Micheal Kalish was featured on CBS Sunday Morning today. He’s a young artist who uses old car license plates to make art. He does some original work, such as groupings of metal flowers and US maps. But he is most famous for his portraits and this is where I have a problem with him. These are not his portraits. In music they call it sampling when you steal someone else’s music and drop into a song and call it your own. Micheal Kalish has sampled images from the greatest photographers and illustrators in history to make his art. Does he credit the original artists? Not that I heard.
In the case of Disney, they asked him to do this, so no harm, no foul. But it still bothers me when people do nothing more than copy an already existing work of art, use a different medium to make it and then say they created something new. If I just took a photo of John Lennon by Richard Avedon and applied a few filters in Photoshop, I could pretty easily get the Pop Art look of Warhol that is favored by Kalish. But it wouldn’t be art, would it? And if it was art, would the Avedon estate have something to say about my using his images? Or is it OK, in this I’d-download-a-Ferrari-if-I-could world to just grab any image that happens to be on the web and use it to create something else? Or, like Kalish, use it to create the same thing? Avedon did plenty of Pop Art himself.
DeviantArt is filled with a vast horde of amazingly talented people who will most likely never be featured on Sunday Morning. There is a lot of junk here, but there is also real art. There are people that just download an image and apply a few Photoshop filters to create their art. The original content is usually better, though. If you like the stuff that Kalish is doing, you should check out DeviantArt, just to see what the rest of us are up to.
Maybe Kalish will see this and respond this it’s pretty tough to get a new photo of Marilyn Monroe or Buddy Holly. But it is not impossible to make new images of our Pop Icons, it just takes talent and vision and a willingness to do it.