“Summer” on the Hudson Valley with Branches

July 20, 2010 at 2:57 am (Uncategorized)

My family and I just returned from five days in New York City. We saw shows, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, The Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall and ate. One of the highlights of the trip by far was New York’s High Line, an elevated public park that when finished will run from The Meatpacking District to 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. My husband and I had the opportunity to tour Section One of the Highline (Gansevoort Street to 20th Street) , which opened to the public last year.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district.  Connecting directly to factories and warehouses, the High Line allowed trains carrying milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods to roll right inside buildings without causing street-level traffic. In 1980, the last train ran on the High Line pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys.

Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. The group successfully worked with the mayoral administration of Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council to reverse a City policy favoring demolition to one ensuring the High Line’s preservation through the federal Railbanking program. Last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented the Doris C. Freedman Award to Friends of the High Line for its dedication to preserving an essential piece of New York’s industrial history and for transforming the High Line into an innovative public space [The High Line Blog].

“Rather than destroying this valuable piece of our history, we have recycled it into an innovative and exciting park that will provide more outdoor space for our citizens and create jobs and economic benefits for our City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Ten years ago, detractors thought the High Line was an eyesore. Thankfully, there were a handful of people who looked at the High Line and saw also an extraordinary gift to our city’s future.”

My family and I had the opportunity to take a walking tour the High Line and learn about its unique design elements with  Peter Mullan, Friends of the High Line’s Vice President of Planning & Design. 

One of the many features that make the High Line so exceptional and rich, in addition to the horticulture and the spectactular views, is the presentation of contemporary art in, on and near the park. Currently on display in the park are Stephen Vitiello’s, A Bell for Every Minute, a multi-channel sound installation, Richard Galpin’s Viewing Station, which gives visitors an altered, abstracted view from the High Line, Spencer Finch’s A River that Flows Both Ways, and my favorite, Valerie Hegarty’s Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches. For the High Line, Hegarty created a work that imagines a nineteenth century Hudson River School landscape painting that has been left outdoors, exposed to the elements. Hegarty’s painting is based on Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Autumn on the Hudson River of 1860, a bucolic landscape that shows none of the affects of the Industrial Revolution. Hegarty’s canvas is tattered and frayed, and the partially exposed stretcher bars appear to be morphing into tree branches, as if reverting back to their natural state.

Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches

 Perhaps the soul that resonates from the High Line comes from the spirit of the  New Yorkers  who recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a public place unlike any other in the world. Special thanks to the three Friends of the High Line volunteers, including Mr. Mullan, for sharing with my family a piece of New York history 30 feet above the ground.

In many places, the High Line's railroad tracks are returned to their original locations, integrated into the planting beds.

Richard Galpin, Viewing Station


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For Nate “Oteka” Henn: Can a Story Change the World?

July 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Several years ago, I saw this photograph on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The show was about the humanitarian crisis in the East African country of Uganda. The image of the boys behind the cage were reminiscent similar images I had seen of the Holocaust.

Darfur Nightwalkers: Mixed media panel with removable brooch

Moved by this image, I wanted to create a piece that would help raise awareness. I contacted Invisible Children, the San Diego based organization responsible for this photograph, to see if I could somehow incorporate this image in my work. They not only agreed to help me, but shared over 70 images with me “where children are both the weapons and the victims”.

In the spring of 2003, three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started out as a filmmaking adventure transformed into much more when these boys from Southern California discovered a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them.

After returning to the States, they created the documentary Invisible Children: Rough Cut, a film that exposes the tragic realities of northern Uganda’s night commuters and child soldiers. Soon after screening the film for family and friends, what started out as a movie became a movement, and the boys started the non-profit, Invisible Children, Inc.

According to the Invisible Children website, “Our approach to humanitarian work is founded in the strength and intelligence of the Ugandan community. We learned early on it was not only important but essential to heed the wisdom of people that had not only lived in the war, but were surviving it. People who would know better than anyone what the greatest needs were and the best ways to meet them. What we came to find is that while there have been many efforts to address the issues that stem from living and fighting in such a long-lasting war, the people of Uganda are asking for a future beyond the conflict.”

“All of our programming is a partnership between those of us at Invisible Children and those in the Ugandan community. We focus on long-term goals that enable children to take responsibility for their future and the future of their country. Our programs are carefully researched and developed initiatives that address the need for quality education, mentorships, the redevelopment of schools, resettlement from the camps, and financial stability.”

Yesterday, Raleigh native and Invisible Children volunteer Nate Henn was killed in a terrorist attack in Kampala. Henn, given the name “Oteka” or “the strong one” by some of the Ugandan students he worked with, was killed in the explosion that ripped through a rugby field where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the final match of the World Cup. 

“Nate worked with us at Invisible Children for a year and a half and leaves behind a legacy of honor, integrity, and service. From traveling the United States without pay advocating for the freedom of abducted child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s war, to raising thousands of dollars to put war-affected Ugandan students in school, Nate lived a life that demanded explanation. He sacrificed his comfort to live in the humble service of God and of a better world, and his is a life to be emulated.” [Invisible Children Blog, July 11, 2010]

Darfur Nightwalkers Brooch

The Invisible Children organization continues to serve the children of Uganda through its Legacy Scholarship Program, Schools for Schools Program, Bracelet Campaign, Teacher Exchange Program, and MEND, a sophisticated, competitive, and internationally inspired brand catering to style and function. Most recently, Invisible Children partnered with Charity: Water  by using $100,000 to fund water projects in Haiti.

“As a non-profit we work to transform apathy into activism. By documenting the lives of those living in regions of conflict and injustice, we hope to educate and inspire individuals in the Western world to use their unique voice for change. Our media creates an opportunity for people to become part of a grassroots movement that intelligently responds to what’s happening in the world.” [Invisiblechildren.com]

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Appropriation: Beg, Borrow, or Steal

July 6, 2010 at 12:30 am (Artist Musings)

When I first started making jewelry six years ago, I purchased a CD Rom full of “copyright free”  images to use in my work. On the CD Rom, were posters, including both American and foreign Casablanca movie poster images featuring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. The woman who sold me CD assured me that the posters were in the public domain, and I could use the images in my work. I proceeded to create a Casablanca necklace incorporating the supposed copyright free movie poster images, and subsequently received a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Last Friday night, a young artist asked me about the legality of using images of other works of art in her own work.  As an artist who has been appropriating found objects, namely old advertisements, labels, and photographs, in my work for the past six years, I am ever mindful of copyright restrictions.

“Appropriation art is where an artist takes newspaper articles, product packaging, postcards and just about any imaginable kind of found objects, including the artwork of others, and assembles them as their own work of art. The found objects are frequently the subjects of copyrights owned by someone else. The found objects might also be trademarks, or the name and likeness of celebrities, both of which are also personal property like copyrights. The work is called appropriation art because the artist ‘appropriates’ the property of someone else and puts it in their artwork. Appropriation art is increasingly common, and without doubt it can be very creative. However, it clearly bumps into the exclusive rights of owners of copyrights, trademarks and names and likenesses. While lawyers may consider it infringement, it has become so common and widely accepted that it is the law which may have to catch up.” [FindLaw Knowledge Base by JACOBOWITZ & GUBITS LLP]

So, what is a young artist to do who wants to appropriate images in their work but not infringe on copyright?

1. Educate yourself about Copyright Law and Fair Use.

In general, copyright laws protect the creator of an original artwork with some exceptions. Understanding what factors a court must consider in  determining whether the use of an image is “fair” is key in determining whether or not you can use a copyrighted image in your work.

“The fair-use doctrine permits others to use copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the owner’s consent for purposes such as criticism or commentary (including parody and satire), news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 includes examples of factors a court must consider in determining whether a use is ‘fair.’ These factors include, but may not be limited to: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” [Intellectual Property and the Arts, College Art Association]

2. Determine  what is and isn’t in the public domain.

“Public domain definition: The public domain is generally defined as consisting of works that are either  ineligible for copyright protection or with expired copyrights. Public domain refers to the total absence of copyright protection for work The public domain is a range of abstract materials commonly referred to as intellectual property which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore ‘public property’, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.” [Public-domain-image.com]

Reproductions, including photographs of artwork, as well as originals, may be subject to copyright depending on what year the work was produced.

“…artworks created in the U.S. since 1978 and fixed in tangible form are currently protected in the U.S. even without a copyright symbol or formal registration with the Copyright Office. Works created between January 1, 1924, and December 31, 1977, may also be under copyright, depending on a number of conditions… Works in the public domain are free and clear of copyright, but they may still be protected by other laws governing property, contracts, and licenses.” [Intellectual Property and the Arts, College Art Association]

The chart below illustrates when works pass into the public domain [Lolly Gasaway, University of North Carolina]:

Created 1-1-78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2
Published before 1923 In public domain  None
Published from 1923 – 63 When published with notice3 28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964 – 77 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before    1-1-78 but not published 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater
Created before
1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002
1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater

 3. Use only reliable sources and/or  published public domain images in your work. 

In general, to save myself hours and hours of research, I stick to using images that are in the public domain, such as the royalty free images found in published, reliable sources like the Dover Publications books and CD Roms. I would never again rely on another artist or “fly by night” vendor at a scrapbooking convention to sell me a “copyright free” CD Rom. 

Wikipedia also lists a number of sources for public domain images, however the presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain. You are still responsible for checking the copyright status of images before you use them in your work. Click here to link to Wikipedia’s list of Public Domain Image Resources.

4. Alter images to make them your own.

The downside of using published public domain images out of books like the Dover Publications is that many other artists also use these images in their work. The trick is to use these images in a new and inventive way. Generally, I don’t just cut and paste entire images to use in my work. I alter pieces of images to transfer to the clay before I hand-form them into the beads.

"H" stands for "Hotel", as in Hotel Casablanca on this monogrammed bracelet

As a side note, after I received the cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Pictures regarding the use of the Casablanca movie posters, I found a “Hotel Casablanca” luggage label that was in the public domain. I consequently used it on my first monogrammed bracelet, with the initials “HC”, which stood for Hotel Casablanca.

It should go without saying, that I am an artist and not a lawyer, and that the information contained herein is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular copyright issue, question, or problem.

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