Category Archives: Art

How Social Media Censorship is Editing Our World View On How & What We See

With all the horror terrorizing the world, something wonderful happened this week for the arts, and we have the French to thank for it.

In a landmark censorship case against art, the French ruled that Facebook can be sued in France for censoring content. Parisian teacher Fréderic Durand-Baissas had his account suspended 5 years ago after he posted Gustave Courbet’s painting, The Origin of the World, because it depicts female genitalia.

The social media giant tried to insist complaints had to be tried in California Courts. They lost as the French courts said, we think not. The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users.

M. Durand-Baissas, a 57 year old art lover and a father of two was angry at being portrayed as a pornographer after posting the famous 1866 oil painting. He told AP News Service, If (Facebook) can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France can.

As a professional artist and a curator of contemporary figurative artists emerging from the atelier systems, the issue of censorship on social media has been an ongoing issue. One of the problems is that social media image scanning algorithms cannot tell the difference between pornography and the painted image.

In fact these algorithms often can’t decipher the images they are viewing. For example, this painting by Marco Grassi was removed from my feed and my account was frozen for three days. (It was properly identified for copyright and included his bio).

Marco Grassi - Autocorpo
©Marco Grassi, “Autocorpo”, oil painting. This painting caused my Facebook account to be suspended for 3 days. The algorithm could not tell a marble arm or a human foot from a penis.

France is not the only country taking issue with Facebook, Norway, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands have also insisted Facebook explain itself and about its ludicrous censorship policies. Examples include male nipples being OK, female nipples banned. Breastfeeding is banned but the beheading of a human or the evisceration of an animal is not.

Norwegian author Tom Egeland had his account suspended when he posted the Pulitzer prize winning photo The Terror of War which depicts children, including a naked girl fleeing from a napalm attack. The subject was about photos that changed the history of warfare.

One of the issues with trying to contest our pages being shut down is that most of the complaints are turned over to a low paid home based operator. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws.

A clear example of this happened to American Senior Art critic and columnist for the New Yorker Magazine, Jerry Saltz. Saltz was kicked off of Facebook for posting images of medieval art. Although he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times, a blitz of hate and insults were directed at him personally.

The problem is that anyone who views art or imagery which conflict with their own beliefs can have your page shut down by moderators. A Muslim man that expects his wife to be covered is not going to want to see a woman in her natural form. White nationalists target paintings with people of color. The problem I have with this issue is the same question other artists have, “Why follow our art if you don’t like it?”

Having this kind of inverted censorship has created decades of the visually illiterate. Much of art being posted online is amateur, sentimental at best, toxic at worst. The classically trained painters are systematically blocked, often by people who want to control and punish others who see the world differently. It has become a tool for control those who embody shame, rage, religious dogma.

Cesar Santos, a master painter who trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, had 30,000 followers on Facebook. His account was closed by Facebook because “the haters kept reporting his nudes.”

Cesar Santos - Map of an Island
© Cesar Santos, oil painting, “Map of An Island”.

If Social Media can create an Emotion Buttons its time for them to create an Art Button. An Art button would tell people they must be over 18 to view, that there might be nudity involved. If you view that person’s art page, you have agreed that you are of age and know what you may see. You will not have the right to report. (While they are at it they can design one for violence too).

How difficult could this be for coders if they have technology to recognize the skin of a child based on Markov Random Field Modelling? (I won’t explain it because it’s too creepy).

Here’s an image by Kamille Corry that got my account blocked both on Facebook and on Twitter.

Kamille Corry - Scorched Wings
©Kamille Corry, oil painting, “Scorched Wings”.

As long as social media censors art, our perception of both art and the human form will be distorted. The human anatomy is studied, drawn, and painted for years by professional artists. It is a satellite for every emotion and a timeless beacon of all that we all share, our humanness.

Angela Cunningham
©Angela Cunningham, student work from Grand Central Atelier in NYC

Featured Image: A visitor in front of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” painting which depicts female genitalia at Musee d’Orsay museum, in Paris, France.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev

Gage Taylor, California Visionary Artist and My Art Master from a World before the Internet

Tropical Dream has been part of my private art collection for over two decades. I apprenticed as a painter with Gage Taylor for 4 years, served as an USIA Art Ambassador with him for the US State Department, and we collaborated professionally on canvas for many years under the signature Taylor Dana.

In his lifetime, Gage’s work was exhibited nationally in the Smithsonian, The Whitney Museum in NY, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Huntsville Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, The Haggin Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum.

Internationally it was exhibited with the Paris Biennalle, the India Triennale, and Ortona, Italy.

Our collaborative work was featured in The Egyptian Rosicrucian Museum In San Jose, Ca and what is now the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle. Internationally Taylor Dana was exhibited at The National Museum of Art in Jamaica & the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.

Gage Taylor (1942-2000) was considered one of the six originators of an art genre known as California Visionary Art. (Visions, Walter Hopps, Pomegranate Press). California Visionary art followed the poster art craze made popular by record covers. These artists made history and changed the course of art. Twelve of Gage Taylor’s early works were printed as posters by Pomegranate Publishing; including ”Mescaline Woods” and ”The Road”. Artweek’s David Clark estimated that Taylor’s reproductions (and those of his compeer Bill Martin) “are on millions of walls throughout the western world.” They were profiled in publications as varied as Newsweek & Omni Magazine.

Visions by Walter Hopps
“Visions” featuring Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. This book was about the original California Visionary Art Movement.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas as Dennis Gage Taylor, he received his BFA from University of Texas, Austin (1965). Gage graduated with an MFA from Michigan State University (1967) where he later taught sculpture and drawing.

In 1969 he married his high school sweetheart and moved to California. He started working at the San Francisco Academy of Art. San Francisco was still in a post-coital summer of love phase and Gage spent hours smoking pot, dropping mescaline, and communing with the Nature Spirits. He was an avid meditator, and loved hiking and painting in nature every week. This is the time that most influenced his early work.

Ironically, Gage could not sell one painting as long as it was signed “Dennis Taylor.” In mediation, he was guided to legally drop his first name. He did, and within a year, Gage Taylor was internationally known as a painter.

Gage had his first One Person Show in 1970 at the San Francisco Art Institute. (He taught there in 1971 for one year). He also published the first of 14 posters (The Road, Pomegranate Press). In 1974 Taylor became a biographee in Who’s Who In American Art and Who’s Who In the West.

 

The Road Gage Taylor
The Road by Gage Taylor (from the book Visions). Oil on Canvas.

By 1975 he was featured in the Paris Biennalle at the Museum of Modern Art (“Mindscapes From The New Land”) in Paris, which went on to tour Germany. His “Baja” exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was also in 1975 as well as his participation in “Hanson Fuller Gallery Pays Tribute to the Art Institute”, San Francisco.

In 1976 Gage’s work was included in the National Collection of Fine Art in Washington DC. (“California Painting and Sculpture”). This exhibit had traveled from The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.(California Painting and Sculpture,1976).

1977 brought his work to the Huntsville Museum of Fine Art in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Modern Era-A Bay Area Update”) and he was featured in the July 11,1977 issue of Newsweek.

Gage’s paintings were also included in the India Triennalle (“California Visionary Art”) and his work then travelled as a group exhibition through Nepal and Japan.

In 1978 he began a two-year project painting California’s Endangered Landscape Series under sponsorship of the Oakland Museum of Natural Sciences Guild. His work was also featured in “Vision Quest” at the Hall of Flowers, San Francisco.

Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor
Seacoast Dunes by Gage Taylor, Oil on Canvas, Part of the California Endangered Landscape Series.

In Sept of 1979 Gage Taylor’s “Holy Grove” was the first art centerfold featured in Omni Magazine. “Holy Grove” was later included in the touring exhibit “Artists of Omni Magazine” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City in 1980.

Holy Grove by Gage Taylor
Holy Grove by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In 1981 his work was included in a group show at James Atkinson Gallery in Houston, Texas and later in the year Gage’s work traveled to Ortona, Italy in an exhibit called “The Soft Land”.

Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor
Shell Landscape by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The Nasty Bits: In 1982 Marin County was declared a State Disaster Area as rainstorms devastated the area. The irony of this was it was the very day Gage and his first wife decided to divorce. Unknown to Taylor, a swollen mountain stream by his home had created a dam of debris, turning a forest of Bay Laurels into battering rams.

The dam gave way and destroyed the house with Taylor, his wife and their two children inside. They all survived, but his wife was left a quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Gage and his children never recovered from survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress from the event. It was a physical and financial blow that Gage Taylor would never really recover from. It was this single event that eventually led to Gage and I painting together years later. It also began a more spiritual path for Gage in his art.

Part two of Gage Taylor’s life begins when we meet and I became his apprentice. (He had many apprentices that went on to have very successful art careers).

In 1983 Gage was invited to participate in an exhibit the San Rafael Civic Center in CA called “The San Geronimo Valley Artists”. He was also invited to participate in a similar themed exhibit at The College of Marin Gallery (Kentfield, CA) called “Artists of the San Geronimo Valley”. I was a student studying Sculpture and Museum Management and helped launch the exhibit. Gage and I met when I was receiving artwork and filling out insurance information for the exhibit. I had been a huge fan of Gage Taylor from his cards and posters going back to when I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany in the 1970’s. I invited him to participate in an upcoming exhibit I was curating at the College of Marin Gallery called, “Crystal Energy”. He invited me to be his student. (1983-1987)

Crystal Energy (1983) was a major exhibit about rare quartz crystals that heal from the Scientific, Metaphysical and the American Indian points of view. Many internationally known artists and speakers were featured. I took a chance and included 3 small pieces of my art in the exhibit.

Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor
Pillars of Alta by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

The owners of The Illuminarium Gallery discovered my work and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. (They also cloned my exhibition in several of their future galleries).

Long before adding me, The Illuminarium represented Gage’s individual work from 1978 to 1988. Gage and I both exhibited regularly in their galleries in Marin, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.

Gage and I began collaborating together in 1984. We painted in his style on the same canvas. We were both only children and working together was an effective and pleasant way for me to learn. It allowed him to teach me and increase his income with our additional work. (Our gallery represented both of us and people liked the collaborations). Although it was an intense way to learn, I retained my own distinct voice as an artist.

In 1985 Gage Taylor’s work was in the Hall of Flowers exhibit “Bay Area Regionalists” in San Francisco, “Artists of the Bay Area -1945 to Present” at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, and The San Francisco Art Commissions “100 vows To The Sun” at the Southern Exposure Gallery.(My work was also included in this exhibit).

At this time our collaborative work was featured in the gallery scenes of Shirley Maclaine’s mini series based on her best selling book, Out on A Limb (1986). It was also the first year our collaborative work was listed in the Encyclopedia of Living Artists (1986) and in Art Diary, Perugia, Italy (1986).

Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana
Moonlight Sanctuary by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana. Oil on Canvas.

By 1988 Gage and I decided we wanted work that would be a synergy of our mutual interests. Both of us had studied all the world’s religions and mythologies, we both were meditators that honored the unseen worlds in our work. Based on archetypes that repeat in the East, the Middle East, and the West, Taylor-Dana was born.

Enlightenment and Purrsuasion by Gage Taylor and Uriel Dana
Enlightenment and Pursuasian, Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriel Dana) Oil on Canvas.

These collaboration took on a life of their own at the Art Awards 88 (1988) National Competition in Bellevue, Washington (now Bellevue Art Museum).

Nocturne by Taylor Dana
Nocturne by Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor & Uriél Dana) Oil on Canvas. Entry into Art Awards 88 Competition.

Later, an exclusive retrospective of the Taylor-Dana work was given in 1993 at the Rosicrucian/Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA named “The Mythic Image”. (A limited edition poster of the painting “Honoring the Goddess was printed for the Exhibit).

The Mythic Image by Taylor Dana

Our collaborative work was sold at the Illuminarium Gallery & Isis Rising Galleries in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Santa Monica, and Tampa; Center Art Galleries in Honolulu, Hawaii & multiple locations on Maui, Hawaii. Dyansen Galleries, Maui, HI. Our work was also sold through Addi Galleries on Maui, HI & Fine Art Collections in Kona, HI.

Valley of Light by Gage Taylor
Valley of Light by Gage Taylor. Oil on Canvas.

In Hawaii the Taylor-Dana work was commissioned for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kauai, and Gage Taylor was commissioned to paint 15 watercolors for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 1988. During this time we became Art Ambassadors for the Arts America Program for the USIA (part of the U.S. State Department) (1987). We toured and exhibited work through the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, & Guyana) in this invitational post assisting the creative community. We also had an exhibition of our work at the Brazilian Embassy as it was near Guyana. One of our gouache paintings (Two Tigers) was acquired for the International Collection of the Jamaica National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.

We moved our studio to Sausalito, CA in 1990. Our work was represented at Hanson Galleries in Sausalito, LaJolla, & Carmel, CA., Eaton Galleries (Sausalito), Sierra Galleries, Tiburon with work represented on Maui, HI by Addi Galleries.

From 1991 Gage Taylor and I were represented by Conacher Galleries on Maiden Lane in San Francisco until Don Conacher’s death.

Conacher Galleries brochures for Taylor Dana
Conacher Galleries (Maiden Lane, San Francisco) brochures for Taylor Dana (Gage Taylor and Uriél Dana)

In addition to Gage’s dozen posters with Pomegranate Press, Taylor’s work was published on 75 Art Cards (50 with myself) with Visionary Publishing, Queens Cards and Milk and Honey Publishing. Taylor cards were published by Pomegranate Press as well as one billboard for National Tire Company (I had a billboard for Relax America Music label). His work was also used on a National ad for Boise Cascade Company, several magazine covers, and other creative works and prints.

Gage Taylor wrote one children’s book Bears at Work (Chronicle Books) and had written 4 young adult books & their screenplay adaptions that were unpublished at the time of his death.

Bears at Work by Gage Taylor
Bears At Work by Gage Taylor, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Late in 2000 Gage Taylor, who had never been ill, was diagnosed with 4th stage Prostate Cancer. Four months later he was gone.

Photo of Gage Taylor by Uriel Dana
Photo of Gage Taylor taken by Uriél Dana in Sausalito 3 months before his death.

It’s hard to describe what its like when you lose someone who has touched every part of your life for 17 years. My 3 oldest friends suddenly died during the same time period. I went into a traumatic shock and grief kept me from painting a long time. Tropical Dream was Gage’s idea of Heaven. For me to move on to my own version of Heaven I am letting go of his. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in adding this painting to your collection.

How To Sell An Old Painting

They were once known as the Three D’s of the auction world: Death, Divorce, and Debt. Auction houses have traditionally obtained their best merchandise as a result of these three disasters. Unfortunately, due to the economic times we live in, the Three D’s have evolved. We now have The Five D’s of Auction Houses and Forclosures: Death, Disease, Drugs, Divorce, and Denial.

For years I’ve modestly cleaned or repaired artwork found at auction as a way of conserving our heritage. It is common for people who visit my art studio to mention paintings they’ve inherited from a bereavement. They often want to sell their painting but have no idea how to go about it.

Recently someone mentioned a painting they had inherited. They believed it to be by the French Rococo painter and printmaker, Jean Honore Fragonard. The process to sell a Fragonard painting is the same step by step directions that I would recommend to anyone wanting to sell an older painting.

The most important thing required for selling any artwork is compiling its history. Known as the Provenance, it is the paperwork that confirms the authenticity of a piece. It is the history of how you came to own the painting. It may have been through an inheritance or a purchase from an auction or a gallery. However you came by it there will be a paper trail.

Provenance can also be in the form of exhibition or gallery stickers, newspaper or magazine articles, original sales receipts, a photo of the artist with the painting.

Having a written statement from an established authority on the artist or subject will help authenticate a painting. Sadly, the more common Certificates of Authenticity floating about on places like E-Bay mean nothing. They can be bought by anyone walking into a chain office supply store.

One of the best things you can do before attempting to personally sell your painting is to consult with an auction house. Every major auction house has a free appraisal day once a month. Find out what that day is for the Sotheby’s, Bonham’s, Christies or other auction houses near you.

Confirm that there will be someone available during the free appraisal day who specializes in the work you want to sell. For example, you would want to see the person who specializes in 18th Century paintings if you owned the Fragonard. On the free auction appraisal day bring your painting with you along with everything you have on the painting’s provenance. This greatly adds to the legitimacy of the work.

You may believe the paperwork on your art is already legitimate and feel defensive about having an auction house examine the piece. No one thinks your grandparents would lie to you, but whomever you inherited your art from may not have acquired their art from someone trustworthy.

Remember, auction houses hire experts in their field. They often know something that others may not. ‘The Fountain of Love’ featured with this article actually had two versions painted by the artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. One version of the painting was a bequest in 1897 to the Wallace Collection in London. An untrained eye might think the second version that surfaced in the United States in 1996 was a fake. It wasn’t, and was later purchased and restored by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The auction house art historian will either verify a painting or tell you that it is not authentic. It is in the best interest of the auction house to find authenticated pieces of art. No one benefits from fakes. The artwork is tracked and documented every step of the way. They will also give you an auction estimate.

Auction houses will also give you a high and low auction estimate of what the piece is expected to sell for. They do this for you because they will want to sell the art for the commission. (You will pay a percentage of the sale and the buyer also pays a premium). For most people this is a better choice than selling privately. An auction house will catalogue & index it, and attract a large group of buyers that may be interested in your painting. They are set up to receive money in any amount from any country. They also have expertise in shipping, storage and insurance.

If you want to avoid an auction house, you’re going to probably require a little more than paperwork to sell directly to a dealer or private buyer. If your painting does not have its provenance, you will have trouble getting the high value everyone would like.

For a fee, you can sometimes hire an art broker who will occasionally research and acquire paperwork on a painting. Like auction houses, art brokers are always looking for inventory for their client’s wish lists. For this reason, do not have the work cleaned or repaired until your painting has been authenticated; art brokers will sometimes use trusted conservationists at a new owner’s request.

The next question people usually ask is, “who pays for a painting’s authentication?” In the case of the Fragonard example mentioned above, an expert or a gallery that specialized in 18th century art would have been contacted. The expert may ask for microscopic paint scrapings to be analyzed by a lab for date identification.

If the paint analysis comes back correctly dating your painting they may also take on the added expense of an X-ray, depending on its potential value. I’m referring to art brokers with high end clients who have wish lists for their collection.

If your expert has a collector in mind, they may have you bring the painting with them to a hospital for an X-ray. This is an expenditure of few thousand dollars out of pocket for the gallery.

I’d like to add that most art brokers will not go to this expense unless they have a contract with you. If you back out of that agreement you will get a bill for not only their expertise but the lab and X-ray expenses.

The price an art broker offers you will not be the price he sells it for, nor will you meet any of his clients. A broker is hired not just to help you but because they are a treasure hunter for collectors. Their job requires years of knowledge, is labor intensive and high risk. Without that expertise you would get a fraction of the price that may be offered.

An auction house will sometimes buy a piece to restore and sell at a later date if it is a high demand item that has not been cared for properly. They may have it restored and save it for an Old Master’s sale.

As a painter and an art collector, I’d like to add this final thought. Never keep a piece of art out of a false sense of history or loyalty. Art holds an energy that effects people whether they are conscious of it or not.Think of how tagging can make a neighborhood feel unsafe or how a sculpture in a garden can hold a feeling of peace and tranquility. If you do not love looking at it and look at it every day it serves no one.

Of further interest on this subject:


Featured Image: Jean Honore Fragonard ‘The Fountain of Love’ (Detail)

Never Fight Your Materials: Skill in Music or Painting Is Helped or Hindered By What Tools You Use

A few years ago a 30 year old friend of mine told me he was finally going to buy a guitar and take lessons. He went on to add, “it would just be a cheap one in case he didn’t like it or wasn’t good at it.” As an avid supporter of the arts, I am sure he did not expect my reply. I told him not to bother if that was how he intended to start his new hobby.

I am a firm believer in using the best quality art materials you can afford. If you use poor brushes or paints making art will become a drudgery. You do not ever want to fight your materials, or your musical instruments for that matter.

The materials you want to use are a personal preference depending on what and how you paint. It is important for artists to do their research, to look up different brands and the reviews by artists that use those brands. They must always keep in mind what they like to paint.

For example, I apprenticed for four years with a landscape painter who loved Winsor Newton for their greens and yellows. However they are not my favorite oils for portraits, they made my subjects look sallow.

When I moved away from landscapes, I started to prefer Sennelier Oils from Paris which I still use. Sennelier oils have this wonderful buttery texture. They also use a safflower oil that does not yellow. Their colors are luxurious but not garish.

Now I use Rublev Colours in addition to the Sennelier Oils. Rublev uses the same formulas as the Old Masters (ground from natural minerals and earths) in a linseed base. They are wonderful for portraits.

When artists start creating and selling their work, I’ve noticed they often resist spending money on supplies. What if the painting isn’t good enough to sell they ask? I ask back, “What if it turns out to be the best piece you’ve ever done and launches your career?” No matter how poor you perceive yourself to be as an artist, I always recommend setting aside ten percent of your sale for new materials. 

Setting aside 10% for your materials keeps your studio replenished but also sends a message to yourself that you are a professional and that you take your business seriously. When you own your art as a serious profession, you work harder. You’ll find yourself keeping more disciplined hours, better records, and less tolerant of interruptions.

My friend who finally got serious about learning guitar took my advice to heart. Rather shockingly, he spent as much on his guitar as some do on a small car. He loved the way it looked, he loved the way it felt when he picked it up. It became the perfect lover when he leaned it into his body. He loved the sound it made when he touched it. He practiced every free moment.

Four weeks later my friend was playing music for me over Skype from Singapore. In a year he was writing music. After two years he performed a solo at his company’s huge corporate holiday party. Girls finally paid attention to him. He loved making music. He told me how grateful he was for advising him to buy a good instrument to learn on. He said it was the best advice he had ever received!

Image Protection For Artists In A Land of Digital Thieves

How many times have artists been told that our art is protected by copyright as long as we sign it? Perhaps you’ve heard it will be safe if  it is signed with a copyright symbol? A favorite urban myth is that we are legally protected if we send the image by certified mail to ourselves and leave it unopened. None of these are true if your art has been scanned and used by a corporate entity.

Unfortunately, we live in a time where images are lifted and manipulated and passed off as original daily. The movie “Avatar” was the first time I was actually distracted by the imagery I could easily identify in spite of the software used to obfuscate what was obvious to the visually literate.

I am not a copyright attorney. As a fine artist for more than three decades I can only share my experience when one of my painting images appeared on the Microsoft Home Page without my permission.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people seeing your art every day on the Internet. Now imagine that instead of your signature under the painting, you saw the name “Corbis” written under it. This is what happened to me. The web was still relatively new at the time and most people had no idea that “Corbis” was an image licensing company. It looked more like the artist’s name.

The Seer is my most recognized painting. It has been in print nearly non-stop since it was first painted in 1988. The model was the artist Gage Taylor’s daughter from his first marriage. Her name is Deva Taylor. I designed the costume and used an Amethyst from a collection of quartz spheres I use to own.

Around the time Gage died in 2000, people began e-mailing me about an image that looked like one of my paintings on the Microsoft Home Page.

Instead of my name and copyright notice it said, “Corbis”. A yellow filter, a Tarot card, and a candle were overlaid with computer software. At the time I wasn’t fussed about the image being used. I did mind, however, that it looked like someone named Corbis had done the image.

I contacted Microsoft and said, “This is my oil painting. I can tell you who the model is; show you my photos and preliminary sketches, the amethyst and even the Oscar del la Renta Scarf. You don’t need to pay me, just please put my name under the image.” Microsoft blew me off and to contact Corbis.

Next I contacted the licensing division of Corbis. I said, “This is my oil painting. I can tell you who the model is; show you my photos and preliminary sketches, the amethyst and even the Oscar del la Renta Scarf. You don’t need to pay me, just please put my name under the image.Corbis blew me off too.

Every attorney I contacted was afraid to take on Microsoft. (Apparently Microsoft retains a huge team of attorneys to frighten people off).

A friend and patron was a recently retired successful attorney. He began to advocating on my behalf with some of San Francisco’s major law firms. He located an excellent first amendment attorney. For legal reasons I cannot mention her name.

I will say she was the only lawyer at the time that had ever fought Microsoft on copyright violation and won. As an attorney, she was hesitant to take on Goliath a second time.

Fortunately, whatever one may think of my art, I look very good on paper. I mention this only because it was a huge contributing factor to my case. I had just been nominated for the 4th time for International Woman of the Year as well as for Who’s Who of American Art, Who’s Who of American Women, and for Outstanding Achievement in the Fine Arts (a category of The Twentieth Century Award for Achievement).

As a courtesy, the attorney made a call to Microsoft on my behalf. The gist of their response was, “we’re not accountable to some woman artist”. Fortunately, it was their arrogance that made this particular woman attorney angry enough to represent me.

We did not go to court. In a meeting Microsoft said it was not their problem it was Corbis’s problem. Corbis said it was not their problem but the photographers’ problem. The photographer hung his head and said, ”I did not think I’d get caught”.

Microsoft and Corbis guarantee the copyrights of their images in their contracts and were instantly accountable. So it was a photographer, not Microsoft or Corbis that had actually scanned one of my images, manipulated it, and deceptively passed it off as his own.

We settled. Most of the money went to my attorney and expenses, and I did not get rich. I had to sign a statement saying Microsoft had done nothing wrong and that I would never say how much I was paid.

Suing over copyright violation was never about money for me, but about seeing a noble and difficult profession increasingly marginalized by tech. Without artists video games would not exist and yet “talent” is consistently the lowest paid jobs in the industry. When behemoth tech companies are required to participate in percentage for art programs, they add insult to injury by paying for graffiti installed indoors. It is not to be young and contemporary. It is a value judgement against art and its place in the tech world.

I am sharing this experience because it was eye opening. Although as artists are told we own the copyrights to our work by rights of doing it, this is not quite true. Unless you fill out the actual paperwork and pay the fee to the US Copyright Office, you cannot sue anyone for violation.

Artists fear the costs of registering their artwork. Although it is only $35.00 per image by mail and $45.00 online, if you create dozens of images your expenses can quickly accumulate. What many artists do not realize is that you can group copyright under one fee if you are producing a catalog or a book under a theme. With the technology we have today you can print an inexpensive catalog or calendar at Fed Ex/Kinko’s and pay a single copyright fee.

I was fortunate to actually have registered it, although it was a few years after I had finished the painting. This made Microsoft only financially responsible from the actual date I received my copyright; not from the time the painting was signed.

Another corporate snare (designed to avoid responsibility) was to imply I did not have a “model release”. Guess what? I did! Years ago I paid a copyright attorney $88.00 to write a professional model release. It was one of the best investments I have ever made, and was tax deductible. (You can now buy books with legal contracts for artists ready to go). The point I’m trying to make is, all I really wanted was my name identifying my own painting. It says so much about our culture when a tech company that pays out millions to charity chooses not to pay a small licensing fee to a female artist. They chose to remove the image from their site.

Many young artists feel uncomfortable using contracts. Caroll Michels sums it up perfectly in her book, How To Survive & Prosper As An Artist, Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.…most artists who resist using contracts are struggling with the issue of psychological leverage and erroneously believe that they have not achieved a level of recognition or success that permits them to ask for what they want. Requiring art dealers, art consultants, exhibition sponsors, and clients to use contracts is not a sign of mistrust. Rather, it shows that you take yourself and your work seriously,, and you are demonstrating good faith in wanting to maintain a smooth working relationship by ironing out in advance any possible conflicts or misunderstandings.

My experience with Microsoft has made me think hard and often about the disassociation of images from their creator. In a time where smartphones give us immediate access to a camera and video, the currency of the image has been devalued. They are too easily accessible. The concept that photography is a skill or an art is lessened. People endlessly post mundane images on social media sites. We are increasingly forgetting boundaries or that we have dishonored the rights of others. It’s maddening when I see an unidentified painting on Pinterest, when I know the artist but there is no way for me to add that identity. Using Google Image or Tin Eye to identify artwork is easy and to not do so irresponsible.

Social media posts are not the only violations of copyrights. Many artists are not any better. Have you been told if you change 25% of an image you are not violating someone else’s copyright? This is false. Although the copyright laws say the image has to be transformed, it is the purpose behind your change versus the original that will be the topic of discussion in court.

We should never assume anything created prior to the 1930’s is in the public domain either. If you do not create your own sketches or photographic references, images can be licensed for as little as $10.00. We should not do this to avoid a lawsuit, but because it is in alignment with universal law.

On this note, a tenth of my life has probably been spent in museums looking at art. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that in the early days I rarely paid attention to the artist’s name accompanying the painting. It was the imagery, colors, and technique that held me. Only when I started to remember the name of the artists I admired that the art public started to remember my name. Apparently we do get what we give.

(Note: This was originally a much longer article. I have divided it into two parts for easier reading. Part II is called, Dolls Gone Wrong: The World’s Warped Perception of Women in the Arts).

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Artwork: The Seer, Oil On Canvas, ©1988, by Uriél Dana. This image has been published as a card in 12 countries on 4 continents.

Battle For The Bronze: An Artist’s Perspective Of An Auction House

Auction houses are my secret passion. The pull of finding and rescuing a painting in distress lures me. Cleaning decades of grime; removing yellowed varnish; or repairing the puncture wounds of the careless matter to me.

I recently rescued a Belgium bronze of the Greek Goddess Ariadne. Like all Goddesses, all she needed was two hours of special care and a good massage with restorative oil and she was her old self again.

When I began visiting auction houses years ago it was to see paintings from private collections that would be viewable perhaps only once in my lifetime. They can be a private museum for those who refuse to be intimidated.

Auction rooms attract the same mix of people you find buying cars. There are those that just want the flash, others where money is no object. There are also the “must have good bones and I can fix the rest” people; the resale value bidders; and those that just want something because someone else does. There are also buyers who have more money than sense, and those that have done their research. The more you attend auctions, the more familiar you become with the regulars and their motivations.

One of the auction houses I frequent has a regular bidder that does not seem to fit into any of those categories. He seems to enjoy passive aggressive bidding and does not care what he bids on. Many times this person has driven the price up on an item I was bidding on. As I am a regular customer and I’ve come to know the staff, I once asked if he worked for them to drive the prices up. It turned out they did not like him anymore than I did, and no one could work out his story.

It’s important to do your due diligence on any type of purchase. I rely on years of continued study (formal and private) of art history, and my skill set as a restorer. I also draw on my purchasing skills as Head of the Interior Architecture division of a multi-national construction firm in my 20’s, before becoming an artist. (My husband humorously calls these collective skills my “J” chromosome, referring to my mixed Jewish legacy). I never purchase anything that I wouldn’t keep for myself after it is restored.

I bid on Ariadne and so did Passive Aggressive Man. I bid, he bid. I bid, he bid. I bid (my limit) and the bid went to him. He lifts her up and announces to the room he intends to melt her down for scrap value. The look of shock and disgust on my face that someone would do this to a century old bronze must have been obvious. The auctioneer looked at me and whispered, “Don’t get mad, get even!” BAM! I had bought myself a bronze. A gift really. Her marks, from a famous foundry in Brussels, buried under decades of dirt, revealed that I had purchased a treasure.

Art is the soul of a place and we are all guardians of our own culture. Like Ariadne, the Goddess of Labyrinths, we must all find our own way to save what is sacred to us.


Artwork: Ariadne, Artist Unknown, Compagnie des Bronzes de Bruxelles, late 1800’s.

 

Buying Cadaver Tables For Camels & Touching Carrie Fisher’s Boobs To A 34 Year Art Career

A 25-year-old recently asked me if it was too late for him to change his career. I could not believe my ears. By the time I was 27 I had been an Air Force Veteran attached to Engineering and Programs, managed a wholesale furniture showroom, gone back to school at Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design, become a purchasing engineer for the 5th largest construction firm in the world (on multi million dollar turn key projects in Saudi Arabia), designed furniture for Italian and American manufacturers, and lost all of my savings making a go with my own high end furniture factory. The harder I pushed, the more hollow I felt. I suspected a wrong turn had been taken somewhere.

Art for me was akin to a love affair with God. It was not the pretentious thing it had become in the 80’s. Many art schools no longer taught drawing, anatomy, or the study of paints or materials. Art students were taught instead to write up proposals, the more controversial the better, for corporate sponsorship. The art market had left the visiting public scratched their heads.

In the past to study art you had to align yourself with an artist’s studio or atelier. Your family paid the teacher to take you under his full time tutelage to learn. This is what I sought; to learn how to see and to understand the alchemy of materials used for centuries by my peers. I wanted to create art that would live on for generations, reflecting something about the time I lived in. Part of my brain rationalized that I was making a handsome living and doing well. The emotional part of myself was saying, so what? Not one person supported me quitting my job and going back to school, in fact, everyone thought I was crazy.

I did not become a full time artist until I was 27 years old. Only seven art schools taught how to paint in the style of the Old Masters at the time and none of them were in California. The College of Marin (north of San Francisco) had however one of the best foundries and sculpture departments in the country at the time.

My logic said I’d be taught the foundations of anatomy, could study art history, and learn about the gallery and museum business. On one level it felt like a detour but on the other, it put me exactly where I need to be on my professional path.

At the College of Marin I worked with many sculptors from George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic. I even got to be a lowly assistant on Carrie Fisher’s body mold for Princess Leia’s brass bra created by Richard Miller.

With a double major I was also studying museum and gallery management. We set up new exhibits every month and I met many internationally known artists. Eventually I curated an exhibit of West Marin artists who had become internationally recognized. I quietly hung three tiny pieces of my own work along side theirs. Once again, what felt like a detour was actually a stepping-stone to where I wanted to be.

I met the artist Gage Taylor and became one of his students. Hanging my work next to so many established artists caught the attention of the gallery that I would show with for years to come. It also priced my art as a professional because it was perceived as such by the gallery owner. I sold my first piece of art over thirty years ago for $7500.

The point I wanted to make to this 25 year old is that when your heart guides your career, you will love your work. When you love what you do you will be good at it. Long hours will not matter because you will be enjoying what you do. Jealousy or feeling competitive means we have become complacent with our skills. It’s a sign to learn a new skill or aspect of our profession. Everyone has something to teach us so let them! Accept everything you are taught with gratitude and share what you know with someone else getting started.

We may not have the money or the knowledge of how to reach our goals in life. That doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the love we have for what we do. It changes the world in its impact and the universe will rearrange itself to get us to where we need to be. The key is to take action and expect nothing in return.

Much to my good fortune and terror I’ve seen the return of the great tradition of the atelier. At times I feel I am learning to paint all over again from scratch. Holding the vision often brings us curious results.


Featured Image: Uriel Dana’s Art Studio in Jack London Square, Oakland. Oil painting of “Zygote” in progress on right counter-weighted wall easel.