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No more art without the artist

Peggy Stein

America -- the place where our citizens think pizza was invented by Domino’s, Mexican food by Taco Bell, and “designers” culturally appropriate traditional indigenous art and are rewarded for it. It’s a country where we share everything online, expect that our privacy is constantly being invaded, and where we don’t respect other’s art or culture, because well, in today’s global market, it all belongs to us. What’s yours is mine...and who cares?

I entered the world of Pinterest recently. It’s a place where people tell us they like something, and they want to share it with the world. They "pin" a photo they admire on a board, and it maybe makes them feel like they virtually own that piece of art. If you see it on your screen and want to know more about that that textile or piece of pottery, you can “visit” the source. Except the source is not really the source, it’s often just an image found on the web, or in an online store where it’s being sold with absolutely no information (or the wrong information) about where that piece of pottery came from. So we’re all happily sharing stuff we know nothing about, which we got from others who also know nothing about the stuff.  And don’t get me started on the ridiculous suggestions I receive to check out “related pins”. But that’s another rant.

Of course if something was manufactured in a factory assembly line, we can’t know who made it. Except that it was made in China because our import laws require that it says so. But when something is handmade i.e. made by hands, HUMAN hands, then those hands belong to someone. Who is that person, or at least, where do they live? Not important? Go to any art museum or gallery, and you’ll find the name of the artist, and probably the year the piece was created. If the author of the work is unknown, there will still be a tag saying “artist unknown”. It will be mentioned, not ignored or left out of the exhibit. Because if there is no sign, someone will probably ask about it. Who made this? What do you know about the artist?

How about we all follow some rules, or if you prefer we can call it etiquette. When loud cell phone conversations in public began to become a real nuisance, people started complaining about how annoying it is, even shaming those who do it. We started to talk about what’s appropriate and what’s not, in the hopes we could raise our consciousness as a society.

Well I think it’s about time we start to develop some consciousness about respecting the people behind the pretty thing you just posted on social media. It starts with the person doing the posting. If you post a photo that you took yourself, tell us something about it. Where? When? Who? You know, the usual information plus anything else we might find interesting. For example, where in Mexico was it? Big country, lots of cultures. If you didn’t take the photo, and you know who did, give him or her credit. Otherwise, and I know this might sound uncool, you are ripping that person off. (Has it happened to me? Sure did, and I absolutely felt like I had been robbed.) I also believe that if you are posting a photo of an indigenous woman you found charming who was making clay pots, or baskets, or a rebozo, it is more respectful of her to inform us viewers of what we’re looking at. She’s not a wildflower you found in a field or a cute puppy you’ve just acquired -- she’s a person with a story and a culture. Maybe you aren’t able to tell her story because she was just passing by or you don’t speak her language, but perhaps you can mention her village. And the clay pot you posted on your board? I personally don’t care that you love it, I assume you’re posting it because you do. What is it? Where was it made and by whom? If you don’t know, aren’t you curious? With the internet, there’s a whole world of information out there. And maybe you could just ask your viewers, fans, followers. Somebody might actually know something.






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