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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

April 24, 2014

Photo Collages by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

In the picture above, John Singer Sargent's Madam X has lost her head. I replaced it with the head of another beauty, Elizabeth Taylor. Something of a sacrilege. But don't blame me. It's Dan Pytko's fault.

Dan recently had a dream, "an interesting dream of a painting of yours ...It was a life-sized, amorphous portrait of a person (watercolor and oil, mixed media, drippy) with calligraphy. You tried explaining the meaning of the words, the connections, but it was all beyond me. For some reason I didn't like the very bottom of the portrait. It just didn't 'go' with the rest of it."

Dan let me know about the dream on facebook and as we posted back and forth he got more specific.

"Think Sargent's "Mm X" in negative; with interesting delicate black writing in what looks like verse/poetry/Asian...


Sounds like a great painting to me. I'm currently painting circles but when I get off that kick I want to be ready to plunge into Dan's vision. So I've been messing around with putting Elizabeth Taylor's head on Madame X's body.  I like his original version where one jeweled strap had slipped off her shoulder. It got hoisted up to full mast after her mother and she protested that it was too shocking that way. Even with the strap in place, the painting created a sensation in cultural circles in France.




Madam X is one of my favorite paintings. It was a thrill to see the real thing - along with one of the doctor she was supposedly having an affair with - at an amazing Singer exhibition at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown in 1997. After that I painted a version of Madam X. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - I can't find a jpg. of it.

Below are some more of my working drawings, so to speak. I decided not to put her in the wedding dress, which was yellow. I can always do that later. And I still have to put the thing in negative. Then I will have a working model for the painting.

Dan, if it sells, you get a finder's fee.






April 18, 2014


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

In my last posts I showed you stills of Leni Smoragdova from a video she produced. I had manipulated them on the computer. They raised the issue of fair use and copyright. Today's photos are of Trisha Leydet that I took recently and then modified on the computer. They all zero in on her beautiful eyes, or in one case, a beautiful eye. There are no copyright issues here.








April 14, 2014

So here's the question. Can I claim authorship of this photo of Leni Smoragdova even though it is based on a still I took from her You Tube video Inside the Artist Studio Leni Smoragdova: "Цирк шапито."   Below is the shot I kidnapped.

On the basis of a recent court case against the appropriation artist Richard Prince, I looks like my use of the photo may not violate copyright protection. Whether that's fair is another question. I'll give you more about that case a little later in this blog. But first I want to say that I love watching Ms. Smoragdova talk on her video even though I don't understand a word she's saying. Her face is very expressive.

Googling her I discovered her photos, paintings and prints on  Saatchi Art . She is messing around with something I like to do - and did to her video still. That is manipulating the photo digitally. Here's an example:


Now let's talk a little about what an artist can swipe without  violating the rights of the artist whose work was stolen.

On the left is the original photo taken by Patrick Cariou, whose 2000 book, Yes Rasta, featured portraits taken in Jamaica. At the right is Prince's work.

The New York TImes explained last year, "Mr. Prince used dozens of the pictures as the basis for a series of dystopian works called “Canal Zone,” which were exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in 2008 and generated more than $10 million in sales." Cariou sued. He contended his copyright protections were violated by Prince.

The 2013 decision was a major victory for appropriation artists like Prince. A federal Court of Appeals ruled that Prince was protected by "fair use" of Cariou's work in 25 of the 30 paintings shown at the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan. This March, before a judge came to a decision about the remaining five, Prince and Cariou settled the case.

But Prince changed the feeling of the photo by adding the guitar and paint splotches on the face. Whereas in the photo of Leni at the top I have added nothing but color and texture. So now I am starting to wonder if claiming this as my own work would meet the necessary standard of "transformative." In the photo below you'll see I've reached a conclusion.

The most  jarring appropriation by Prince was his use of the great photography in Marlboro cigarette ads years ago. Prince took the iconic Marlboro Man photos used in the ads - like the one below by Jim Krantz - and used them as if he had taken them himself. The only change he made was taking the advertising copy out of the pictures as they appeared in magazines and on billboards. Krantz didn't sue but he did tell the Times it would have been nice if Prince had at least given him credit.










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