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AN EXPLANATION
[A LONG ONE]
OF ONE SORT
OR ANOTHER

When I went to the Armory Show, the largest of the art fairs held in New York City last week, I had a number of vague motivations: to take the pulse of the contemporary art world, to encounter something unlike anything I had seen before [if I got really lucky], to be amused, to be surprised and stimulated aesthetically, to find stuff that I might borrow [appropriate/steal] to use in my own artist books and visual journals, and yes, to take iPhotos that I might use in my Polyvore collages. 
Almost immediately I saw myself reflected in some of the mirror-like artworks – those with lots of black surfaces covered by glass. Ah, I’ll take iPhotos of the works in which I’m reflected. That was the beginning of a two-day project that resulted in over 400 iPhoto images.
About 3:30 on Friday afternoon I came upon a collection of drawing or paintings (I’m not sure which), of male heads and torsos. I didn’t even bother to note the artist’s name, but I was fascinated by the distortions in the faces. Just as importantly I liked how the skylights were reflected in the glass covering the works. (My own image was also reflected in the torsos but so faintly that it is almost impossible to discern.)
It wasn’t until I viewed the iPhotos at home that night that I saw how very much the reflected skylights had cut into the images. I was delighted! “I can do something with these!” I thought to myself.
And so my adventure began. I tweaked the images in Photoshop by lightening them and increasing the contrast. Then I imported the images to one of my websites and clipped them to Polyvore. I’m fascinated by what the clipper/editor does. In this image it’s possible to see the image with and without its background. I will not bother to describe all the treatments employed in this set; they are easy to see. 
But I do wish to reflect upon, to question, what I have done. Have I misused another’s artwork? Or have I treated it fairly – have I honored it? In other words, have I altered it enough to make it my own – altered it sufficiently to make it into a new work with its own character while at the same time preserving its original character? Of course I didn’t do the alteration by myself. The modifications began with the skylights that inserted themselves into the image; I merely captured their intrusion. And the Polyvore editor eliminated the background, but I recognized and preserved both the intrusion and the elimination, was delighted by them, and used them. Polyvore ‘embellishments’ provided the circle and the arrow. Dot patterns provided surface interest and coherence. I sliced the image and repeated it four times, I arranged and rearranged the pieces. And I added my own reflection from another image and pasted in a hand – sort of like a handprint that could be mine, but isn’t. I want to think that this is fair-usage. But is it good usage? That’s another question.
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