Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AWS GOLD MEDAL WINNER CONTROVERSY!

I am taking the most fabulous workshop this week with Donna Zagotta! She is all about design and composition and finding your true style. Good luck with me, as I change styles every painting! It is intense and I am very tired right now. I want to post more about the workshop, so will do so a little later in the week. We are going as a group tomorrow night after the workshop, to the Kanter Museum on the Stanford University campus to see the Diebenkorn exhibit and then have dinner together. That should be a great outing but gets me back too late to post, so looks like Friday I will give a synopsis of the week. I will also put together another slide show as many of you are sending me images of your Frenchman paintings, and they are terrific.

In the meantime, check out the Wet Canvas link by clicking on the title of this blog posting for a stunning controversy regarding the hyper realistic "painting" which was awarded the Gold Medal from the American Watercolor Society this year. Almost all of her images are now gone from the web but the AWS sight still has it, so you can refresh your memory, if necessary. I was nose to plexi with this painting to see how it was possible to paint every little wiry hair in his beard and head. Turns out, perhaps it isn't possible. I sure didn't see a single sign of paint or mark of brush. Be sure and follow the links that are provided in some of the comments on this Wet Canvas discussion for more complete details. Especially the link to the photography discussion board.

I look forward to your comments.

11 comments:

Michelle Himes said...

I saw this painting in person at the AWS show too, and spent a lot of time staring at it and trying to convince myself that it was a painting and not a photograph, but of course, I was sure that AWS could not be fooled and so was impressed by the skill of the artist. I am now shocked and disillusioned. I wonder what the end result of this will be. Will AWS actually take back the prize? How can they prevent this from happening again, and will the big juried shows now have to institute rules that will make it difficult and complicated to enter a painting?

Nava said...

Well, you already know what I think... I assume that AWS verified it IS a painting after all, but the real issue is infringing copyrights of the photographers who took those astonishing photos and then taking a ride on them, claiming its her emotions that are portrayed there. By the way, she did it with additional photos. You'd think it's time she got herself a camera, no?

This is so low and so pathetic - and not very clever, as when you copy a photo in such a realistic way, why on earth would you be so stupid as to pick someone else's photo - the chances of getting caught are quite high. I hope AWS does do something about it, for its own integrity. It's time to deliver a strong message to painters that photography is a form of art, too, and infringing copyrights, no matter how much talent is involved, it's nothing better than copying, ands having your art be second-hand one.

Kari Gibson said...

I have been following this debate with interest. I personally, do not like photo-realistic art and would never, ever use stock photos like this as neither are that satisfactory to me.

But there have been artists who do use commercially available images (Warhol and that guy that did the spaceship) and it does seem to be acceptable to a point.

I think it depends partly on her intent, was she trying to deceive or was she making a statement about copyright?

I do wonder what the eventual outcome will be?

Mike said...

I too saw it in person. I had a hard time accepting the idea that it was indeed a painting.

Hyper realism, as the artist in question calls it, might be on the tracks to no recognition from such societies in order to avoid situations just like this.

I cannot imagine the Chutzpa, gall, audacity or IDIOCY one would need to do something like this. Maybe that is why I ended up accepting that it was a painting. It is simply beyond comprehension that anyone would attempt such a brash fraud.

I hope the AWS has and is not embarassed to use some nasty hob nailed boots on the artist for attempting such a scam. Maybe other artists will get the word if they make an example out of her. That is IF IF IF it is proven that the 'painting' is indeed fraudulent.

Sadly, some other fine artists didn't receive a well desrved award because of this. Everyone ends up getting hurt. Really sad!

Cecelia said...

So did the person combine two photos and paint them? Did they just use a computer to print out the picture they made by combining two pictures, frame it and show it? I'm not sure what they did as far as actually painting, goes.
Of course, copying someone else's work was the wrong thing to do.
I am always amazed at the ability to do realism. Expressionism is more what comes out of me.
It is amazing that they were able to find the original images by the photographer. I guess the artist thought that no one would notice, or care.
With the computers that have the capability to copy paintings and print them on a canvas to look like a painting, this type of thing is probably going to happen more as technology changes.
I guess some people are just going to be focused on a prize, fame, money, success, or whatever their motive might be and do anything to get there.
I feel bad about even using a photo, even if it is my own, to work from. I feel like that is not truly coming from within me. But, as I've grown older, I realize that I can't remember everything exactly, so I sometimes have to jog my memory with a photo. But, no matter what I try, something is going to take over and I cannot make it look like my photo, even if I try.
Also, I have found that things from a computer or a photo are going to look somewhat flat. If you want things to look more three dimensional, you have to be looking at them that way.
I was always amazed at our area art shows from schools. There were schools that consistently won the top prizes. People were astonished at the level of work from those schools. I always swore that the teachers had to be doing the work for the kids! In all my years of teaching, I never saw kids, or beginners, capable of doing that level of work. I still don't know how they did it.
My own son, in 5th grade, went to one of those schools. He was drawing typical little boy things of space ships, airplanes, and battles. But, he brought home a stack of papers from art and I was sure that he had taken the teacher's work! There were beautiful drawings of things like barns and roads through woods. I questioned him and he assured me that he did them. I only believed him when I found one of the wall heater in my parent's home. It had a crack in it, just like the one at home, so I knew he had to have done that one.
I still wonder how he did those, though! We moved and he died, so I never found out more. But, when my students started competing with those students, I still wondered.
I guess we will hear more about the AWS case.

Nava said...

The point here is not whether she really painted it with her brush or not. The point is the fact that she infringed copyrights and pretty much stole the photos.

Alas, there are many examples of artists who do that - and though the judges are aware of the fact the reference photo is stole, they accept it and even award it.

Pablo Villicana Lara said...

Holy Cow! Thanks Myrna, I had no idea this was going down. I'm particularly interested as my paintings are very realistic, but not to that extent.
It will be interesting to see how artists doing realism react and carry on with their work AND how societies holding these exhibitions conduct future policy.

Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Wow! Interesting comments. I echo the sentiment about copyright infringement. I hope AWS addresses the problem on their website.

Myrna, I look forward to reading what you have to say about your workshop with Donna Zagotta this week.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I've arrived here via the WC thread and after posting about this controversy on my own blog - see
Art competitions and copyright - the AWS Gold Medal debate (8th September)

I'm particularly interested in the comments of those artists who've actually seen the painting. Thank you for sharing your views.

It struck me when researching this incident, that it has major repercussions for:
- all art societies which have to deal with disputes about copyright
- all artists selling work or entering competitions with artwork based on a reference photo taken by somebody else, and
- all artists who work in a hyperrealistic/photorealistic way.

Let's hope that as a result of this that there is a much bigger emphasis on education - and that:
- art societies will provide much more specific guidance as to what original actually means for competition purposes
- artists take time out to find out more about copyright.

I wonder whether AWS will make a statement now they've removed the painting from the home page of their website? Otherwise their only statement in the public domain is the one referenced in my blog post - which repeats the artist's assertion that other images on the internet were derived from photographs of her work

Which seems rather an odd line to take now............

Myrna said...

I checked back at the AWS website and they have removed the disputed image in the few short days since I first published this post. The image is still on the website if you click on the "artist's" name under participants it pops up. I will post if I hear of a public acknowledgment by the society.

Mary Lou said...

Update - AWS has addressed the situation here:

http://www.americanwatercolorsociety.org/a_awards.php?year=2008

The "painting" has been removed from the tour, and all images, and the artist's name under Awards on the website have also been removed. As yet, no final resolution, but they are investigating.

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