I put up a Julie Blackmon picture (or photoartwork) the other day during the discussion about Photoshopping. Along the way I poked about the internet* a bit, and discovered in various places that she'd credited Norman Rockwell and Jan Steen as influences, so I mentioned that.
That struck John Camp as peculiar, since it was obvious to him that the picture I posted was a direct and deliberate takeoff on a Balthus painting he knows well.
Here's the Blackmon:
Julie Blackmon, Olive & Market St.
Here's the Balthus:
John says, "I have no problem at all with the Photoshopping, but so obviously re-working somebody’s vision without credit really does bother me. I know you don’t like to stick it to female photographers, though some kind of misguided archaic perhaps sexist and possibly antediluvian sense of gallantry—no offense—but I think this is a very interesting issue."
Reworking paintings as photographs has a long and never very successful history, and obviously, pushing the limits of how much and how blatantly you can appropriate something while either asserting or implying that doing so is "edgy" is one of the common (and tiresome, in my view) tropes of high art. It's been au courant since maybe the 1920s, which is to say, not very courant—since, maybe, T.S. Eliot and the humorously transgressive Marcel Duchamp.
Humor has since been banned from art too, another sanction I think is tiresome. I digress.
But—no offense taken, John—we really don't know how Julie presents this. Is it really "without credit"? We're just scavenging bits off the internet, so what do we know? Or is its antecedent supposed to be obvious to any viewer? Balthus isn't a household name, and even people who know his major work might not know. Is it a deliberate homage? A sly wink? Seems to me like it's funny and it works. Or is she just, well, stealing, whether you think it's cool or not to do that?
The spectrum of such work in general seems to run from "influence" to "copying," and we've seen it all.
What do you think, and/or how do you feel, about "re-working someone's vision" without (so far as we know) giving overt credit?
I'm sure we'll hear a lot of "she can do whatever she wants" from the "ego-comes-first" bunch. But seriously, if you're willing to give it some actual thought—in a gentler, kinder sort of civilization, where would this sort of thing fall for you?
John and I are both curious to hear from Ken on this.
(Thanks to John)
UPDATE 5 p.m.: This is definitely not a "gotcha," as in, "Aha! Caught you doing X." This is something the artist is doing thoughtfully and deliberately. We've just stumbled across it and I'm interested in what you think about it.
UPDATE #2: Here's another example, courtesy Slog, via Stephen Gilbert:
Julie Blackmon, Homegrown Food, 2012
*Copyediting note: The New York Times has just announced that it's going to stop capitalizing "internet," and TOP is going to follow suit. UPDATE: Okay, no we aren't.
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Featured Comments from:
David Raboin: "I like the photo better than the painting. It's like covering a song, sometimes the cover version is better than the original."
Keith B.: "It would have been better in two ways if Blackmon had given Balthus credit as 'based on' or inspired by' or even the simple and elegant 'after.' First because it would be more honest not to lie by omission, and second because it'd be a service to make the modern public aware of Balthus' work.
"This is analogous to Stravinsky's use of the musical themes of an earlier composer in Pulcinella; The program said 'after themes by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–1736).' Added bonus: It turned out, after later research, that many of Pergolesi's themes were likely composed by others!"
Mike replies: It was revealed a few years ago that Bob Dylan, in a show of his paintings, had copied photographs not his own. Perhaps she should restage photo-homages based on Dylan's paintings? I could start to get fascinated by all the circularity at some point.
Ben: "Really, there would be no need for Blackmon to 'credit' Batlhus. Reference is constant in all art, from quite clear to rather distant, stretching as far back as art history does. Everyone has been 'referencing' each other forever, reusing and retooling compositions, and a big part of the fun in looking at the history of art is studying those references and reworkings. No artist should be expected to list the references made in their work...that would be pedantic, and would clearly squeeze whatever fun is left from it all.
"Blackmon's work stands on its own, as evidenced by your posting it earlier, and it stands up next to to the Balthus. That seems successful to me. It isn't an exact copy, which would be dull and simplistic, but rather uses some significant parts of the composition to create something interesting in a different medium. Great!"
robert e (partial comment): "Theft is what Richard Prince does. On the other hand, Olive & Market strikes me as riff, homage, or maybe even parody. It has just enough originality and wit to qualify as original work, and to make it a worthwhile commentary on the previous work. That's just fine by me."