Friday, February 27, 2009

Art Space Talk Quotes #3

Here is another group of artist quotes taken from the Art Space Talk series of interviews. This group of quotes deals with the meaning, process, and creation of art. You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Concerning the meaning, process, and creation of art:

“A friend of mine asked me to say in two words what my work was about and was very Surprised when I said, "Love and Joy". I have always felt so strongly that there are so many wonderful things to enjoy we could all have a happy and satisfying life.” -- Sylvia Sleigh

“I don’t confuse myself with trying to create consistent bodies of work both in the studio and on the street. The street work is very spontaneous and loose, I have few expectations with its outcome. The studio is a completely different story, that is where I am aware of the paths I have created in the past and am aware of the paths I want to take in the future. The two practices are almost opposite (in principal) to each other.” -- Anthony Lister

“My work starts from a personal place, but the work isn’t ‘personal’. It’s for everyone. I’m not just repeating something that happened to me in a diaristic or autobiographical way. If it does start from a personal place it always evolves and changes into something completely new. There is a line between myself and the person on the screen." -- Georgina Starr

“Anything one designs to follow in one's art, through working many pathways offer themselves as visual possibilities. This awareness of possibilities leads you: you weigh and analyze and project mentally the validity of those possibilities and with truthfulness you decide if these should be yours. You syphon out what fascinates you, which you modify and they in turn enrich the direction in which you should go.” -- Julian Stanczak

“An artist is a part of his or her time and reflects it and is a witness to it.” -- Susan Crile

“Art practice is my never-ending refugee camp of the soul. In this place I seek asylum from the wars around me. The retreat becomes a platform from which I can speak. Practice is a place, a home for my homeless gypsy spirit.” -- Carolyn Ryder Cooley

“I usually get ideas as I am working. I think all the things I see when I am traveling or out and about get stored in my mind and as I am working on things in the studio, they just seem to come out. I am definitely not one who sits and waits for the idea to come to me. I need to create and ideas come from working through things. I think my journal is my laptop. I make most of my drawings on it.” -- Brian Alfred

“When I get an idea, I create work in the medium that is most appropriate for the concept I am trying to convey. This has led me to work across many disciplines, though the imagery often carries across from one medium to the other.” -- Kate Kretz

“At some point in my early twenties I realized that I made my best work when I remained flexible and stopped trying to control the outcome. It’s always a blend of the intentional and the unintentional.” -- Jonathan Weiner (a.k.a VINER)

“When I'm always working with the same medium, I have a tendency to get bored. The creative process is quite different when I'm stitching as opposed to drawing, for example. It's a much slower and more thoughtful process, and at certain times exactly what I need. Also, when I'm feeling stuck and having difficulty coming up with new ideas, a change in medium often helps.” -- Sabrina Small

“We all have individual instincts and insights that are worth something, the privilege of being an artist is for these contributions to remain visible. We try to leave each other clues towards somehow dealing with the Unknown. This is Art.” -- Alan Rankle

“I think in images. My emotions get filtered in my brain and come out as images.” -- Laurie Lipton

“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.” -- Paul Ruiz

“For me, I guess I shall remain childish and see painting and art as the symbol of what we are capable of - and the more unknowably weird our art is then so much the better and whether it's cartoony or abstract or figurative or minimal, it remains human.” -- Christian Schumann

Feel free to comment about any of the quotes listed above. Can you relate to their words? Do you take a different position? You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Art Space Talk: Maria Kazanskaya

Maria Kazanskaya is originally from the Russian city of Samara, near the Volga river. Kazanskaya studied art at Samara Art College and the famous Stroganoff Institute of Art and Industrial Design in Moscow-- where she studied drawing with Lev Mikhailov and painting with Nina Lordkipanidze.

After coming to the United States she exhibited her works in solo and group shows throughout the United States and Canada, including the Museum of Contemporary Russian Art in Jersey City (New Jersey); Triton Museum of Art, Art Museum of Los Gatos, and Bakersfield Museum of Art (California); Union Street Gallery and Mary Bell Galleries in Chicago; the Maryland Federation of Art in Annapolis; Berkeley University YWCA and the Weir Gallery in Berkeley (California). Kazanskaya has also had exhibits at Windwood Gallery and Images Gallery in New York. She has had a solo exhibit at Stanford University.
Straight Mirror by Maria Kazanskaya

Brian Sherwin: Maria tell us about your academic background. Did you study art formally? What about influential instructors that you have had?

Maria Kazanskaya: I studied in Russia: four years of art college and five years at the Stroganoff school, the famous Moscow Institute of Art and Design, which has its own rich traditions. These traditions, especially with regard to drawing, were very different from what I was taught in college. I had to break old habits, which was painful, but, as it seems now, rather useful. It's easier to be yourself, if you are not constrained within the confines of a single formal school, but are well versed in several.

We studied seriously: many hours daily of working with models – drawing, painting, sculpture. Of course, there was art history as well. At Stroganovka I had a great teacher of drawing, sculptor Lev Mikhailov. Sculptors make excellent drawing instructors. They have the sense of shape, space, plastic grace of the human body, -- all this is essential in drawing. Besides, Mikhailov is a brilliant, charismatic person. He is still creative, still exhibits and teaches, though he will be 80 this year.

Walkyrie by Maria Kazanskaya

BS: Tell us about the thoughts behind your art. Can you give our readers some insight into any specific themes that you explore?

MK: What I'm primarily interested in is the art of painting itself, not ideas of any kind, although they do sometimes sneak in somehow. I just recently realized that I'm a Russian—American artist, not just biographically, but in a meaningful way, because I combine the traditions of Russian art (the search for beauty, for example) with the achievements of American art --- I mean Abstract Expressionism. (Although abstract art was invented by Kandinsky and Malevich, the Americans deserve credit for developing it thoroughly and exhaustively.) The point is, like the Abstract Expressionists, I love paint on canvas for its own sake, I value THE WAYS IT IS SMEARED, whatever the subject. Maybe that's what is most important for me.

BS: Do you think at some point we will have a global art rather than art defined by geographic location? In that sense, are you concerned that geographic traditions will be lost-- or saturated to the point of not being overly recognizable? With that in mind, why is it important to maintain traditions within the context of contemporary art?

MK: Art is one of the most conventional of human pursuits, and so it can't be appreciated without context. Previously, when the human world was narrow, contemporaries were well aware of the context, and the artist could create within its bounds or break out of them, but either way, it was clear to the viewer what was going on.
Postmodernists incorporated the context within their works by way of quotation. In our era of post-postmodernism, everything is in total confusion, and artists typically have to write longish explanations to hang beside their art. But there's another way of making your works more comprehensible: to consciously be part of a certain tradition or work within a certain culture or cultures, not necessarily defined by geography.
Besides schools and traditions, people in different countries may perceive things differently just because of the specifics of national mentality. For example, works from my series "Portraits of my Son" are well received in Russia, while in the U.S. they tend to be perceived as sentimental. "Beautiful painting, but too sweet", as they once told me in a NYC gallery. I take it to mean that the Anglo-Saxon restraint wants a more removed approach to the subject, and these works may seem too sincere and intimate. Play #2 by Maria Kazanskaya

BS: Is there a specific message you strive to convey to viewers concerning your art?

MK: Well, when Leo Tolstoy was asked about the message of Anna Karenina, he famously said that in order to answer he'd have to write the whole novel again. If the painting can be reduced to a verbal message without a loss for the viewer, it's not worth much. On the other hand, I believe that a painting should be comprehensible without the aid of verbal explanations beyond a title.

BS: What can you tell us about your process in general? Give us some insight into how you work… as in turning an idea into reality, so to speak? Can you discuss some of the methods that you utilize?

MK: Oh, that's simple. The initial push always comes from a visual image from life. Probably, one could try to figure out after the fact why a given image, and not some other, caused the stir and the sense of where it should go. And then I start developing the theme with variations, mining it like a mineral deposit. Sometimes, a series, rather than a single picture, becomes the unit of work from the very beginning.

BS: What about influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists, world events, or art movements?

MK: This is a very difficult question for me. I know that I love many individual artists, as well as whole eras (for example, Russian art of 1900 through 1920s), but I don't know how they influenced me. It's been said that every person is an intersection point of social relations. Maybe, an artist is an intersection point of artistic influences. But in my case the point itself doesn't have anything to say about it.
The Game of Life #1 by Maria Kazanskaya

BS: Where can your art be viewed at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

MK: My works are currently carried by a couple of galleries here in Northern California, and also in Russia, in Moscow and my native Samara, where a solo show is planned for the summer. In March I'll be in a group show in Chicago (Union Street Gallery), and I also sometimes participate in group shows in local museums (Triton Museum, Los Gatos Museum), where perhaps something will happen this year as well. In early May my studio in Palo Alto will be open as part of the Silicon Valley Open Studios event.

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this?

MK: I'm concerned about the devaluation of painting. Museums and leading galleries have switched almost entirely to video, performance and installation art, painting is no longer on the cutting edge, it is not considered contemporary art. It seems as though it is even losing the status of fine art and is being relegated to the niche of utilitarian aesthetic activity – decorating homes, covering stains on the walls.

Maybe I'm behind the times, but I am attached to this amazing way of creating spiritual objects, from the eye through soul to hand. And I'm sorry that it is degenerating, or being devalued, or just dying out.

BS: True, it has been suggested on more than one occasion that ‘painting is dead’. My opinion has always been that as long as people paint the art of painting will live on. Each individual strengthens a degree of authenticity in regards to the history of painting that would not have otherwise happened had they not picked up the brush, so to speak. My opinion is that the physicality of painting-- the individual brush strokes… the decisions of the artist that are reflected on the canvas-- or any other surface for that matter-- can’t be replaced. That said, are you concerned that eventually individuals will not feel the urge to take brush in hand?

MK: I have no doubt that people will continue to pick up the brush. I know that many artists do great paintings, I can see them on MyArtSpace. But these are just images on a screen. Where can I see them for real? My point is that the contemporary art world is not interested in real painting. It fell through the crack between commercial art sold in galleries (real art is often too unsettling and unconventional for consumers looking to decorate their homes) and museums oriented towards conceptual kinds of art.

Another aspect of the problem is that wielding a brush requires that you first master the instrument, if you want to successfully express yourself. An artist needs artists to learn from, but with the art world oriented away from painting, art schools can very quickly disintegrate.

BS: Tell us more about your thoughts concerning the spiritual aspect of painting as you see it. Would you say that the spiritual is lacking in much of the art of today? If so, what concerns you about that?

MK: It seems that the notion of spirituality comes up very infrequently in the context of contemporary art. Last time I heard the word was from the curator of my show in the Northern California town of Mill Valley. The show was entitled "Multifaceted Vision: Portraits of One Child" and contained the portraits of my small child which I already mentioned. The curator liked them a lot and spoke of their sincerity, of Russian spirituality, the influence of great Russian literature, etc., and also stressed that it is a rarity in contemporary art.

Maybe it's true that spirituality has gone missing in today's high art (where it has been supplanted by intellectualism), and even more so in the sterilized mass production, but I'm not especially concerned about that. Frankly, I'm wary of the word. In the Russian cultural landscape, it is too often associated with nationalism and religious intolerance. It may have different overtones in the U.S., but still it should be handled with caution – so as to not summon the wrong spirits.
The Game of Life #2 by Maria Kazanskaya

BS: There has been a lot of debate recently about copyright and the rights of artists. Do you have an opinion on issues such as that?

MK: I think an artist just can't steal anything from another artist, it's nonsense to even pose the question in these terms. Ideas are always floating in the air, and the point is HOW it is realized. If something is already done, but poorly, whoever makes it really fly is the winner. If somebody develops the ideas of a predecessor, that's perfectly fine, that's how it has always been. The lawsuit against the artist who created a poster based on a news photo, is, I think, completely moronic.

BS: You are right, one could say that art is built from one generation to the next. Philosophically speaking one could say that nothing is truly original in that respect-- emotions are the same no matter what period they were felt in-- there is a long history of art from the ages giving rise to additional visual comment.

However, the market for art today is very different than the past. Concerning copyright laws-- do you think that if an artist is going to support unrestricted appropriation of works by living artists he or she should accept those same terms where his or her own art is concerned? For example, the artist you mentioned has sent cease-and-desist letters to artists in the recent past after they had made parodies of his art. What are your thoughts?

MK: Oh, copyright! I'm working on a series of paintings about my seven-year-old son (he's now eight, and I'm in a hurry to finish before he turns nine). I incorporate into my paintings his own drawings from that period, scanned, enlarged and copied to the canvas. And I'm seriously thinking about whether I'm obliged to cite him as a co-author.

As for that poster artist, of course he should not be able to and ought not to try to prohibit parodies. But parody is the kind of thing that always offends people, so the parodist has to be prepared. By the way, I can't find much artistic value in Fairey’s Giant image (nor in Orr's parody), in contrast to the Obama poster.

BS: What about the internet? One could say that the art world is starting to catch up -- more galleries are turning to the World Wide Web in order to further exposure for their artists. How do you think the internet will impact the art world in say… a decade? Can you see a meshing between the traditional market and alternative (online) markets taking shape?

MK: Of course, the Web is a fantastic way of seeing what people all over the place are doing right now and showing your work to the world at large, but remember that it's only a reproduction, which is completely different. Small works on paper can be judged from the image on screen, but paintings lose a lot.

As for selling through the Web, I don't believe in it for now. I have only sold one work in this way, and that in 1995, when my husband created my first site (which is still up, by the way: There were perhaps half a dozen other artists on the Web at the time, and the buyer, evidently, bit at the bait of novelty.

The Game of Life #3 by Maria Kazanskaya

BS: How do you think the internet will impact the art world in say… a decade?

MK: Having seen what happened during the past fifteen years, it's easy to imagine that in another decade you could install a holographic image of, say, Michelangelo's David in your living room. It will stand there like the real thing, even better, because you could walk right through it and turn it off when you get bored of it. Or you could have on your wall a life-size projection of a fresco by Piero della Francesca.

This is probably a banality, but however perfect reproductions become, it's likely that the original will still be valued as such. After all, we still go to concerts in the age of CDs and digital recordings.

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

MK: I don't think I can verbally formulate the goals of my art – it goes where it wants. Follows the way of Tao.

You can learn more about Maria Kazanskaya by visiting her website-- Maria Kazanskaya is currently a member of the community-- visit her profile .

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Art Space Talk: Anastasia Cazabon

Anastasia Cazabon (b.1983) is a photographer based in Boston, Ma. She is a graduate of New England School of Photography and is currently enrolled at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been shown in various exhibitions and gallery’s including, the Photographic Resource Center’s 2007 Members Exhibition, the Griffin Museum of Photography and the Texas Photographic Society’s National Show. In 2005 she was awarded Nonprofessional Portrait Photographer of the Year, by the International Photography Awards. Anastasia is a member of the photography collective The Exposure Project and is represented by Photo Edition Berlin.
Brian Sherwin: Anastasia, I understand that you studied at the New England School of Photography and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Can you tell us about your academic background? Have you had any influential instructors
Anastasia Cazabon: I was greatly involved in theater as a child. I went to a high school specializing in the arts, where I majored in theater. By the time I graduated I realized that acting wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. I knew I wanted to do something art related, but I didn’t know what. So for a couple years after graduating I took various film and photography classes at RISD and SMFA. It wasn’t until I took a color photography class at NESOP with Tom Petit that I knew I wanted to be a photographer.
My teacher Tom completely changed the way I viewed photography. At that point I had a very limited knowledge of photography and I thought that being a photographer meant shooting in a portrait studio or being a documentary photographer. Tom introduced me to the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Francesca Woodman and other photographers who used photography in a very different way then I had previously been exposed to.
Tom also pushed me to take self-portraits and use my theater background, which at first was something I had no interest in doing. Honestly, if I hadn’t of met Tom I don’t think I would be a photographer, or at least be doing the work that I’m doing today. So I graduated from NESOP in 2005 and in 2007 I decided to continue my education at Mass Art. I’m currently still at Mass Art and will be finishing up my degree this year. Unfortunately Tom Petit recently passed away, but I know that he inspired many people and was a great influence on people’s lives.

BS: Anastasia, you have stated that you view your photographs as small secrets and hidden clues to an unseen world of imagined characters. Can you go into further detail about that?
My images are based on my own childhood. Specifically the fantasy world I made up for myself. I’m the youngest of three sisters and by the time I was five my sisters were on their way to college. So I spent the majority of my childhood alone making up imaginary friends and adventures. My images are recreations of my childhood fantasies. Some are exaggerated and some are completely made up, but all are based on the feelings I had as a child.
These are private moments in a young girls life, memories that usually fade over time. In essence I’m photographing and recreating these very distant memories to further their existence. I have tried to make them as universal as possible, so that people can relate to the images.
BS: Tell us more about the thoughts behind your work?

AC: Right now I’m exploring the very intense relationships girls have with each other, particularly between the ages of 5 -15. I’m interested in the strong bond that is created; the feelings of rivalry and competition, as well as loyalty and love. I believe feelings in general are much more intense and raw as a child, and drawing from these memories are a great source of inspiration.

BS: Can you go into further detail about the social implications of your art? For example, what is the specific message you strive to convey concerning aspects of society in general?

AC: I rarely consider a social message when making my images. This may sound selfish, but on the whole I usually make my images for myself. Of course it’s a plus if other people can enjoy them and relate to them. But I am intrigued by what people choose to reveal about themselves and what they consider private.
I try to make my images have a sense of mystery and privacy, which I believe makes the viewer want to see them more. Human beings are curious by nature, and we love seeing something we think we’re not supposed to see. So, if anything I’m playing with human curiosity.

BS: Due to the private aspect of your work do you sometimes feel as if you are opening yourself-- or at least an aspect of yourself-- to viewers? In that sense, is there a level of danger or concern in revealing yourself to viewers-- at least on a psychological level?
AC: I believe that any art a person makes is a reflection of the artist, and my work is definitely a reflection of who I am, but I don’t feel like I’m giving up that much personal information. I try to make my work subtle, so that nothing is too obvious or jumping out at you; it’s more up for the viewer to decide on the story then for me to actually tell the story.
Even though I use myself in many of my images I don’t consider them self-portraits, I’m playing a character (or multiple characters), so it’s not at all necessary for the viewer to know me.
I hope that others can relate to the images and make up their own stories through them, rather then relate them to me. In reality I am a very reserved person and highly value my privacy, and my images are from a separate world then the one I’m actually living in.

BS: What about your process in general? Can you describe how you work? For example, work from intuition, so to speak, or is there a great deal of planning and research beforehand? Tell us about your process.
AC: I storyboard almost every photograph beforehand. Everything is constructed and planned out. I’m very specific on what I want and am kind of a control freak. I shoot with a 4x5 camera, so the shooting process is pretty slow and involved. For example it usually takes me about 5 hours to shoot 10 negatives. I also usually use myself in my images, so that adds to the slowness of the process. If an idea doesn’t turn out exactly how I want, I will re-shoot it until I get it right. At times I have someone with me to press the cable release (if I’m in the shot), but often I shoot alone.
Certain images are digitally manipulated; for example when I use the double figure of myself, but I try to use Photoshop in a subtle way, to not cause attention to the manipulation. I try to make the images look as though it’s a fleeting moment that’s about to pass, but in actuality they are very calculated and planned out.

BS: Can you go into further detail about some of your influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

AC: I find the most inspiration in films. I am obsessed with movies and watch about one movie a day. Some of my favorite movies include Vagabond by Agnes Varda, Sweetie by Jane Campion, Cria Cuervos by Carlos Saura and La Ceremonie by Claude Chabrol. I’m also influenced by children’s literature and fairy tales. As far as photography goes, I could stare at Alessandra Sanguinetti’s photographs all day.

BS: Anastasia, you have been involved with exhibits in the United States and Germany. What do you enjoy about exhibiting in general?

AC: It’s wonderful finding out that other people enjoy your work, and it’s great seeing your work in public after years of obsessing and working on it in private. But I’m pretty shy, so it can be sort of nerve-racking at openings.

BS: Speaking of exhibits-- where can your art be viewed at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

AC: I have a solo show coming up at the Gallery for Photography in Gdansk, Poland and I will be included in the annual Mass Art auction, which takes place in March. My work can also be seen in Humble Arts publication A Collectors Guide to Emerging Art Photography.

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

AC: I’m also part a photography collective called the Exposure Project. Me and three other photographers (Ben Alper, Adam Marcinek and Eric Watts) started the project about 5 years ago and since then it’s expanded into a wonderful community of artists. We’re putting out our 4th book this summer. I’m very excited and proud to be part of such an amazing collective.
You can learn more about Anastasia Cazabon by visiting her website-- Anastasia Cazabon is a member of the community-- You can read more of my interview by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Integrity Lost: Lawrence Lessig helps Shepard Fairey

A comparison showing Mannie Garcia’s AP photograph of Obama next to Shepard Fairey’s ‘Progress’ and ‘Hope’ posters.

I noticed something of interest on the Lessig website recently-- be prepared for a rant. Before I get started I feel that I should include some background information about Lessig and some of the organizations he has worked with: Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. Lessig is the founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society. Lessig is currently supporting Shepard Fairey's case against the Associated Press.

In fact, The Stanford Center for Internet and Society's Fair Use Project (FUP), under the guidance of Executive Director Anthony Falzone, is currently representing Shepard Fairey in his case against the Associated Press. The case stems from the copyright allegations the AP made against Shepard Fairey concerning his use of an Obama photograph that the AP claims ownership of. Needless to say, the lawsuit has spurred debate about copyright law and the rights of artists-- it has spread like wildfire on blogs and art forums.

For those who don't know, the Fair Use Project provides legal support to cases of this nature in order to “clarify, and extend, the boundaries of "fair use" in order to enhance creative freedom.”. Shepard Fairey hopes to “vindicate his rights, and disprove the AP's accusations“ with the help of the Fair Use Project. Thus, both Lessig and Falzone desire to see Shepard Fairey win his case against the Associated Press in order to strengthen their interpretation of “fair use”-- an interpretation that places the rights of visual artists at risk according to artist rights advocates.

It should be noted that Professor Lessig has served on the board of Public Knowledge . Public Knowledge (PK) is a public interest group based in Washington DC. PK’s mission is to defend “citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture.”. The group has been very active in fighting against legislation that strengthens copyright protection for musicians and visual artists. The organization claims that they are upholding the rights of consumers by opposing legislation that would limit or prevent fair use.

Public Knowledge strongly supported the 2008 orphan works legislation-- legislation that was opposed by Brad Holland , co-founder of The Illustrators Partnership of America (IPA). The IPA and over 60 other art organizations were outraged because the legislation would have greatly reduced the ability of a living artist to defend his or her art against copyright infringers. In fact, exclusive rights would have been destroyed if the legislation had passed according to Brad Holland. Holland and his supporters firmly stand on their position that the legislation would have stripped artists of many of the rights they enjoy under current copyright law had it passed.

Now to the task at hand. On February 6th Professor Lawrence Lessig posted an entry titled ‘Shepard Fairey's AP troubles’ on the website. The message stated, “A bunch of you have forwarded to me the story about the AP threatening Shepard Fairey for copyright infringement. The Stanford Center's Fair Use Project is representing Fairey, so I'm a bit constrained about what I can say just now. More when there can be more.”. It is not uncommon for a legal eagle to remain hush, hush until more information is available. However, on February 17th Professor Lessig posted the following message on Twitter, he said, “We could use help on the Shepard Fairey/AP case.”. Needless to say, I decided to click on the link.

Upon clicking on the link I was taken to Professor Lessig’s website and an article titled, ‘Crowd-sourcing a “fair use” case’ . The entry stated, “As mentioned, the Fair Use Project at Stanford's CIS is representing Shepard Fairey in his suit against the AP. To that end, we'd be grateful for some net-based knowledge. How many photos are there "like" the beautiful photograph that Mannie Garcia took?” At the top of the article there is a comparison image that shows two photographs of Obama with Shepard Fairy’s ‘Hope’ in the middle.
From the Lessig website. The photograph on the left was taken by Mannie Garcia and the photograph on the right was taken by Steve Jurvetson. Lessig stresses that Jurvetson’s Obama photograph is a CC licensed photo.

The article by Lessig appears to suggest that the Fair Use Project plans to question if Shepard Fairey had used Mannie Garcia’s AP photograph or not-- or they plan to devalue Mannie Garcia's photograph by comparing it to similar photographs. Why else would Lessig be asking readers to send in similar examples? However, if that is the case the Fair Use Project will surely run into some snags in court. After all, Mannie Garcia states on his website that the owner of Danziger Projects, a gallery that represents Shepard Fairey in New York City, contacted him on January 21st 2009 in order to inform him that his photograph of Obama was the basis of Shepard Fairy’s ‘Hope’ and ’Progress’ posters. On top of that, Shepard Fairey has long suggested that the photograph attracted him because of the power it conveyed. Shepard Fairey chose Mannie Garcia's photograph out of hundreds, if not thousands, of Obama photographs online. Thus, one can assume that for Fairey this specific photograph had a lot of meaning.

On the same page Mannie Garcia states, “In a telephone conversation on the 17th of February, Shepard Fairey acknowledged that my photograph was used and that credit should have been given as such.”. It should be noted that the telephone conversation between Mannie Garcia and Shepard Fairey took place on the same day that Professor Lessig posted ‘Crowd-sourcing a “fair use” case’ on his website. This begs the question-- why would Professor Lessig suggest that Shepard Fairey did not use Mannie Garcia’s photograph or attempt to devalue the importance of Garcia's photograph within the context of the Obama posters knowing that Shepard Fairey had acknowledged the use of the photograph to Garcia earlier that day? Perhaps he was not aware of the conversation between Garcia and Fairey? Either way, the Fair Use Project is going to have a tough time suggesting otherwise.

Professor Lessig’s entry titled, ‘Crowd-sourcing a “fair use” case’ appears to be an act of desperation in my opinion. After all, Lessig calls for readers to send Obama photographs similar to Mannie Garcia’s photograph to shep_use @ Again, this suggests that the Fair Use Project may try to project the idea that Shepard Fairey used a different image all together and that the owner of the base image may never be known-- or is an attempt to devalue Mannie Garcia's photograph by suggesting that it is nothing special or not copyrightable. Either way Fairey has admitted that he used Mannie Garcia’s Obama photograph and has suggested that he chose the image because of the power it conveyed. Could it be that the individuals representing Shepard Fairey are grasping at straw?

On a side note the email address strikes me as amusing-- Shep_use? ‘Shep use’ might be the correct usage for this case because Shepard Fairey’s “fair use” of the Obama photograph was anything but fair in my opinion. It reminds one that Fairey has been exposed for copyright infringement in the past-- such as the case of Rene Mederos . In that situation Shepard Fairey settled out of court with the Mederos estate after being exposed for having used a Mederos poster for a shirt titled ‘Cuban Rider’. Perhaps Lessig and the Fair Use Project is not aware of that?
Untitled Silk-screen poster - Rene Mederos, Cuba, 1972. This double portrait by one of Cuba’s most famous poster artists depicts the revolutionaries Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos as seen on the Art for a Change article. A must read!

In that situation Fairey had printed a copy of the poster from a book about revolutionary art-- the author of the book, a friend of the Mederos family, recognized the image upon viewing Shepard Fairey’s shirt design. Shepard Fairey later claimed-- in an interview with Mother Jones -- that he did not know how to contact Rene Mederos for payment-- he was obviously unaware that Mederos had passed in 1996. A simple internet search would have enlightened Fairey. Fairey stated in the Mother Jones interview, "Well, how would I ever pay this guy anyway because he's in Cuba?". (It just goes to show how much the orphan works legislation would have failed had it passed.)

From Art for a Change-- Screenshot taken from the "Bombing Science" website 7/18/2007, where the Fairey rip-off of the Mederos poster had been sold as a T-shirt.

One interesting aspect of this situation is that Danziger Projects-- the gallery that informed Mannie Garcia that Shepard Fairey had used his photograph of Obama-- has since sold limited prints of Mannie Garcia’s photograph with profit going to Garcia. Anthony Falzone-- the Executive Director of the Fair Use Project who is representing Shepard Fairey directly-- has suggested that the limited edition prints of Garcia’s photograph is proof that the Obama photograph has increased in value. The only problem with this is that the Associated Press claims to own the copyright to the photograph. It also seems just a bit staged in my opinion-- almost as if individuals who are close to the case are trying to create something out of nothing in order to support Shepard Fairey. Hopefully the judge and jury will see past this obvious ploy.

In my opinion Lawrence Lessig and Anthony Falzone should have their integrity questioned. I base my opinion on prior cases they have supported and the contradictions and hypocrisy I observe in their support of Shepard Fairey. For example, in 2008 the Fair Use Project represented the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in a case against radio host Michael Savage of the Savage Nation. Savage's character and interpretation of freedom of speech was questioned. I question why the Fair Use Project has failed to place Shepard Fairey under the same critical scope that Savage was placed under. After all, both Shepard Fairey and Michael Savage have tried to stomp on the rights of others-- both have taken action that goes against the mission of the Fair Use Project.
That case involved Savage’s claims that CAIR had infringed on his copyright by posting excerpts of his program on the CAIR website. I think Anthony Falzone’s case was warranted in that situation. However, in a Fair Use Project write-up about the case Falzone suggests that Michael Savage lacks integrity for having tried to block freedom of speech since he makes his living from said freedom. Falzone stated:

The right to speak and the right to criticize speech you don't like are equally important. You'd think that Savage of all people, who depends on free speech to do what he does for a living, would understand that.”. In the article Falzone goes on to say, “If fair use protects anything, it protects the right to use portions of a copyrighted work to criticize it, so Savage lost his case quickly and decisively.”

Obviously Falzone does not feel that way about his current client. After all, Shepard Fairey has opposed creative freedoms in the past. That is why I have a problem with Anthony Falzone’s opinion in regards to the Fair Use Project supporting Shepard Fairey’s claim of “fair use” concerning the Obama photograph. After all, Shepard Fairey has revealed in the past that he is not a strong supporter of “fair use” in the first place-- if it involves an artist making a profit off of legitimate parodies of his art.

A comparison of a poster by Shepard Fairey (left) next to a poster by Baxter Orr (right). Orr put a SARs protective mask over the famous Obey Giant image and titled it ‘Protect’. Fair Use? You be the judge.

In 2008 Shepard Fairey sent a cease-and-desist letter to artist Baxter Orr after finding out that Orr had made a parody of his Obey Giant image. Having viewed Orr’s parody I would say that it is “fair use” under both copyright and trademark law since by that time the Obey Giant image was known worldwide. There was no confusion about who created what-- people knew upon viewing Orr’s image that it was a parody and they knew who and what the image was commenting on. Let us not forget that Shepard Fairey has made a living off of creating parodies of copyrighted images and trademarks. However, that did not stop Fairey from claiming that Orr's image was not "fair use". Kind of reminds one of the views of Michael Savage concerning CAIR, does it not?

Baxter Orr’s image, titled ‘Protect’, criticized Shepard Fairey’s art as well as his status as a street artist. The image was quickly picked up by bloggers-- which resulted in further criticism of Shepard Fairey’s practice of “referencing” and status concerning the commercialization of street art. It was a prime example of why we have "fair use" in the first place. Apparently that did not sit well with Shepard Fairey. Fairey, as reported by the Austin Chronicle , called Orr a “mimic” and “parasite”. He did not agree that Orr’s image was “fair use”. He went as far as to suggest that it was damaging to the business aspect of his art. I would think that the Fair Use Project would have seen that as a call to arms.

The fact remains that Shepard Fairey tried to stomp out freedom just as Michael Savage had tried. With that in mind, shouldn’t Anthony Falzone and the Fair Use Project be critical of their client? Why did they extend him a helping hand in the first place concerning his past attack against "fair use"? Did they not know? If they did know I would think they would question Shepard Fairey’s integrity as they had suggested the integrity of Michael Savage be questioned. Perhaps they are just selective as far as their mission is concerned. Regardless, there is room to question the ethics and integrity of the Fair Use Project.

The key point can be found in Fairey’s reply on the Austin Chronicle. In the article Fairey states, “I have to deal with the bad end of it(copyright) sometimes. I’ve had to pay out.”-- he went on to say that the difference between him and Baxter Orr is that he will stop using an image once the copyright owner comes forward. In hindsight this opens a few questions-- why did Shepard Fairey not stick to his word concerning the Obama photograph and the Associated Press? Why did the Fair Use Project fail to give support to Baxter Orr when a famous artist trampled on “fair use“? Why is Anthony Falzone and Lawrence Lessig defending someone who trampled on "fair use" just over a year ago? The contradictions and hypocrisy is alarming. Where is the integrity?

Back to the Lessig article-- Professor Lessig’s entry closes with the following words, “please send any favorite examples of photos used as visual references for other works of art. We lawyers don't know much, but we can learn pretty quickly. Thanks for any help.” Help? It is easy to rattle the sabers by making this case into a 'media bully vs. poor artist' scenario. However, if we place the Associated Press aside and consider Shepard Fairey's past thoughts concerning "fair use"-- as well as the contradictions of the Fair Use Project-- it is just as easy to view this case as just another attack against the rights of the majority of living artists. One could also say that it is an attack on photography as a whole.

When evaluating Shepard Fairey's case against the AP remember that it is supported by individuals who have a vested interest in artists such as Shepard Fairey. Remember that it is supported by individuals who have strived to make it so that artists would be unable to challenge copyright infringement in a court of law as they can today. After all, an extended view of "fair use" implies that. Remember that only a small percentage of visual artists benefit from the extreme interpretations of “fair use” that Lessig and the Fair Use Project support.

The majority of visual artists have a lot to lose if “fair use” continues to be supported in an extreme manner. Should the majority of visual artists sacrifice their rights so that a relatively small number of visual artists can create with total disregard for the works of others? I don't think so. Should we devalue the legal aspect of works of art so that forms of art that rely on extreme interpretations of "fair use" can be secured? I don't think so. After all, it is not just artists like Shepard Fairey that we have to look out for-- I'm certain that many corporations would love it if visual artists were unable to legally defend the ownership of their work.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that some of these individuals would like nothing more than to see copyright made void. In my opinion, cases like this are nothing more than a clever ruse to take away from the rights of all artists. Don’t be fooled by their battle cry of upholding creative freedom. In reality these individuals stand for concepts that put your art and your business at risk. Isn't it hard enough for visual artists to protect their art as it is?

With the technology of today someone like Shepard Fairey can print off and use an image of an oil painting that may have involved months of work in the studio of some yet to be known artist. That said, the beauty of copyright protection is that said artist can defend his or her art knowing that he or she will be acknowledged. That is why copyright is important. Unfortunately, there are key players who hope to destroy that. They strive to take away from your hard work, from your business, and from your dignity. They will do this while waving the banner of creative freedom.

In conclusion, my opinion is that Lawrence Lessig, Anthony Falzone, and Shepard Fairey are going to need a lot of hope in their case against the Associated Press-- they are also going to have to defend some of their past positions, statements, and lack of action. True, “fair use” is needed. After all, artists-- such as Baxter Orr-- have used “fair use” as it is intended. “Fair use” is limited for a reason. If visual artists allow “fair use” to be extended in the extreme they can kiss the business aspect of their art, as well as their legacy, goodbye. If we stand for this I'm concerned that integrity will truly be lost.

Links of Interest:

Public Knowledge and the Orphan Works Bill -- Myartspace Blog

Brad Holland Responds to Public Knowledge -- Myartspace Blog

Fair Use: Shepard Fairey and Baxter Orr

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking Beyond the Hype: Is the contemporary art market a fraud?

There has been a hailstorm of questions concerning the art market since the global financial bust. As the art market continues to have ups and downs some art collectors, art dealers, as well as the general public have demanded answers concerning the integrity of the art market as a whole. The focus of the criticism has been placed on the ethical practices of some art dealers and collectors. Needless to say, people are starting to examine the art market closer than they ever had before. At the source there is a great deal of hype to be found.

Many of the questions are common-- some were asked before the recent art world financial meltdown. Were prices inflated? Were novice art collectors duped? Did some gallerists sell 'lemon art' knowing that the investment would only ride as long as the art market continued to advance in a positive direction? Did top art collectors foster a market of excessive prices for their own gain? Are some artists to blame? Is the general public to blame? Who is responsible? The questions build up as each week goes by-- frustration creates an environment of outrage.

This atmosphere of doubt offers the perfect time for individuals to make powerful statements concerning their position within the art market. People desire answers-- in this burdened financial climate a strong answer can easily become a battle cry. However, there is also room for the age old ‘my art is better than your art’ rhetoric that tends to creep out of the woodwork whenever the art market is in peril. Needless to say, I think we should all focus on what is really being said when someone speaks of the art market crises-- especially if they are throwing up a finger of blame. An underlining ploy can often rise to the surface when words are examined next to the position of who is saying them.

A perfect example of this can be found in a recent article in The Independent (UK). The Independent article states that David Nahmad-- an influential Monaco-based art dealer -- has lashed out against the contemporary art market. Nahmad suggests that contemporary art is a “fraud“. In the article Nahmad suggests that a handful of art collectors have artificially increased the value for certain artists work and that art dealers willfully duped novice art collectors into buying high priced art knowing that the art would be of little value after an art market bust.

David Nahmad is not foolish for lashing out. After all, he is aware that others support his view. Those who support Nahmad’s opinion feel that the recent collapse of the art market is “proof” that contemporary art is of little value. Needless to say, most of those critics have a vested interest in the same aspect of the art market that Nahmad deals in. In that sense, Nahmad’s statement is business as usual. In a sense, Nahmad is reacting to hype with hype.

The key point of David Nahmad’s criticism can be summed up with one of his statements, that being, “I would never advise my clients to buy contemporary art.”. Nahmad’s criticism aside-- it should be noted that he deals in modern art and feels that art has not advanced since Francis Bacon. In other words, one could say that his criticism against the contemporary art market is simply a ploy to support his own market.

Thus, one could say that by questioning the integrity of the contemporary art market-- a market Nahmad opposes in the first place --he is also placing his own integrity into question. In other words, the worms tend to rise up if you cut open the surface of a dead beaten horse. In that sense Nahmad has not solidified an answer to the art market crises as much as he has played on the fears, paranoia, and anger that is already present.

In any business fear, paranoia, and anger will arise if the foundation of its respected market starts to crumble. Concerning the art market as a whole-- this fear has driven many to compare key figures within the business of art to organized criminals. I have no doubt that David Nahmad played on those fears when making his statements to The Independent-- he won’t be the last to proclaim that the contemporary aspect of the art market is fraudulent-- while proclaiming that his own niche in the art market is the “real deal". True, some of Nahmad's underlining criticism is warranted. That said, his intentions-- as a whole-- should be examined based on the scope of his words as they apply to his business ventures.

With that in mind, I think it is unfair to suggest that gallerists can be compared to mafia lords as some critics have done. After all, unlike a mafia boss a gallerist makes offers that you can refuse. So in that respect, some of the responsibility falls on novice art collectors themselves for having bought into a market that continued to soar without restraint. Buyers in any market can control the market by their choice to purchase or decline, true? Surely David Nahmad would agree with that. Buying on hype alone is not an investment. Keeping up with Charles Saatchi is not an investment. Sometimes a fool needs to be called a fool.

Not everyone agrees with the criticism of David Nahmad. A columnist for The Art Newspaper, Louisa Buck, responded to Nahmad‘s statements. She said, “There is no doubt that the likes of Rothko, Picasso and Matisse are magisterial figures, but the art world has moved on and to dismiss everything after Bacon is utter nonsense.”. I have to agree with Buck’s statement-- especially since it is obvious that David Nahmad is playing on the current art market crises in order to support the aspect of the market he deals in. That said, I do agree that overpricing-- and inflated prices in general --have been a problem in the art market.

I don’t think it is fair for Nahmad to suggest that it has only happened in recent years nor do I think it is fair for him to suggest that contemporary art is the only aspect of the art market that has involved inflated pricing. One could say that hype pricing, if you will, has been going on for several decades now and has involved works of art by living artists as well as artists who have long passed. In that sense, every aspect of the art market needs to be examined-- including the aspect of the art market that David Nahmad holds dear.

In other words, there is no single villain in this scenario. In many ways we all played a role-- from the artist, to the dealer, to the art collector, to the viewing public who lined up to see the art with their own eyes. We were all caught in the hype that energized the art market just before it crashed. In many ways this decadence-- this vehicle of hype-- reflects the same turmoil that has resulted in our faltering economy. Thus, we should question ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the art market should be looked at with a scope. I do think that some artists, dealers, and collectors use unethical means to establish themselves within the public conscience-- and I say that because I feel that art that is honored should be honored due to merit instead of hype or artificially spurred public interest. Art appreciation should not be dictated or established by these means in my opinion. We should be wary of media hype-- especially where art is concerned. After all, we are talking about art-- something that defines our culture and who we are as a people-- not a new line of car or some other updated consumer good that only has value in the here and now.

It is true that mass publicity can establish an artist beyond the level of acclaim that he or she would have otherwise-- we observed that recently with the artist Shepard Fairey due to his association with a public relations firm that had worked with the Obama campaign. It was not by accident that his ’Hope’ poster ended up being a mainstream news phenomenon. Thus, it is no accident that his artwork is now worth far more than it originally had been. True, the media hype was brilliant from a business standpoint-- but I would like to think that art, including the art market itself, is based more on merit than a carefully planned media campaign established to create buzz for an artist. If anything, that is the problem with the art market at this time-- it is a problem that can be found in every aspect of our society.

That said, I do think that novice art collectors as well as the general public need to take a deeper look at exactly what they are praising-- and if their praise stems from a media bombardment which tells us what is 'good' art or 'bad' art. People need to ask if the artwork they view and purchase is truly groundbreaking, if it truly speaks, if it is authentic, and if it can stand alone without a media bombardment of praise. Only then, in my opinion, will the art market-- and any market for that matter-- have a degree of authenticity and true integrity.

Is the Contemporary art market a fraud? I don't think so. However, I do think there is room for change. What are your thoughts?

Link of Interest:

Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer -- The Independent

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Art Space Talk Quotes #2

Here is another group of artist quotes taken from the Art Space Talk series of interviews. This group of quotes deals with art criticism and reviews. You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Concerning art criticism and reviews:

“They called me a Pop artist because I used recognizable imagery. The critics like to group people together. I didn't meet Andy Warhol until 1964. I did not really know Andy or Roy Lichtenstein that well. We all emerged separately.” -- James Rosenquist

“Everybody uses labels: they give you a handle on things – an over-simplified handle, sure, but without labels, without ads, without words, the world would be an indistinguishable mass, a blur. You can hope, maybe, that people ascribe so many labels to you that none wins out…” -- Vito Acconci

“To me the way someone responds to my work, often says more about the person looking than it does the painting. I had a couple in my studio looking at the same painting. It was a large painting, dark deep reds, many layers and an area of light. The woman couldn’t stop gushing how beautiful and inviting it was. On the flip side, the man thought it was evil and sinister. He said it scared him and he couldn’t live with it. ...and both views were perfectly valid!” -- Connie Noyes

“Most angry critics who deal in generalizations show hopeless judgment in distinguishing between good and poor individual works. Just as Prince Charles managed to single out for condemnation only those few modern buildings in London of true quality and thoughtfulness, while never mentioning the hundreds of examples of architectural mediocrity around them, art doesn't need self-appointed protectors.” -- Michael Craig-Martin

“A small group of elitist individuals decide what is valid and what is not. These people overly intellectualize and academicize the arts to maintain their sense of superiority. This is not a new problem.” -- Mark Ryden

“It matters what people call you because what they call you shapes how they see you, it shapes what they expect of you, what they ask you to do, no matter what it is that you actually do.” -- Vito Acconci

“I think it is important to do what you believe in and ignore the critics.” -- Janet Fish

“I dislike labels, but they are a necessary evil to comprehend artwork for some people.” -- Blaine Fontana

“I'd say reviews have influenced me more than the actual exhibits as they have finally inured me to criticism from the outside world. It took years to not care what others think about what I make and that change in outlook has probably influenced me to date more than any particular show.” -- Christian Schumann

“I don't avoid or "block out" responses to my work. The work isn't complete until it is out in the world. That kind of communication with an audience (including critics) allows for their active participation in the reception of the work and often presents challenges. Some interpretations I dismiss as not constructive to my studio practice, but others encourage an inventory of choices.” -- Janet Biggs

“Just because a critic does not see the spiritual in contemporary art doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that it is no longer valid as defined by their definition of spiritual.” -- Phillip John Charette

Feel free to comment about any of the quotes listed above. Can you relate to their words? Do you take a different position? You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Monday, February 23, 2009

Art Space Talk Quotes #1

Reading past interviews I realize that there is information contained within the Art Space Talk interview series that may be of benefit to followers of the blog-- or anyone else who discovers the Myartspace Blog. I have decided to post a series of entries containing quotes that spotlight the advice, suggestions, and general thoughts that various artists have offered during my interviews with them.

Links to these entries will be included on the Advice for Artists entry as well-- which will be regularly updated. My hope is that the quotes series will help readers with research or that they will serve as advice for artists from artists. You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Concerning the meaning, process, and creation of art:

“Paintings are memories. Memories of the painter who painted them. Memories that can be shared as well. Paintings are things to remember things by. For example, I see my work as auto-biographical. It is all auto-biographical.” -- James Rosenquist

“Process and systems are part of what my art is about. That is, I invent, find, and borrow ways of making painterly statements, which reflect my person to the extent that I am able to reach into that core of my being. It’s a kind of self-analysis that requires a balance between the rational and the intuited.” -- Thornton Willis

“The process is very important in my work. It is intrinsic. Through the doing more ideas occur. I am an extremely kinesthetic person., very physical. I learn everything through my body, through doing. I will take notes when working, often writing on the walls of my studio. I have learned that my work HAS to go through some period of chaos or struggle . Without chaos the painting is lifeless.” -- Connie Noyes

“Any artistic creation is the result of the combination of so many factors: the artist’s predisposition to be passionate about a subject and desire to communicate this, in whatever form is paramount; a great deal of hard work and preparation; to remain true to yourself, as you perceive this truth.” -- Lala Meredith-Vula

“The complexity of the language of images is disguised by the ease and rapidity with which we read them. I've tried to make work that is as transparent and simple as possible. No matter how much I strip away the result is always more complex to me than I expect.” -- Michael Craig-Martin

“I’ve been working with ink for many years. I also use oil based materials for monoprinting which is a technique that I love. It involves the unexpected which I find interesting, the most surprising things can happen through the smallest bit of pressure on the page.” -- Whitney McVeigh

“I always felt an urge to create. I think we are born with this impulse. Some of my life experiences also influence my work. I try to talk about difficult things in a lighthearted manner for I find that the problem comes when life is taken too seriously." -- Yuliya Lanina

“Art is a covenant relationship between spirit, the artist and the viewer. The artist, if he or she has an inspiring spiritual experience, has a responsibility to translate and transmit that experience as closely as possible so as to evoke a similar experience in the viewer.” -- Alex Grey

“I like to work with my hands, to press -- to rub --as much as I do enjoy working with the brushes and pigment. The substantive nature of the wood panels allows me to use the full force and range of my body – to use as light or as extreme a touch as I wish.” -- Elana Gutmann

“I never make sketches. Everything is developed in an intuitive manner. The approach I developed growing up is derived from a mush of ideas from expressionism and the Beats. In painting, one act creates the idea of the next - it is a conversation of sorts which slowly turns into a frustrating puzzle with my own limited nature” -- Christian Schumann

Feel free to comment about any of the quotes listed above. Can you relate to their words? Do you take a different position? You can read the Art Space Talk series of interviews by visiting, Enjoy.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Art Space Talk: Emily Maddigan

Emily Maddigan creates sculptural forms and collages that reflect aspects of her youth-- a childhood of knitting, crocheting, sewing, and beading. However, these forms convey a foreboding sense of decay that is beyond the nightmares and innocence of a child. Her adult-size figures play on our curiosity for the macabre-- while exposing our tendency to be attracted to the tragedy of others where otherwise we would not have cared.

Maddigan’s artwork invites viewer interpretation-- one can almost imagine peeling away the flesh-like surfaces of her figures in order to investigate their inner-workings. An artist on comment on Maddigan’s art, stating, "Familiar and safe objects/materials have never been more eerie." Emily Maddigan received her BFA from Michigan State University and her MFA from California State University Long Beach in 2004.

Brian Sherwin: Emily, you studied at Michigan State University and California State University. Can you tell us about your academic background? Did you have any influential instructors or peers?

Emily Maddigan: Sure, I studied ceramics at Michigan State and traveled abroad a few times. I studied ceramics at Cal State Long Beach and illegally lived in my studio for a year and a half; I suppose the teachers that new this was going on were some of the most supportive. Influential teachers gave me the freedom to do whatever I felt I needed to make.
They were interested in watching me progress without trying to show me down a certain path. I guess they understood that I had a loud voice and I didn’t need some of the things that the other students needed, OR maybe they knew I was just going to do my own thing no matter what. Guess it’s debatable!

BS: Can you go into detail about your art? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your work…

EM: If I feel a certain way, see something unjust, or maybe I’m feeling angry I make work about it. I aim to understand the best I can how I think and process my thoughts and opinions. Some of the ceramic work dealt with my interpretation of my traditional, reserved up bringing in Michigan.
The latest “Ladies” series came about when I moved into an apartment were the last tenant Mary Brown had been committed to a mental hospital. No one came to pick up her stuff. Stacks and stacks of suitcases just sitting outside for days. Finally I just started using the materials inside. At the same time a friend of mine was calculating her ovulation to get pregnant and then jumped off the deep end and became obsessive about her pregnant body. I just react to the life and situations around me.

BS: You work between mediums… you work in collage, sculptural forms, ceramics, among others. How does one body of work inform the others? For example, does your work in collage influences your sculptural work?

EM: I would say they all inform each other, I’m the one making the stuff so I think that might be inevitable. It has been awhile since I had a facility were I could make the type of ceramic forms I would want to make. So I did something else I made the ladies. My living room and kitchen are studio spaces. I have one chair. I live with all of it; it covers the walls, hangs out in the corners, and fills the closets. I see them all together so when I first read this question I had a hard time even separating them from one another.
Some of my work I see as art and some are just things, not sure what that is about. Making things has been such a consistent thing in my life since I was a kid. I hardly have any shows, I just make things, and when I need room I throw it out, or donate it to the thrift store, one time I sold some work at a garage sale.

BS: What is the specific message you strive to convey to viewers concerning your art? Are there any specific themes that you explore?

EM: I want viewers to have an experience. See something for the first time, or see something in a different way. I suppose, to inspire some curiosity. I get bored easily; I always need to be doing something. So I strive to make something people actually will spend time looking and exploring. I really could care less if they feel about it the way I do. If they feel anything at all I’ve done a good job. I suppose that is the aim.
Everyday we pass by tons of people and feel nothing for them? If something or someone is pathetic enough, like an extreme tragedy on TV, all of a sudden we care. That isn’t me. I care all the time. I suppose my sculptures at times are tragic enough that you feel for them….a sculpture.

BS: Can you tell us more about your influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists, world events, or movements in art and culture?

EM: Oh, I suppose the educated side is suppose to ramble off all the artists who have come before me that have paved the way for me to even think and consider making work the way I do, but that doesn’t necessarily relate to anything. I’m drawn to artists who perhaps live in their own art world, like Lenard Knight, living out at Salvation Mountain, the mountain he made. I go out to Slab City and visit him every winter and Noah Purifoy whose property, out in Joshua Tree City, is flooded with outdoor installations and other sculptures.

BS: What can you tell us about your process in general? Give us some insight into how you work…

EM: Let me tell you about some of my studios/homes and that should explain something. In Graduate school I shared a studio with 4 other students. I moved in. My studio floor was covered in about two feet of fabric, random plant material, and trash barrels full of paper slip. Paper slip begins to rot after awhile and grow mold and at that time I would pull all kinds of stuff out of the trash and drag it into my studio. The space was about 11 feet by 10 feet. I slept on a cot, had to hide it every morning, but the studio had sculptures hanging from the ceiling and covering every inch of the place, so a simple cot was easy to overlook.
Next was my apartment in Glendale. I made the “ladies” series there. I just decided to plunge into it and start making 4 of them in the living room. The kitchen was already dedicated to making lights out of hair rollers, so I laid down some cardboard and just went for it. Paper Mache madness in the living room, those pieces are seven feet tall. I’m sure my neighbors had a lot to talk about.
The floor got so crowded with tons of fabric, and every other material I needed, and then there was a bit of a cricket problem, I was glad to move out of there. The funny thing is I don’t even see it until I look back at photos I took, or someone comes by and there is no furniture to sit on, and they say something about how “crazy” my house is. I just live it.

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this time? For example, there has been a lot of debate recently about copyright and the rights of artists. Do you have an opinion on issues such as that?

EM: As far as copyright goes… I think it is all so sticky. I use old “master” paintings. I was making clothing for awhile and a friend said that someone will see the style and just change it a little and make millions off it. I’m not sure I care. I had a professor once who made more money suing people than making his own work. Not the kind of road I care to go down. I guess a shout out is always nice.

BS: What about the internet? One could say that the art world is starting to catch up-- more galleries are turning to the World Wide Web in order to further exposure for their artists. How do you think the internet will impact the art world in say… a decade? Can you see a meshing between the traditional market and alternative (online) markets taking shape?

EM: Sure I can see a shift in the arts with the help of the internet. I think it is a great thing. The Internet provides new work to look at, less of the same people deciding what is good/gallery worthy and what isn’t. I think that is important. For me, I am a hermit. I hardly have shows, so the internet, especially your site, has been great for me. I can share my work with people all over the world, to me that is what is important.

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

EM: My goals….Well someday soon my work will travel around the world!! HAHAHA! Seriously my goal is to just do what I do. I’m now the influential teacher. I give my students the OK to follow what they want, It was important for me as a student and now I can provide that to others, it’s a great gift to inspire people.
You can learn more about Emily Maddigan by visiting her profile, Here . You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page,
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
London Calling

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eugenio Merino's Controversial Damien Hirst Sculpture: For the Love of Gold

4 the Love of Go(l)d by Eugenio Moreno. Photograph: ADN Galeria

British art critics ranging from Robert Hughes to the Stuckists have been suggesting that Damien Hirst has a hole in his head for years. One could say that sculptor Eugenio Merino agrees with said criticism-- but not in the way you might think. Eugenio Merino has created a life-size sculpture of Damien Hirst-- complete with inflated head (representing ego?)-- which places the British art in a suicide pose.
Merino’s Hirst is posed on his knees holding a Colt 45 to his head-- a bloodied bullet wound glistens as blood runs down the sculptures mouth. The sculpture, titled ‘For the Love of Gold’ -- also known as '4 the Love of Go(l)d'-- was unveiled at the 28th Madrid International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) alongside other works by Eugenio Merino that parody Damien Hirst’s art and art world status. The sculpture stirred controversy within hours of being unveiled.

Merino has stated that the sculpture-- which has been placed in a tank similar to the tanks used by Damien Hirst to display the remains of animals in formaldehyde-- is symbolic of the financial crisis that is facing the art world. Merino’s controversial sculpture is a parody of Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’, a widely successful piece involving a diamond encrusted skull that sold for more than $100 million to a group of investors in 2007-- just before the global financial meltdown.

Eugenio Merino has stated that Damien Hirst is too concerned about profit. Merino has suggested to reporters that Hirst should shoot himself since he is so concerned about money, stating that if Hirst did that the value of his work would “increase dramatically“. Merino has made it clear that the sculpture is a “joke” and that he does not wish harm on Damien Hirst-- in fact, Merino is a fan of Hirst and studied his art extensively while in art school. Merino stated, "It is a joke but it is also paradoxical that if he did kill himself his work would be worth even more,". He went on to say that the sculpture is a metaphor for the current state of the art world.

Eugenio Merino’s visual message about the excess and decadence of the art world has taken an ironic twist in that his ‘For the Love of Gold’ has already been purchased for $41,000. Other reports state that all of Merino’s Hirst parodies have been bought by collectors in Portugal and Holland. Which begs the question-- are collectors missing Merino’s message? Perhaps they are unknowing participants. Merino has stated, "It is ironic. I've never sold so much.". For the love of gold, indeed.

A collage by Cartrain involving Damien Hirst's 'For the Love of God'

Damien Hirst has yet to respond concerning Eugenio Merino's controversial sculpture. It will be interesting to see if he responds to Merino in the same way that he responded to Cartrain-- the young British street artist who made parodies of Hirst's 'For the Love of God' not long ago. Cartrain was forced to hand over the profit he made from selling his parodies-- around $200-- as well as the remaining prints and original works. Some reports have stated that Cartrain's prints and original works have since been destroyed. Which begs the question-- will Eugenio Merino's 'For the Love of Gold' share the same fate?

Links of Interest:

'Suicide' sculpture of Damien Hirst causes controversy in Spain
For the Love of God: Damien Hirst Threatens Young Artist with Legal Action
Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Damien Hirst & Shepard Fairey / Cartrain & Baxter Orr
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
London Calling

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Art Space Talk: Christian M Benedetto, Jr. (art collector)

Christian M Benedetto, Jr. is the CEO of Hopkins Sampson & Brown Equities, LLC. Christian is an avid collector of art. Many of his art purchases are made online. As an online collector of art Christian has had great interest in the development of He and his wife Suzy live in suburban Morris County, New Jersey with their son Christian III. is a networking site for artists, gallerists, art collectors and others involved with visual art. The eCommerce platform for is the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE), The two sites were founded by Catherine McCormack-Skiba and Brian Skiba. The founders will soon open a brick & mortar gallery in Palo Alto, California. The gallery will feature artists from the community.

Winter Field 1 by Lois Foley.

Brian Sherwin: Christian, you are an avid art collector with an interest in Can you discuss what attracted you to the myartspace community and to viewing art online in general?

Christian M Benedetto Jr.: It is very practical and time saving to be able to view art online. Online I can comparison shop between emerging artists with ease. It is also a great way to save time. For example, my wife Suzy and I had a son last spring, so time has really become an issue. Going to brick & mortar galleries is a little tougher with a stroller.
It is nice to be able to visit the myartspace online galleries in the comfort of my own home. Myartspace has also been a way to have my young son participate in viewing art. My son will often sit on my lap as I scroll through art clicking away. He has a pretty good eye and is a huge Charlie Spears fan.

I look at a few hundred pieces of art per month online. I would not be able to achieve that if I had to physically visit galleries. The other great thing about looking at art online is that it allows the viewer to click over to Google and find out more about the artist. It is relatively easy to discover where an artist has exhibited and what they have accomplished by searching for them online.

Strangers, Friends, & Lovers by Ariane Bartosh.

BS: Do you mind giving our readers some insight into your personal collection? How many works of art do you own? Are there any specific pieces that stand out in your opinion?

CB: I have a few pieces that I really, really enjoy. I was very lucky to come across Shawn Barber in 1997 when he was still an undergraduate student at Ringling School of Art and Design. I bought a piece called “Coltrane in Blue” which won Best in Show for the school’s senior class art show. It was the first piece he ever sold.

Shawn went on to become the Illustrator of the Year for MTV in 2001, has done the US and Germany Grammy’s, countless works in Magazines and has a few books out and is a regular on TV. His shows always sell out in a day or two. I have been offered about 100 times the price I paid for the piece. I have about a dozen other pieces of his works and still stay in touch with him.

Then there is a painting which I bought through by Charlie Spears called Topsy Turvey for my son, Christian III, before he was born. The painting hangs in his room and he looks at it all the time, smiles, and every time he does, it melts Suzy’s and my heart, so it is very special. I also have a very large Daniel Ferriss pencil drawing from the 1920s of a twenty-one story building I owned. It was given to me by the late Leona Helmsley. We sold the building years later, but I still have the drawing – the detail is unreal.

The Hopkins Sampson & Brown Equities, LLC collection is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, privately held art collections in New Jersey. We have never sold a piece; we have donated a few and have even taken pieces right off the wall to give to friends, clients and visitors who remarked about a piece. Our goal is to have 10,000 paintings over the next twenty five years.
Wedding Table by Alex Golden.

BS: My understanding is that you purchase art online as well as in the Traditional method of visiting brick & mortar galleries. Traditionalists of the art market will often mention that viewing art online will never replace viewing art in person-- which suggests that viewing and buying art online is inferior to the traditional model of art business. What is your stance on this issue?

CB: I say to them, go to a high end Auction house for a live auction and see how many bidders are bidding via the Phone and have never seen the piece up close and personal or who sent representative to bid for them. The quality of digital photos, slides, and other media have improved greatly in the last few years.

Sometimes a collector can actually inspect a piece better using these methods than he or she could accomplish viewing a work of art on hanging on the wall at a brick & mortar gallery. Best of all the art can be viewed with your schedule in mind instead of the galleries schedule.

Pollen by Kalliope Amorphous.

BS: So do you tend to buy from artists that you are aware of when buying art online? Or do you also buy from emerging artists who are unknown to you? Is it a mix?

CB: I would say emerging artists who are unknown to me, as well as Journeymen artist who are also unknown to me. People recommend artist to me all the time and I am involved fairly heavily in the New Jersey Art Scene.

In New Jersey I’ve helped several galleries obtain free space and we do more than our fair share of pro bono real estate work for Artist and Artist housing. Needless to say, I get a lot of pitches, so it is nice to be able to surf myartspace and the New York Art Exchange.

ChangAn Club, Beijing, China by Beatrix Reinhardt.

BS: You have mentioned that you have bought art off of artists that you have met on myartspace. Can you tell us more about that?

CB: On myartspace I have purchased art from Charlie Spears and Adrienne Outlaw. Both are wonderful artists who stayed in touch with us. They have kept in contact by sending notes, e-mails and cards. Adrienne even sent our son a teddy bear when he was born. Charlie checks in with me and gives me advice about being a dad and such. I share a lot of the poems I write for my son and wife with him. I have purchased other works off of the site by artists I had in my collection earlier.

Summer's End by Lee Ables.

BS: As an avid collector of art I assume that you have many associates who also collect art. What sort of feedback have you obtained from fellow art collectors concerning

CB: Its all been very positive, the site allows artists to price their works much more competitively and still make more money, as they are not paying 35-50% to the gallery, so you can really find some fantastic art at all price points. What a great deal of people hate to admit is that Art is a business. I’m happy if I can buy three paintings online for the price I would pay for two at a gallery with the end result of putting more money into the artist’s pocket. It is really a win-win situation for the artist and the buyer.

Galleries can also do well online because every gallery has the same issue-- space. For example, it would not be hard for a gallery to represent 100 artists online and maintain an online store of 800 paintings. So if the gallerist is really in it to help the artist why would he or she not want to have a store on the New York Art Exchange? Maintaining a store on NYAXE is very practical and efficient.

Whitley Heights, LA by Alysia Kaplan.

BS: You are very open about the fact that you are an art collector on Myartspace-- I assume that you receive many inquiries from artists interested in showing you examples of their work. Do you have any advice for artists as far as contacting known collectors online?

CB: I would suggest that they be very exact in their e-mails, letters or calls. There is nothing worse than to be contacted by someone who is not really sure why they are calling or if they are looking for an unrealistic jump in their price point. For example, MFA students looking to sell me pieces for $30,000 when they have never sold a piece for more than $4,000 makes no sense to me. I’m also annoyed by people looking for funding for a project without providing me a written plan. Those are two of my pet peeves.

So here is some advice: Have a plan, be organized and assertive, don’t come off as aggressive. I have had more than a few artists send me paintings for free so they could say they were in our collection and we have ended up buying several pieces from them since. Show me your passion for your craft.

I bought a wonderful piece by Brian Guidry. When it arrived Janet (our registrar) started to unpack it, she called me over saying, “You have to see this!”. I was thinking oh great it was damaged being shipped up from Louisiana. However, when I got into the conference room I found the most amazing hand made carry case/crate. It was custom made with a handle and neatly burned into the wood was the painting name and our name. Brian must have spent 10 hours making it, his passion for his work showed.

The same is true with Sharon Shapiro, she always tells me her paintings are like her children and when she ships her work she goes the extra mile. Let the passion and love of your work carry throughout, Art is a business, treat it like such. I cannot tell you the number of times we get things shipped to us that are packed in a hurry and it shows. If it appears that you do not care about your art a collector may very well lose interest.

I'll Let You Be In My Dreams If I Can Be In Yours by Herbert Murrie.

BS: Do you have any suggestions for how artists should present themselves online? For example, do you pay more attention to art community profiles and personal websites that contain detailed information about the artist compared to profiles or personal websites that offer little biographical information? In other words, do you like to know about who you are planning to buy from or does it matter?

CB: If I like something I will know instantly. I do however like to see some biographical information, other shows they have been in, if they have a list of collectors-- it is nice to know who owns some of their works. Sometimes I’ll know one of their old professors or another collector and reach out for them to find out a little bit more. So yes, the more information the better.

Wrinkled 24 by Christina Massey.

BS: As you know, many art collectors are wary about buying art online. There is always great concern with transaction involving large sums of money. Do you have any advice for art collectors who have yet to take the leap as far as buying art online is concerned?

CB: Anthony Benedetto (no relation, who is better known as Tony Bennett) original works sell for $6000 to $60,000 and as far as I know, he has no gallery you can visit – it’s all done via the internet and phone. However, my advice would be to go slow and take some precautions. If it seems too good to be true it most likely is. For example, I do not think I would buy a Picasso off Ebay for $10,000 it would just seem too cheap.
Faunagraphic Parrots by Fauna Graphic.
BS: Any predictions on how sites like myartspace will change the direction of the art world-- or at least offer galleries an alternative to the traditional art market? Do you think that the traditional art market will be more apt to mesh with new technology and methods of marketing-- such as eCommerce-- as time goes on?

CB: There are few things that compare in the Art world with walking into your favorite gallery in Rome, Venice, San Francisco or New York (you get the idea) having some refreshments and looking at art while being wooed. But the internet travels at the speed of light, so I can be in Rome, Venice, San Francisco and New York all within the same hour looking at all the artists the gallery has-- not just the one showing that day, plus a wider view of the work.

We all love going into an actual bookstore on a rainy day and getting lost for hours wandering through the aisle and forgetting what we were looking for, but how many times have we left with nothing only to go home and order a few books-- the same products-- on because it was cheaper? What I’m saying is that will not replace galleries. However, it does give us more options and better pricing. People like to save time and money when they shop-- art is no different.
Six Pomegranate Seeds by Jenevieve Hubbard.

BS: In your opinion, why have certain circles of the art world scoffed at the idea of buying and selling art online aside from the reasons I've already mentioned?

CB: I think buying at a gallery, especially a higher end gallery, is a status symbol to some people. It is kind of like buying high end brand name clothes. I am fond of saying “just how cold does your ice need to be” If you want to support the artist, buying online is a fantastic way to get more money in their pocket, while saving yourself some along the way.

Many Galleries are embarrassed selling online and have neglected to develop an Internet strategy and marketing plan. What galleries need to remember is that there is not much difference between myartspace and the New York Art Exchange than an overseas buyer calling in his bids at an auction in NY or London. Many brick & mortar galleries are losing profit because they have failed to adapt to these changes.
Bend #1 by Chadwick Gibson.

BS: Finally, are you considering any purchases at this time on the myartspace platform for eCommerce, the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE)?

CB: I am a huge Arielle Sandler fan, I own over a half dozen or more of her works, and I used one of her painting as the cover of my third book. She had a great piece in the New York Times Magazine not to long ago, recently her work was featured on the TV shows Brothers & Sisters and Eli Stone. I stop by her page all the time to see what she has put up. Same with Charlie Spears, Jill Moser, Sharon Shapiro, Eric Brown and David X Levine.
I would really like to add a few pieces of Eric Foxs’, he is an artist from Long Beach, NY who does fantastic work using lobster traps as canvas with beach themes, and bright vibrant colors. Having grown up surfing on the New Jersey Shore his art takes me back.
Christian is currently a member of the community-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- For further information about or please write, info at
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
London Calling