work, and she has an ongoing interest in the intersection of art and community. Leslie currently lives in St. Louis, MO where she teaches at Fontbonne University, St. Louis Community College, and Lewis and Clark Community College.

Leslie Holt’s recent work includes several series of paintings that weave inter-related experiences-- including her experiences growing up with a mentally ill family member, pop culture and famous works of art. Leslie’s work often displays an unsettling intersection of childhood and the adult world. Leslie’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and has been featured at the Aqua Miami Art Fair and Scope Hamptons.

Hello Masterpiece (art appreciation): Hello Goya, 2006, oil on canvas, 4 x 6 inches

Brian Sherwin: Leslie, you earned your BFA in Painting at Washington University in St. Louis . You then earned an MFA in Painting at Washington State University . Can you discuss your academic years? For example, did you have any influential instructors? Also, what can you tell prospective students about those specific art programs?

Leslie Holt: I did my last two years of undergrad at Wash U, having sampled a few other places. I was looking for a strong fine arts program within a strong liberal arts university so that I could take classes besides art. I really need to be around people who have multiple interests and let other parts of life bleed in to their art. Wash U was a great place for that.

By the time I decided to go back to grad school I had worked various jobs for 9 years, while making my art, having that common struggle of balancing making a living and making art. The work was intense - social work and advocacy, so it really drained me and left little room for art. So grad school for me was about having carved out time to make art, as well as to try teaching on a college level, which I was not sure I would like - I ended up loving teaching!

Washington State University was a great place for me – very remote, very independent, and financially doable because they offer full assistantships with teaching. You can actually get out of there without debt. There was a mix of young emerging artists and older school types on the faculty. The whole grad curriculum is individual studio visits and group critiques, by individual faculty members, so you get out of it as much as you can put in. I highly recommend it for students who want independence, teaching experience, and a remote, distraction-free environment.
I am lucky to have many influential instructors in my life, starting with a really dynamic high school art teacher – Walt Bartman. In undergrad - Bill Hawk and Phyllis Plattner had the most influence on me. In grad school I’d have to say Michelle Forsyth and Amy Mooney were my major mentors. I still stay in touch and learn a lot from all those folks and others.

Swallow (stills 1 – 4), 2004, oil on masonite, 6 x 9 inches each

BS: You have been very active in the St. Louis art scene-- having had exhibits at PHD Gallery, Bonsack Gallery, and several other exhibit spaces throughout St. Louis . I’ve read that the St. Louis art scene has been empowered in recent years due to a boom in artist ran exhibits and an increased interest in open studio visits throughout the city. What can you tell us about the art scene in St. Louis ?

LH: St. Louis is really exploding in terms of the arts. When I left St. Louis to go to grad school in 2001 it seemed like the art world here was dominated by a couple of galleries. Now there are lots of new spaces popping up, both commercial and nonprofit/alternative, as well as lots of folks blogging, a very active arts list serve, and a city wide open studio event that has been well supported. I feel like I have had a great progression as an artist here since I returned in 2004.

I started out by showing in group and solo shows at various galleries here and nationally. And this year I had a solo show at a great newer St. Louis gallery, phd gallery. That was fabulous in terms of getting great press coverage and exposure for my work, as well as generating sales. This exhibit was huge for me in terms of pushing my career to the next level. For me phd gallery epitomizes the new growth and opportunity in St. Louis art scene right now. I am even getting my first curatorial experience at phd - an exhibit that opens September 6, titled “Nervous Laughter,” containing artwork that uses humor to address serious issues.
Hello Prozac Spill, 2005, oil on canvas, 6 x 6 inches

BS: Leslie, I understand that you worked in St. Louis as a social worker and advocate for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and people receiving welfare benefits. How did that experience influence the direction of your art?

LH: This work had a huge effect on my work in several ways. It took me getting some distance from it and having the time in grad school to reflect on it for it to surface in my work. For several years, starting in grad school, I have been making work about mental illness, particularly psychiatric medication. I tapped into my childhood experiences with a mentally ill family member and created these artificial narratives of pills spilling in various intimate locations, like children’s bed sheets, the toilet, rugs, and pills inside the mouth, at the moment before swallowing them. I painted from photos of actual pills spilling in locations in the house where I grew up. It was very personal work for me as well as work that had content I really wanted to share with an audience. I had no idea that people would resonate so much with the pills – identify them, talk about who they know who takes them, etc. That was such a powerful part of making this work that I found very satisfying.
So while my primary interest in making them was to create these lush, brightly colored, almost innocent looking paintings that made you do a double take because of the presence of the pills, I also learned the power of an image to speak to private experiences and de-stigmatize mental illness, which still can be a very shameful part of a lot of people’s lives.
Fruity Goodness: Hello Geodon, 2004, oil on canvas, 4 x 4 inches

BS: Can you go into further detail about your interest in the intersection between art and community as well as your interest in the intersection between childhood and the adult world?

LH: The intersection of childhood and the adult world has been of interest for a long time and the pill work is where I started to explore it most directly. There are things children see in the adult world that they don’t fully understand but that they still see and process on some level. They don’t have language for it necessarily, so images can sometimes describe these experiences best. And they aren’t supposed to see certain things – adults try to protect them, but they see it anyway! So a lot of my exploration of the medications has to do with looking at them from a child’s point of view. They look like candy and yet there is something very grave about them! And this direct connection between the pills and toys in the “Fruity Goodness” series developed out of that as well.

Art and community – I feel like grad school was the beginning of bringing my two “separate” worlds together – the social worker/advocate with the artist. I made baby steps towards reconciling these parts of my life that I had previously kept pretty separate. But I only touched the surface of what is possible. I would like to go further with this notion of making work that really resonates with people’s experiences, especially marginalized experiences you don’t usually hear about or see on gallery walls. I also have dabbled in doing arts and other creative activities with people with mental illness, which has been very rewarding. I would like to explore that more

Hello Masterpiece (art appreciation): Hello Matisse, 2006, oil on canvas, 4 x 6 inches

BS: Leslie, tell us more about your art. For example, your “Hello Masterpiece (art appreciation)” series. I understand that in the series you juxtapose the character, Hello Kitty, with famous images from art history. The paintings are postcard size, similar to those found in a museum gift shop. Tell us about the meaning behind this series.

LH: “Hello Masterpiece” is my most recent series that I started almost on a whim. I first started using Hello Kitty in my pill series to further emphasize that contrast of child and adult worlds. She also provides me a bit of levity in contrast to the very heavy content of the pills and “Unholy Ghost” series. Hello Kitty came on the scene in the 70’s and she has made this massive resurgence in the past 5 years or so - I affectionately refer to her as a commercial whore. I also see her as the toy version of Cindy Sherman because she is constantly changing identities (in this particularly girly way – its’ all about outfits!). I started teaching Art Appreciation and Art History and was revisiting all these famous Art Historical images. So Hello Kitty is touring art history (a la Sister Wendy Beckett’s “History of Painting”), wearing outfits that match (or purposefully clash with) elements of the famous paintings.

The work becomes a clash of high and low culture and a commentary on the commodification of art. I want her “toyness” and her obvious overlay on the image to disrupt any illusion that she actually fits in the scene of the artwork; in fact often she is casting a shadow onto the artwork. The postcard size of the paintings reinforces their appeal as commodities in a market and provides a satirical perspective on the paintings’ usual highbrow status. I like the questions the work raises for example: what is more “pop” – Mona Lisa or Hello Kitty?
Unholy Ghost III, 2004, oil on canvas, 32 x 46 inches

BS: Can you tell us about your “Unholy Ghosts” series?

LH: I named the “Unholy Ghost” series after a collection of essays about the experience of depression. The ghost is a metaphor for the haunting quality of mental illness and memory, as well as a reference to the common childhood costume and experience of hiding. The ghosts are paintings of figures under Sesame Street bed sheets. They could be adults or children – it is unclear.

In the “Unholy Ghost Interior View” series, I paint from the point of view from inside these same bed sheets – I show them together when possible, so you have the exterior view of the experience and the interior view. In the interior series, these familiar and friendly characters become distorted and sometimes creepy when viewed so close to the eyes. From these partially obscured, veiled views, they become abstracted visions of ambiguous spaces, which I see as a mirror of the interior experience of childhood.

Unholy Ghost (Interior View Smurf III), 2006, oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches

BS: Leslie, is a series ever finished? Or do you sometimes go back into a series in order to explore those specific themes further?

LH: I never think of a series as finished because I feel like I just touch on the surface of what is possible. I always want the option to go back and push something further. But ask me that again next summer when I am finishing my 300th “Hello Masterpiece” painting - I might have a different answer!

BS: What are you working on at this time? Where will your art take you next?

LH: I have been reorienting myself after my “Hello Masterpiece” show at phd gallery. I have another solo show coming up next summer at the Curator’s Office in Washington DC and that will be the “Hello Masterpiece” series as well. But I have another series in mind, and still want to push the Unholy Ghost series further.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

LH: That’s probably more than enough. Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about my work, and I always appreciate feedback on it!

You can learn more about Leslie Holt by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Monday, August 18, 2008

Art Space Talk: Nikki Sass

The art of Nikki Sass is a pursuit to embody the ambiance and materials found in post-industrial areas. In a sense, Nikki observes small details that are often considered trivial-- such as peeling bathroom paint, paper on telephone poles, foundling mattresses-- and utilizes them as a source of inspiration. The result of this exploration is a focus on texture. Nikki is interested in the texture resulting from the layering of paint, the physical process of chipping and scrubbing it away, and the timeline that emerges.
Panama Slim, 2008, mixed media on patinaed steel, 19 x 23 inch.

Brian Sherwin: Nikki, you grew up on the outskirts of Detroit. You have stated that Detroit had a lasting effect on your appreciation for industrial objects, buildings, and the textures found in them. Do you mind telling us about your youth and how your early years have been an influence as far as your art is concerned?

Nikki Sass: It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized, most of the country is very different from Detroit. For me the backdrop of industry was everywhere- it employed a lot of my family and neighbors, the schools emphasized the history of the Fords and the whole assembly lines- field trips often had to do with- yeah, cars & industry. It’s not a place based on mainstream aesthetics but rather utility. Loading docks, factories, metal cutting, glass cutting, dye shops-- it’s everywhere.
I liked the burnt and over-ground mansions that where farther downtown- they seemed like relics- I always liked things that had a history. At the same time the boy who lived behind me and I would undertake small excavations of our backyards. We’d find things like old bottles and car parts and other bits of junk from the 20s. This part of my life wasn’t something I started articulating in my work until I moved away from it- not out of being homesick, but more because contrast created dialogue.
Dub, 2008, mixed media on patinaed steel, 31.5 x 31.5 inch.

BS: I understand that you moved to Italy at one point in order to study fresco restoration and printmaking. Can you recall that experience? Also, why did you decide to move back to the US?

NS: I worked for the state parks for two summers cutting down non-indigenous trees to get the money for it. I was really happy in Italy. The reason I wanted to go wasn’t simply to visit the museums and the whole art history thing- I was very interested in trying to live within that culture and learn the language.

Fresco restoration surpassed my expectations. Lorenzo Casamente was my instructor. He had restored a large amount of the major fresco's in Florence and Pompeii. He was very generous with his students in that he would take us to that sights he was working on like Santa Maria Novella, a monastery where they made books and schnapps, and a cloistered convent.

Printmaking had been my main focus at CCS. I was mostly doing intaglio, using very mild acid baths and concentrating on achieving very delicate subtitles. The nature of printmaking- the need to look at your intended piece as a puzzle made of layers- is where my intrigue for it came. The Florentine print studio was very different in that they encouraged the use of stronger acid and much bolder marks. It was a good balance.

Right before I moved back I met some friends on a train going to Napoli. They invited me to stay with them for a year and work at their family’s bar; and I wish I would have stayed. But at the time I wanted to go back to finish my degree. It’s an ongoing thing with me- I often regret how “responsible/ sensible”- if you can call it that- I’ve been.

Survival of the Rudest, 2008, mixed media on patinaed steel, 19 x 23 inch.

BS: Nikki, as for your years at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and the Lorenzo de' Medici Art Institute in Italy.... can you tell us about those experiences? For example, did you have any influential instructors?

NS: I really enjoyed CCS for a lot of reasons. I was lucky- in Detroit no one is really marketing to you. I think it was easier for me to develop my own language for my work because the world wasn’t shoving ipods and h&m down my throat. There are no shopping malls downtown. You have to go to the suburbs. I had some exceptional instructors- Brain Nelson, Patrick McCay, Joseph Wesner, Joe Bernard, and Dennis Galffy. They all put a lot of thought and energy into teaching. It was exactly what I needed.

BS: Dilapidation, neglect, and isolation are often reflected in your work. However, you don't view that focus in a negative manner. Can you tell us more about the thoughts behind your art?

NS: When you live a place with more abandoned buildings over 20 stories than anywhere else in the country there are good things about it too- you can do almost anything you want- look at the techno history there. When I moved downtown for college being surround by it defiantly changed the way I viewed it. So much of it becomes this massive installation- trees growing out of buildings missing roofs, there’s a parking structure that was a theater- it still has the mangled curtains and a couple rows of chairs- not to mention a painted ceiling, chopped cars laid out like specimens next to each other in vacant lots. I couldn’t change what it was so I found what interested me in it- the textures and the oddities. The habit of looking for these things came with me to San Francisco. I look for the same things here to inspire my work like the Sutro baths.
Call Me Handsome, 2008, mixed media on patinaed steel, 23 x 19 inch.

BS: Tell us more about your interest in texture...

NS: It’s really an id thing of mine. I’m a touchy person. I want viewers to be able to interact with my work visually, of course, but also through touch.

BS: Nikki, you avoid narrative within the context of your art. In a sense, you allow the physicality of your paintings to do the talking-- the texture for example. Why do avoid narratives? Why do they not interest you as far as your art is concerned?

NS: I don’t have anything against narratives; and in the future it may change. For now I’m very content focusing on the texture. When I consider the addition of more elaborate illustrative elements I worry that it may be too overwhelming and may take away from the subtle physical aspects of the paint. It would be like wearing a lot of eye makeup with very defined lips.

BS: Nikki, what about your process... can you tell us how these works come into being, so to speak? Perhaps you can describe some of your methods?

NS: I use a cold patina and layer on paint- sometimes drawings… I’m also in love with decals at the moment-they’re in the mix too. My thought process goes back to how I used to approach printmaking- it’s more like a puzzle. I try not to resolve a piece too early because I prefer adding a lot of layers. It’s also a very physical process- there’s a lot of scraping and buffing.

BS: Are you influenced by any specific artists?

NS: I really enjoy looking at work in other styles, mediums, time periods than my own, and like most artists I’m influenced by music. Henry Darger, Ursula von Rydingsvard, John Vivanco’s photographs, Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project, Kent Williams recent work, the piece I loved for the foreground- a childhood fave- Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley, Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry mural, and record labels Ghostly International and Ersatz Audio.
Untitled 5, 2008, mixed media on patinaed steel, 8 x 5.5 inch.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

NS: I’m working on a series of larger pieces that are on steel panels rather than flat pieces. When I’m finished there will be 12. I’ve posted some of them under New Work on my page. The group is of a bolder color palette.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

NS: It is changing and becoming larger. In the next year I’m going to create 3 dimensional work as well with the same techniques on found pieces of steel.
You can learn more about Nikki Sass by visiting the following website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Myth of the Artist

The Myth of the Artist

The myth concerning what it is to be an ‘artist’ has developed for centuries. During that span of time the image of ‘the artist‘ has become one of mystery and magic… rebellion and inner struggle-- these myths assume that all artists are born with a power that is not present in other individuals, the ability to cause social change with a single image produced a few waves of the hand, and a sense of vision that goes beyond the physics of natural sight. Ask people to describe what it is to be an artist and you will most likely hear or read similar responses. You will be told that an artist is a “highly sensitive soul”, a “soul searcher”, a “seer of truth” among other things. With these concepts the artist is viewed as a modern day shaman or sage… a person that is highly aware of the human condition and the spiritual aspects of life. The question is… why? Why do we view ‘the artist’ as a person with inborn knowledge that goes beyond the comprehension or capability of others?

Many artists have embraced this ideology in that they include aspects of these opinions within statements concerning their art. If you search artist websites you will no doubt discover examples of this. The artist may discuss “the soul of an artist” and how his or her soul is somehow more “pure” or “true” than that of the general populace. He or she may discuss the “burden” of knowing the “truth” about life. The artist may describe himself or herself as an artist of “light” or “dark”. One could say that such thoughts borderline on superstition-- yet millions of people accept these bold statements as an unquestionable reality.

Why do so many people view artists as some form of superhuman? Why do so many artists knowingly or unknowingly attempt to fill that role? Is it our collective need to find something more in the doldrums of life? Have the magicians and demi-gods of old been replaced with how ‘the artist’ is viewed by so many people in contemporary times? What captivates us about an individual who devotes a great deal of time focusing on creativity endeavors? I ponder this.

I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to embrace the dreamlike quality of this image-- I’m sure I have succumbed to this way of thinking at some point when observing exceptional talent or viewing a work of art that seemed to tap into my inner thoughts. However, I am interested to know if others notice the myth that so many embrace concerning how artists are viewed within the context of society. Do you think the myth surrounding ’the artist’ stems from a need to feel some form of void in our lives as far as imagination is concerned? Or are we to believe that a countless number of sages and mystics are walking amongst us?

In truth, the reality of being an “artist“-- or at least in the case of artists I’ve known-- is not exactly magical nor is it a way of life that is surrounded in mystery. Most tend to struggle with the realm of finance or maintaining worthwhile relationships outside of the studio than with the complexities of existence or inner knowledge. Most live what would be considered a ‘normal’ life aside from the fact that they spend hours working in a studio-- with all the exhaustion, sweat, and in some cases tears-- frustration over a failed piece or exhibit rejection can be a pain!-- that is expected from a mere mortal-- no magic attached. Perhaps if more people observed those aspects of the creative process they would no longer fall victim to the myth that I’ve mentioned-- the idea that artists have ‘something‘ that makes them unique over everyone else?

Consider this an open thread about how artists are perceived within the context of society and how the myth surrounding the image of ‘the artist’ has been embedded into our culture. Feel free to comment with your experiences or observations on this subject. If you are an artist with sacred knowledge that is beyond my comprehension I would very much like you to turn a rock into gold. I could use the cash to buy more paints.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Art Space Talk: Fawad Khan

Fawad Khan's art deals with personal narrative and his present reality. Fawad challenges himself with cultural and visual registers: Large paintings layered with shellac and oil glaze as well as intimate ink drawings rendered with rough yet delicate representational linework resonate with childhood memories, travel observations, and media imagery, culminating with his present experience of hybridity. Khan works and resides in New York City.

Karakoram Express (Collision Zone), 2007, ink and gouache on paper, 22 in x 30 in

Brian Sherwin: Fawad, I understand that you were born in Libya and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. I understand that you now live and work in New York. Can you describe how those cultures-- or the clash thereof-- have influenced you as an artist?

Fawad Khan: Funny story--- when I was eight in 1986, at the end of a school-day the principal asked me where I was born. I lied and said Pakistan. My brother, four years older, corrected me in front of the principal and said it was Libya. I fought my brother on it as we walked out to the bus. I still remember why I lied—I had heard my parents talk about Qadafi, and was afraid of what the principal would think of me being born there. Irony is--- look at Pakistan now…

Speaking now, I think to have had such an origin makes me that much better and rich an artist. And in a way as an adult, I am fascinated with my childhood background that I then tried to escape. Those memories of being around eastern, muslim-based cultures, being born on a military base in Tripoli, eating different foods, studying at Montessori one day and PAF (Pakistan Air Force Academy---for officer’s kids) the next, my parents speaking anything from urdu, punjabi to arabic and farsi: it all impacts my pieces now. You know when artists say they lose themselves in their work? --- I think I’m always self-aware when in the studio.

BS: I’ve interviewed dozens of artists born outside of the United States. The majority of them have mentioned that they felt a sense of isolation upon moving to the US and that said isolation is reflected within the context of their art. Have you experienced that sense of isolation? If so, is it an influence?

FK: After my family migrated to the US, I was constantly trying to fit in throughout my young life. It was not until art school and eventually the move to New York that I really fell into my true self. Of course moving to the city in 2001 definitely triggered in terms of isolation. I think most artists seek isolation when we retreat into the studio, so to speak… so I suppose it was good for me to go through all that—(?)
Adversary, 2008, Acrylic wall painting, 72 in x 72 in

BS: Fawad, you studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the School of Visual Arts. Can you discuss your academic background? For example, did you have any influential instructors? Also, do you have any advice for students interested in those two specific programs?

FK: I did my BFA at MICA and have to say their foundation program is really strong. And despite their location, they are pretty tapped into the contemporary art world. One of my favorite instructors, Ken Tisa, kept his artistic practice in NY and commuted down to teach us. Others really kicked my ass when it came to work-ethic, great painters like Cliff Wun, Karl Connelly, John Ferry and Barry Nemett (painting chair). Even at this point, the school keeps close communication with many young alums and tracks their careers. You really see MICA’s worth when you realize how many young artists (who studied around same time as I did there) went on to tremendous graduate programs--- and eventually into the art market--- artists like Kamrooz Aram, Rashawn Griffin, Ted Mineo, Matt Johnson, Amir Fallah (of Beautiful Decay)…the list goes on.

Right after undergrad, I wanted to get to NY as fast as possible. SVA was my entry ticket and proved to be a great experience. At this time, I met amazing instructors like Marshall Arisman and Carl Titolo who taught me more about ‘NY life as an artist’ than anyone else. They mentored me during 911, which occurred my first week in grad school, in my second month in NY. In my second year, I was allowed to work with an external thesis advisor and I sought out Shahzia Sikander. At the time, she was taking part in Drawing Now, a great show at MOMA QNS and it just fit well with where I was taking my work. Every crit with her was like going through couple rounds in the ring with Ali and well worth it. While at SVA, I also met Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo of Exit Art who put me in my first NY show: Terrorvision (2004).

Citroenasia Grand (with chillipeppers), 2007, Acrylic wall painting and fluorescent light, 21 ft x 18 ft

BS: In the past you utilized paper and canvas as your main surface. However, you now utilize entire rooms or cover exterior surfaces. Can you discuss this transition? Was it a sudden change in artistic direction, so to speak?

FK: I continue to work on paper and canvas—but I always had a fascination with wall drawings, street art and transforming spaces. Luckily enough, this year presented a couple shows that dared me to think about finally doing it.

Working directly onto a gallery wall demands a slight change in process and expectation. For example, I did a 21 ft x 18 ft wall painting earlier this year at Exit Art’s Love/War/Sex show, fully knowing that after two months the piece would be gone. It wrapped up the wall onto the ceiling and around corners. That piece forced me not to be precious but rather improvise. If I made a mistake, I had to keep painting and make it work for the piece.

Time is also a factor with wall painting; you’re doing it in the environment where it will be exhibited, and that solitude artists get in their studios is lost completely because the end-goal is to execute by a set deadline. You have to adapt your process and I like that challenge.

For my solo at 33 Bond, I painted directly onto a crown vic that I gutted up, restored and installed in the gallery. Painting on this auto, unlike the wall painting, wasn’t a formal decision based on ideas of impermanence, but rather part of the concept…the car sculpture shows the application of Pakistan's traditional truck-painting technique onto a New York City taxi, a hybrid depicting two cultures assimilating. It considers the question: if one begins new life in the west, how important is holding onto eastern tradition, art or culture? By imposing a definite identity onto a vehicle otherwise always uniformed in yellow?

BS: What about the symbolism behind your art? Do you utilize any personal symbols in order to express yourself within the context of your art?

FK: Almost always. Although the main subjects are extravagant explosions, vintage autos and renderings of fragmented camouflaged forms–I’ve recently introduced more personal elements like chili peppers and pomegranates into the compositions (symbols from my childhood). They serve as formal design elements depicting motion, and in some cases, hinting at calligraphic writing. Sometimes I drop in cryptic dates or initials in the pieces referencing a particularly important time or person to me. I really believe in exhausting the symbols when making a body of work, they give the pieces a personal touch yet also start to form mystery for the viewer. There are so many people that ask where the chilis come from…others right away assume they are bullet shells. I like that ambiguity.

BS: Tell us more about the motivation behind your art-- the themes that you deal with. For example, is there a degree of psychology or philosophy that you adhere to as far as your art is concerned?

FK: The paintings are all somewhat hinting at car bombings, media-hype of this war and my overall obsession with violence. During my solo this year, one collector wrote on his blog that I connect current politics with childhood fantasies of cars and toys. I loved his comment because it’s so true, I grew up on GI Joe, Transformers and Matchbox cars.
When you put it in terms of psychology, I don’t know—maybe its frustration on the page or my dissatisfaction with our current political climate. Having my background while being an artist in the western world, I think it’s fair to have a voice in the matter... and also, I just want to make really strong works to represent myself well.

BS: So is there a specific message that you hope to convey to viewers? Or do you strive to keep the dialogue open to interpretation, so to speak?

FK: My goal is to ensure that the political content is not too overt. Again, the ambiguity is an important part of my pieces. I like a bit of personal-narrative in there BUT if a piece answers all of a viewer’s questions, what kind of continued relationship can remain between that person and the artwork? I prefer to hear what the viewer's background or experience brings to the picture (as well as mine) in order to complete the conversation.

Go Postal (We Deliver For You), 2007, ink and gouache on paper, 22 in x 30 in

BS: I understand that your art was represented by 33 Bond Gallery at Scope. Can you tell us about that experience? Also, what is your opinion of art fairs in general? Do you enjoy exhibiting at art fairs or do you prefer a more traditional form of exhibiting?

FK: 33 Bond Gallery has been exceptionally supportive. They not only gave me a March/April solo but a concurrent solo project at their Scope NY booth. I was in the midst of wrapping up work for the solo in late December, when Mitchell Minskoff (Director, 33 Bond) called me and asked if I could pull off another car-sculpture for Scope. The next day I was touring five junkyards in southern PA and northern MD for something. I eventually found a ’72 AM General Dispatch Jeep that I began on immediately. This piece lent to a real-life manifestation (in a quiet yet lethal way) of my ‘Go Postal’ painting.

You asked about by opinion of the fairs…it’s funny, but I get kind of an odd feeling when I’m just visiting them let alone taking part in them. Mitch and Alix Frey (33 Bond) totally understood why I resisted the fairs and opening-preview parties this year; they really get me as a young artist and know that a loud splash is not my way of entering into the market. When I did attend the fairs, I felt like I arrived at a closed party where the only people invited were the collectors, dealers and secondary-market-whores, aka art fair denizens. I guess that’s just how I feel now but I think if I continue to exhibit, there will be a time where I may just become numb to it all…and like any emerging artist, you have to learn how to play the game, right?
AM General DJ-5, 2008, Installation view, steel, enamel, rustoleum, plastic, tires, jeep seat 60 x 72 x 132 in

BS: You have been involved with exhibits at Deitch Projects, 33 Bond Gallery, Exit Art, and several other galleries throughout the United States. Where can our readers observe your art in person at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

FK: I will be taking part in BRIC Rotunda’s September show, entitled ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. I became fascinated with the concept as soon as the curators approached me. It looks like a strong show with strong artists.

I’m also working with the Lower East Side Printshop as a Special Editions Resident. When finished, the suite will include a limited edition of four unique prints that both the Printshop and I are excited to unveil. I am still finalizing the works with their master printer, hoping to exhibit at least two by November.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?

FK: Well, when I got out of grad school, I was hungry but not desperate to show too early, especially when my work had not fully matured (many have a full body of work when completing thesis year, I on the other hand experimented until I arrived at a start--at the end). What I’m trying to say is in a market with saturated talent, any chance for visibility at the moment is good –but it’s costly. I think one can easily disappear, you go into that Chelsea world and you can blend in if not careful. The one thing I am trying to attain, which I consider a strong point in making a career out of art, is longevity. So I’m taking my time. For the last few years I’ve been editing which shows I’m going to take part in because I’m in no rush, I’m here to stay.

Artistically speaking, I can’t wait to start my next set of paintings. I have a studio visit in two weeks and nothing powerful enough to show—so time to work.
You can learn more about Fawad Khan by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Killed Barack Obama? Peter Fuss causes a Fuss

Who Killed Barack Obama? Peter Fuss causes a Fuss

If you are a Myartspace Blog regular you know that I sometimes write about controversial artists and their work. Thus, I could not let this one slide. Peter Fuss, an artist from Poland, has caused a stir with his large piece titled “Who Killed Barack Obama?”. The piece is currently on display as part of the Out of Sth project ( Needless to say, many people are offended when viewing the piece and I’ve read that several bloggers have already lashed out at Fuss for having created it in the first place.

Peter Fuss has stated that “Who Killed Barack Obama?“ is not a visual attack against Obama. Fuss suggests that many people see Obama in the same way as Kennedy, Lincoln, M.L.King and Malcolm X were viewed before their tragic demise. Fuss added that the piece is about the “global thought of Obama's unavoidable death“. The piece is about the stereotype of impending doom that is cast over leaders who strive for radical change. So in a sense, the piece is a visual play on those fears regardless if they are warranted or not.

What do you think about “Who Killed Barack Obama?” and the intention behind the creation of the piece? Fuss has stated that the opinion expressed in “Who Killed Barack Obama?“ is no different than the views Hillary Clinton expressed over the same concern. What are your thoughts on this piece and the meshing of art and politics as a whole?
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Art Space Opinions: Public Knowledge and the Orphan Works Bill

I recently contacted Alex Curtis about the Orphan Works bill. Alex is the Director of Policy and New Media for Public Knowledge. Public Knowledge is a Washington, D.C. based public interest group working to defend citizens’ rights in the emerging digital culture. The first priority of Public Knowledge is to promote innovation and the rights of consumers, while working to stop any bad legislation from passing that would slow technology innovation, shrink the public domain, or prevent fair use. My hope is that we can have a civil debate about the bill. Do you support it? Are you against it? What are your concerns? Feel free to comment.

Brian Sherwin: Alex, you are involved with and you support the Orphan Works bill. As you know, there has been much confusion about this bill. Can you briefly tell us about the bill as you understand it? Also, why do you support it?

Alex Curtis: First, thank you for the opportunity today to discuss this (unfortunately) controversial topic. I very much appreciate it and I hope we can start a dialogue. I hope not to offend any of your readers with my different point of view, but I'd like to state things as clearly as possible to make sure we're all talking about the same thing. So, orphan works. Let's start at the beginning.

To use someone else's copyrighted work, generally you must ask the owner's permission. Because the term of a copyright lasts so long today (generally 70 years after the owner has died, or 95 years from publication if the owner is a corporation), it's quite possible an old work you might find today is still under copyright, even though the owner is dead or has gone out of business. That leaves millions of works, many of historical significance, unusable because no one can find the owner to ask permission, and the law requires permission. Those works without owners have been called "orphan works." The target of orphan works policy is those kinds of works, for which no owners exist. We have and continue to work to make sure current artists are found, so their works are not used without permission, and I'll hopefully tell you how later.

The aim of orphan works policy is to allow someone to use a work, whose owner can no longer be found, under some narrow but necessary conditions:

1. The user has to know the owner cannot be found by conducting a "qualifying search" for the owner. What "qualifying" entails, I'll get to a bit later;

2. After a search, if an owner is found or emerges, the user must negotiate with the owner in good faith to determine reasonable compensation for the use;

3. If a search is conducted and no owner is found, the user may use the work and avoid any statutory damages or injunctions for his infringement. In the unlikely event that the owner returns even after a search, go back to #2;

4. If a user's search was a sham or wasn't diligent enough and the user used the work anyways, when the owner returns, the user can be held liable for plain ole' copyright infringement.

Public Knowledge supports orphan works policy because we believe it introduces some common sense back into copyright. If a creator is long dead and gone and there are no discernible heirs or transfers of the copyright, what is the justification for no one using the work? Entire generations may never see that work because it hasn't yet fallen into the public domain because of the length of copyright. Even worse, that work could deteriorate before it falls into the public domain, and thus lost forever.

Lastly, I've heard artists concerned that their work would be "dubbed an orphan" or "declared an orphan," but that's not how the legislation works. Yes, the legislation proposes that when someone uses an orphan work that they designate it with a special mark, but in effect that work is only considered an orphan for that specific use. Each and every person who would like to use a work must conduct a new of their own search for the owner. They cannot rely on someone else's previous search, because that search may be out of date or that person may not have had the tools available to find the owner at the time. Just because one person couldn't find the owner today, doesn't mean that she can't be found tomorrow by someone else.

BS: What about negative consequences of the Orphan Works bill? Do you have any concerns at all about the bill? For example, many artists and art advocates take the position that if the Orphan Works bill is passed it will give unfair rights to individuals and companies in that they can continue to use images even if the artist who created the image comes forward. Thus, if an artists work is being used for a cause he or she does not support his or her opinion will not matter even if it is damaging to the artists career and social standing. Artists are concerned that they will not be compensated or have the ability to halt the use of their art in this scenario. What say you?

AC: I understand that there are many artists, especially those who create visual art, who are very worried that orphan works policy will let anyone copy their works. I've talked with and written to many artists who make their livelihood from their creativity, and believe it or not, everyone that I know working on orphan works policy is fighting for your ability to create and succeed. I have taken to heart many artists' concerns since Congress first proposed a study of the problem back in 2005, and we've tried to work with artists to address these problems.

One problem that I don't believe the bill sufficiently addresses is the problem of copyright registration. I'm not talking about visual registries, as we will in one of the questions below. Instead I'm talking about the current system. Visual artists especially find the registration process expensive and tedious, and worse yet, those who use it still cannot be found, online or otherwise. We want to make sure owners that exist today are able to be found, so they can be paid for their work and no one can claim that their works are orphans.

The concern you raise above, where an owner's work could be used for something that she does not stand for, or in a way that she doesn't agree with, is one I understand that some artists are very worried about. I do not want to dismiss this concern out of hand, but there are some incorrect notions I want to dispel. First, nothing in orphan works policy gives the user of an orphan work copyright rights in that orphan work. The user of an orphan work is called an "infringer" under the law. Period. There is no transfer of rights, even if the user did a qualifying search. Second, I've read suggestions that artists would be in breach of their exclusive rights licenses because orphan works policy allowed someone else to use their work. It's just not true. Infringers are infringers, and their use would not legally interfere with an exclusive contract between the owner and a licensee. Just as you, as an owner, would have no control over whether someone infringed your work, likewise you have no control over whether someone used your work as an orphan--both are infringement.

Also to address your question, I've heard the "the toothpaste was already out of the tube" scenario: once someone uses your work as an orphan, that it's too late because the infringement has already happened. I understand the concern here, but please bear with me while I try to explain why this has nothing to do with orphan works. Today, once someone infringes on your copyright, it has already happened and the toothpaste is already out of the tube. That user would be an infringer. The infringement happened without you knowing and there's nothing you could have done to stop it. He used your work without even bothering to look for you to ask your permission--probably because he never thought you'd find out or because he was too lazy. But that's the case even without orphan works, and there's nothing, besides court awarded damages, that could address it.

At least under orphan works policy, that same user would be required to have searched for you and if he still didn't find you and he still used your work, you would be reasonably compensated for that use. If he doesn't do those things, you're in the same spot as with a regular infringer. Additionally, if the infringer claims he did a search for you, he's got to show it to you up front, which will make it easy for you to determine whether he's a fraud or good-faith user so you can begin negotiating compensation.

Next, if someone uses your work as an orphan work after a search, but just copies it and doesn't add any value or include it in anything with their own original expression, then you could restrain, or obtain an injunction for, their future use. And you would be reasonably compensated for the use.

As for continued use of a work, if the orphan works user used the work in such a way that "recasts, transforms, adapts, or integrates the infringed work with a significant amount of the infringer's original expression..." the user can keep using the work but must pay the owner for that use, and give attribution to the owner if the owner so desires. I've heard concern that somehow large corporations are going to claim orphan works as a way to somehow get a "discounted" license fee. I don't see how this is possible. If the user is some big corporation, reasonable compensation is going to have to reflect that. Compensation would also have to take into account how the work was used for it to be reasonable--including the context of the use, to take care of the potential controversial cause or damage to the artists' reputation. I would think that every corporation would want to find the owner and license the work up front, because if they spend the money to conduct the search and still come up empty handed, there's still the possibility that they will have to compensate an owner if she emerges. Every orphan works owner has every incentive to find the owner, because they know they will have to pay for their use when an owner returns.

Sorry that was a long answer, but there were a number of overlapping issues and I wanted to try to keep them all separate.

BS: My understanding is that if the Orphan Works bill is passed artists will have to pay to be placed on online registries affiliated with the government in order to make sure that their copyrights are protected. Right now works of art have basic protections upon creation with no cost involved. Thus, many artists feel that if the bill becomes law they will have to pay for protections that are free at this time-- they will have to pay in order to own the rights to their own art. What are your thoughts on this?

AC: No, no, no. There are a lot of misconceptions about this, so let us first forget about orphan works and talk about the law today.

Today, you write down your original creative thought and it's copyrighted. That's it. No registration is needed for it to be copyrighted. Let's say that your creation is important to you and if someone were to infringe it, that you'd want to sue them to the greatest extent possible. If that's the case, the law allows for what's called "statutory damages" and those can amount up to $150,000 per infringement. To make statutory damages available to you, you have to register your work with the Copyright Office within three months of publication. If you don't, you cannot claim statutory damages.

It should also be said that, today, if you want to enforce your copyright in a court, you must register your copyright with the Copyright Office before you do it. This does not apply to foreign copyright holders, however (that's a topic for another time). In this scenario, statutory damages are not available to you, only "actual damages," which is essentially the economic harm that is sustained by the infringement. In many cases, "actual damages" is what you might have agreed to had you negotiated before the infringement. This is why I always tell artists that to the extent feasible, register your copyright so you have access to the higher statutory damages. That's what the big guys do, but they have deep pockets.

Under orphan works, nothing with regards to registration changes. Period. You don't have to lift a finger for your work to be copyrighted, in the same way you don't today.

The talk about "visual registries" or "online databases" that you might have heard with orphan works, are all efforts to try to make it easier for artists to be found. When I said above that we've been listening to artists, we have. Artist, especially visual artist, have complained that a big reason why they cannot be found is because the Copyright Registry isn't very useful to them. They don't register their works because it's very expensive and time consuming. It even costs a lot to register a change of address. Additionally, the Registry's online search only returns text results. So, if you're a visual artist, if someone searches the online registry for your work but doesn't know your name or textual information about the image, they have no way to compare that image they have in hand to any record in the registry--not a single record in the online registry displays a picture. To see a picture, the potential user would have to physically come to Washington, DC to search the records by hand, or pay someone to do it for them.

The registration of groups of images compounds the problem. Finding the image your looking for is hard enough, but with group registrations, even if you knew the artist, you'd have to sift through contact sheets of many small photos that can be submitted as a way to save on filing fees. This makes it even more difficult for a user to find the image that they're looking for, even if they have physical access to the registry.

So, hearing these problems, we suggested to the Copyright Office that their system needed an overhaul. It needed to allow for online registration, for online searches that produced images, and visual recognition technology to allow an orphan to be matched against images in the registry. The Copyright Office said it had neither the money or expertise for these updates.

If government was going to fail us, maybe the market would help to fill the gap. We suggested to policy makers that we should send up a flare to the online market that these services should exists to help owners and users. The Copyright Office could certify them, to make sure they met minimum quality standards.

Despite what you may have about orphan works, the use of these services would be entirely optional for copyright owners. Using these services as search tools for finding orphans would be required for users, though. We proposed these services as a way to improve the status quo--to help visual artists be found. If visual artists choose not to use the tools, it may be harder to find them--but the search must still be conducted, whether or not a "Google Search" returns the photo they're looking for.

As a point of clarification, it should be noted that using these services would not allow an artist to claim statutory damages in a court of law. We are suggesting that the Copyright Office allow more online services to access the Copyright Registry, to make it easier and cheaper for owners to "officially" submit their works. But we're not there yet.

BS: I've also read that some artists are concerned that they will not be able to afford to protect their works or that they will have to be selective as to which images are protected based on their financial difficulties. As you know, the majority of artists are not exactly wealthy. I've met hundreds of artists who have to work two jobs in order to support themselves as well as their creative aspirations. There is a growing concern that some artists will no longer post images online if the bill is passed due to those fees and the inability to pay in order to secure their art. What are your thoughts on this?

AC: As I said above, nothing in orphan works requires any artists to spend any additional money to register their works--whether that be at the Copyright Registry or with some online service. That said, we would like to see solutions arise in the market to make it easier for owners to be found, and maybe even register their works more cheaply. Digital technology should make things cheaper and more useful.

When I talk about these services, I think about sites like that allow anyone to upload as many images as they want for free. You get some added features as well as unlimited uploads for $25 a year, as compared to the cost of registering one of your works at the Copyright Registry: $35 per work. That's a huge cost difference, all because it's online and digital. Other services, like, search and index sites like Flickr and let you compare one image against the entire index. They do this for free. Some of these services may charge a minimum fee for an account like Flickr's "pro account", or require payment for using the search function, or no charge for any of it. They may provide additional services, like ways to help owners license their works, or print their works, etc, to offset the costs of their "registries."

Artists, established or struggling, would not be required to use any of these services under orphan works. Period. Nothing is required, and just because you don't upload your works does not mean a user's qualifying search ends when he can't find your image on Would it help the rest of us find you by uploading what you can to one of these services that already exist? Sure. It might even have the added benefit of giving you exposure and even get paid for your creativity. But nothing is required.

BS: In your opinion, why do artists need the Orphan Works bill to pass? What are the benefits that you feel people are overlooking?

AC: I believe that orphan works policy promotes very sound copyright practices, and to that extent I believe all artists benefit. It requires users to search for owners to ask their permission to use a work. It requires users to negotiate in good faith and compensate an owner for the use of a work. Additionally, it encourages, without requiring, owners to make themselves more accessible and findable. It signals to the market that the needs of many artists are not being met, and encourages innovators to fill the gap. It encourages art societies to help their members develop best practices and help their constituents be found. And importantly, it goes out of its way to discourage outright infringement.

Some artists more heavily rely on the use of others' works in their own creative works. Just a few examples are: independent and documentary filmmakers, book authors, collage artists, parody and satirists, and DJs. The works of these artists are no more or less creative than the works they include or build from. Even though everyone has their own tastes, I don't think it's right to claim one kind or genre of art is more valuable than another--even if one follows from another. If you want to ensure your freedom of creativity to include another's work in your own, and are willing to search for the owner and compensate them for your use, orphan works policy should help you.

Lastly, many artists' work are not appreciated until after they have passed, maybe society wasn't ready for their creative expression. What if someone discovered your work but could not share it because there was no one to ask permission? Not to get too existential here, but if you have a sense of legacy or even pride in your work, how might you feel if you passed away and no one ever saw your life's work and creativity? I think orphan works addresses this problem.

BS: Finally, are you alarmed by the number of artist groups, collectives, and art world professionals that have spoke out against the bill?

AC: Yes. I don't know if I've changed any minds with my responses today. But at least there is this dialogue. Unfortunately, with many of the groups eluded to in your question, there is no dialogue. Many of these groups have had a knee-jerk reaction from the beginning and have polarized their membership with fear. They've created straw men for their memberships to rally against, when the truth is that those companies have had very little stake in this legislation (I wish they were more involved, but they're not). I believe the amount of effort put into building and rallying these groups' membership could have been refocused to actually help their membership, instead of scaring them into writing letters of opposition to Congress. It's really unfortunate, and may have even harmed those groups' credibility with members of Congress and their staff.

My group, Public Knowledge, has reached out to a number of artist organizations like photographers, graphic artists, comic illustrators, textile manufacturers, etc. in an effort to try to address their concerns. I've personally corresponded and talked to a number of concerned artists. Back in 2005, part of the problem for artists was the lack of visual searches at the Copyright Registration. We proposed remedies and actually got them included into 2008's legislation. To a certain extent, we believe that some groups have used that good will against us. But still we continue to try--and plan to push forward an effort to make the Copyright Registry more open and accessible to make it easier and cheaper for artists to protect their works and be found (if they so choose).

Thank you for reading what I've had to say. I'm sure some of my responses will spur other ones, and I'm glad to reply to more. Thank you for the opportunity to be heard, I really appreciate it.

You can learn more about Public Knowledge by visiting their official website-- . You can read more of my interview by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin