All is Fair in Love and Use

It used to be that emerging and mid-career artists looking for more exposure could count on entering and being included in small exhibitions around the country. Venues in small towns or independent/non-profit art spaces provided me with early experience in exhibiting my work. One of these spaces was the City of Brea Art Gallery. After applying for a group show there, the curator liked my work enough to include me in some subsequent shows. The Wet Paint exhibition included other artists such as: Kim McCarty, Roger Herman, and Don Bachardy.

WetPaintCatalogPage from the Wet Paint catalog, City of Brea Art Gallery, 2003

More well-known artists never applied to these exhibitions. This also goes for small awards affording a little prestige and an even smaller cash prize. One such award was the James D. Phelan Award in Printmaking:


But now it seems that any artist regardless of his or her status in the art world is vying for these opportunities. This creates a glut of applicants and inevitably, the lesser known artists are being squeezed out in favor of the ones who do not need the exposure. But before this happened I was also included in Impression/Ism. Being exhibited alongside such artists as Laura Owens, Monique Prieto, and Tony Berlant was a thrill.

ImpressionIsmCatalogPage from the Impression/Ism Catalog, City of Brea Art Gallery, 2006

Often times when receiving a rejection letter from an award or any other competition, they note the sheer number of entries and how difficult it was to select the work form such a vast pool of applicants. I see how these exhibitions and awards are becoming more competitive and so my personal rejection rate has increased every year. Rather than getting used to rejection, it seems to get harder to hear no. And to compound the feeling are the insufferable letters written to the losers. The most recent one I received stated that, “It is important to mention that your work was noticed for its’ high quality and the decision was a difficult one.” Clearly this was a form letter and I am sure I was not singled out for such a distinction but please, tell me the accepted work was better than mine. Tell me the truth. We artists don’t need to be lied to and have our misery sugar coated. If you don’t think my work is any good, say so and don’t let me cling on to the hope that you did in fact think my painting(s) was of ‘high quality’. I know that these curators are completely subjective in the process but just tell me the truth and let me move on.

On a less gloomy note, it was great to start off the new year with a last minute studio visit from a San Francisco collector of mine. I’m thrilled to see three small Mascleta works on birch panel now hanging in their Bay Area home. It is through the support of my longtime collectors and supporters that I have been mentally sustained for so long.


In this month’s “eye roll” section is the recent ruling against Belgian Painter, Luc Tuymans, for plagiarism. The Guardian reported that while the artist sited that Fair Use laws protected him, the judge found no discernable difference between the photographer’s portrait and the painted version of Tuymans’. I wholeheartedly agree with the apt description by the writer Adrian Searle that, “The painting A Belgian Politician is not a reproduction. Comparing Van Giel’s photograph and a reproduction of Tuymans’ painting levels out the conspicuous fact that paintings and photographs are different kinds of objects, that we read in different ways. Seeing them in a newspaper or online reduces both to the status of flat images. This trivializes the painter’s emphasis on touch, and the way a painting is made, as well as its appearance as a picture.”

This is not the only story in the news about plagiarism by artists recently but the only one where I completely defend the person being accused. Other infamous cases involve Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and probably the most famous in recent memory, the case against Shepard Fairey and his Obama Hope poster. At least Tuymans admitted using Katrijn van Giel’s photograph, ahem, Shep. I’m half expecting to get a knock on my door from everyone who has ever painted a stripe. If everything in art has already been done, isn’t everything we make derivative in some way?


The only time one of my designs has been appropriated as their own was when I was building my painting studio. My husband and I worked together on a design and he did some simple drawings on paper. We then had to hire an architect to do technical drawings for us that we could take to the city for permits. I was very happy with the architect’s work and when I needed more drawings for another project, I sought out his help again. When I arrived at the firm’s website homepage to search for contact information, there was my studio. Striking and lovely (by my own description), a modern building with metal siding, rectangular metal windows, a red wood door (now blue), and a cantilevered I beam that stretched out over the pool.


It was the small firm’s featured design and one that they no doubt considered the best job they had had to date. My immediate reaction was flattery. I was pleasantly surprised that my studio was showcased. When I called the office to see if they would work for me again, I mentioned that I saw my studio on their homepage. The architect was clearly flustered and became defensive. He began a speech about how he did a lot of work on that job and therefore was justified in using it as part of the firm’s portfolio. I was surprised he was so defensive but later I realized he thought I was calling to get them in trouble. The fact that the firm was passing it off as their own design didn’t even really bother me at the time as I’m not a competing architect. But I see now that they should have at least credited me in some way. I never asked them to, but it has since been taken down.


This month’s music: TV on the Radio

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