Artist or Assistant

After reading a post from another blogger Irevuo, I felt my response would be too long for just a comment box. I’ve thought about the issue of artist or assistant a few times before but haven’t posted my opinion till now. I read about Dale Chihuly and how his assistants do a lot of the work.

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Some incredible Chihuly glass in Seattle, WA. Now I wonder “Did he do it or did someone else?”

I guess I can consider myself an artist. Loosely described, I create. As an artist, I do my own work. I do the work because I enjoy it. I’ve also gotten paid for it, which helped in the motivation, but never became the only motivation.

My feeling is that some people start out that way but then they get more money and maybe their egos take over and they WANT more money and that becomes their sole motivation. Maybe they actually do start out with that being their sole motivation- to make money, I don’t know. That idea seems sad and somehow tainted to me. Stained, dirty, you get the idea. Greed is ugly.

This Hirst dude that Cristian writes about seems to me like a con man. I read several of the other articles about him that Cristian sited. He’s much more interested in conning people into believing something about art that he hasn’t even put a hand to, so that he can get the maximum amount of money for it. Bilking gullible rich people for tons of cash. I guess he has a talent for that.

From what I’ve read about Dale Chihuly, he is and has for a while, been having physical limitations as well as being hindered psychologically.  I get it. I’ve come across some physical challenges myself.

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Chihuly (or not) glass.

The question to me is- is it still your art if someone else is actually doing it? Is it still your art if maybe it’s your idea/vision but you’re telling someone else what to do to achieve that? Can you ethically sell the resulting piece as your art?

My answer is no, and I’ll tell you why.

As soon as a person creates something, a part of them is in that work. Whether they intentionally put it there or are completely unaware of it, or even try to hide it, it’s there. No two people can do something exactly alike when it comes to art. That’s why even the most masterful fakes or copies are found to be fakes or copies. Lord knows people have  copied this painting a multitude of times.

The Mona Lisa - by Leonardo Da Vinci

**While snagging this image of the Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre, I learned a couple of things. One, “Mona Lisa is in the public domain and free to be exploited, explaining its reproduction on everything from postcards to coffee mugs, with no legal repercussions.”  Mona Lisa replicas and reinterpretations

 And two, there is an earlier work called the Isleworth Mona Lisa which is authenticated to Leonardo da Vinci. For the most important parts at least. It’s unclear to me if they determined the background to be Leonardo da Vinci’s work as well. So, anyway, in actuality, the famous Mona Lisa itself that hangs in the Louvre is a rendition of an earlier work.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa

Anyway, back to the subject, since I took that little detour.

With all of that information on the Mona Lisa, it dawned on me that I don’t think that even the same artist can replicate their OWN work exactly. We’re humans, not machines. So how could someone lead the consumer to believe that the art they’re selling is their work when someone else actually put their hands to it? Oh yeah, greed, egotism. That’s how. Because if the piece had a card with it that said “Handcrafted by Johnny Creamcheese but inspired by Big Name Artist” people would never pay hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars for the piece.

I mean seriously! It would be like me seeing a painting that I liked and painting it on canvas, copying it color for color until it looked just like the original. Or even if it was a new piece but in the exact same style as “Big Name Artist” and would be generally recognized as their work. I was inspired by that artist but the work was done by me. But if I said it was a “Big Name Artist” piece and sold it as such, it’d be a forgery and I’d be in big trouble. But it’s ok for BNA to say it’s their work and sell it as such. BNA gives the “assistant” permission, even direction, to paint a piece and they call it a BNA piece. The “assistant” doesn’t get any recognition for the work, or any other compensation besides his/her normal paycheck (if they get a paycheck). Which brings me to the “assistants” who have sold themselves out for the chance to be a BNA. They sell themselves and are subject to all sorts of degradation because they are “assistants” and not a BNA. They do the work without any recognition and the only reward is learning how the BNA does it; or in a lot of cases how the BNA wants it done. Obviously they have talent or the BNA wouldn’t use them. But it seems to me they want a short cut, or a foot-in-the-door to the world of Big Name Artists (oh, I work for so & so). And if I’m guessing correctly, a whole lot of the “assistants” never get much farther than that. Maybe I’m projecting here since I tried that in the horse world. Worked my a** off, to the bone, trying to learn more and move up the ladder. I learned a lot, really. But was treated like a used dish rag most of the time. No matter how hard I worked, they just used me more. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen to a lot of other people too.

Anyway… this is a “no go” for me. If you’re a BNA but you can’t do the actual work, then you’re done. If you don’t want to do the actual work- I read somewhere about an artist that can’t be bothered to go into the studio anymore- then you’re done. If you’ve already made a crap-ton of money from your art, then live off of that for the rest of your days. If you haven’t, then guess what, you’re just like the rest of us.

DP- Identical

 

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