Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ghost of Basquiat

Chaos/Control, magnet from Everyday Beauty

Last month, amidst everything else that was going on, I received an email from both Cafe Press, which hosts my online gift shop, Everyday Beauty, and the attorneys for the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The attorneys had sent a letter to Cafe Press telling them that I had violated copyright by reproducing Basquiat's work on magnets.

Seriously? Seriously.

After I explained to Cafe Press that the original image, Chaos/Control, was wholly mine and that it was merely inspired by Basquiat, they reinstated the merchandise with this image (like the magnet).

The next day, I received the email from the attorneys who demanded and threatened. To them I sent back a simple and respectful email stating my position and that was that. No apology from them for the misunderstanding or follow up, so I imagine the situation is resolved.

Besides my artwork looking nothing like Basquiat's work (which you'd think they'd know) and my public statement in my blog and gallery that this Original Finger Painting was inspired by the late artist (I had just finished watching a good film about him), it's funny to think that I'd be accused of stealing another artist's ideas.

Personally, this is the biggest insult, but I understand that the attorneys have no idea who I am and that copyright infringement and plagiarism is rampant these days (especially since the widespread use of the Internet) so why not me, right?

I value originality. I tell my friends that I'm a walking afterschool special because those values they sought to instill in kids I accepted hook, line, and sinker! Be an individual (and nonconformist). Be original and creative. Be honest and trustworthy. Have integrity. Stand up for your friends. Your real friends will stand by you. People working together can accomplish great things.

Come to think of it, either I'm an afterschool special or I'm a member of Starfleet.

Regardless, I do value originality. I also value giving credit where credit is due. This is why if you read the descriptions of my work, you'll learn where I got the inspiration for a certain palette, who my art heroes are, whose philosophy I've been studying.

It's all in the open and, unlike others whom I've found copying my work, I don't pretend that I came up with these ideas on my own. The execution is mine and original, but I humbly and respectfully acknowledge my foundation.

There is always a place for inspiring others and being inspired, sharing and exchanging ideas. While we're here we can all learn from each other.

And a "thank you" would be nice.

R.I.P. Basquiat!
Invite Beauty,

I.

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