In a scene that revolves around the weekend-customizing-warrior just as much as the full fledged designer types, the topic of theft and piracy never seems to be too far away. The question of where new art begins is one that I think we all have to answer for ourselves as there is usually some grey area. Usually.
Toy Break co-host, sculptor, and toy maker, George Gaspar posted an image to his Facebook page this week that has sparked up this conversation again but from an angle we don't typically see. Sculptors tend to stay in the background and not make too much hay about what they've worked on or who they have worked with. George isn't any different. He's an opinionated guy for sure but he is also pretty humble, I'd say, about what work he has done. But like with all good work, it's nice to be credited for it, and this is an instance where that appears not to have happened appropriately.
This is the post I'm talking about:
From the post George lays it out that the Ice Cream head he had sculpted for Buff Monster, I believe as part of the Sucklord inspired Super Suck-Up group show at DCON 2012, has since been credited to sculptor Mitch Martinez. You can see from the image that the only difference between the two (George's original and the piece being sold through Buff's web store) is that the eye has been carved in. George explains it had originally been left smooth for customizers to paint in as their design needed.
So this begs the question how much change is required before a sculpt becomes your own? Must you cover an entire Munny with clay to call it your own? Would it even be then since it isn't an original base? I'm not an artist and I don't know how I'd feel if I were in this spot but as a collector this kind of thing bugs me. This case is obvious. I don't know who Mitch is or what his thoughts on this are, and honestly we don't know what Buff's side of it is either since all he's said so far is that he has one though he won't say what it is. Staying quiet isn't going to help. Maybe there is an explanation that makes sense but not saying anything just makes it look worse.
But this problem isn't going to go away. Bootleg, Sucklord style, figures appear more popular than ever and the self-producing artists working in resin are only going to become bigger and bigger influences on the scene and collectors. Where does new art begin? How much needs to be original, to be original? Does it matter if it's a ball of foil in there or a Munny head? I don't know! Honestly, and as hypocritical as it is to say, it varries for me from artist to artist. Sometimes it seems lazy whereas other times it makes perfect sense. There isn't an easy answer to this but I'd love to know what you think. One thing is clear, though, if the only difference in a figure you're trying to pass off as your own is two circles you've (had someone) etch in, then you are a fraud.
So Mr. Monster finally shares his side of the story and explains everything! After saying he'd been blocked from George's Facebook page (and obviously then the entire internet and apparently his own web site where he could have easily addressed the accusations) it all totally all makes perfect sense now! I mean you're accused of, for all intents and purposes, stealing the work of someone else and of course you're going to jump right on it and straighten it out to not look like a complete scumbag. Glad this is finally settled and over! Wait. What?
It's still unclear what exactly happened and while I'd love there to be some logical explanation this kind of response to the apparent theft of another artists work only makes a good reason less plausible. I can only imagine what Buff's response or action would be were the tables turned. He doesn't strike me as a dude that loves the idea of other people taking credit for his work.
So at least one of the parties is interested in getting the truth out. George just posted (I'm starting to feel a bit like Perez Hilton here by the way, not sure how I feel about that) this update on the original Facebook status about this issue:
Good on Mitch for straightening out a story that Buff so far hasn't been willing to. Maybe this is all a case of copy/paste error? Looks like maybe but why be so shady about it once it's pointed out? How about simply saying "oops" and fixing it?
*YES ANOTHER UPDATE*
As you may or may not know George had, in previous Facebook posts, also posted images of sculpts that were not to be. Figures he'd worked on but that fell out of production for one reason or another. It appears that Buff was not pleased with this and when it was brought to his attention via a write up in Urban Vinyl Daily, well, this Twitter exchange happened.
I'd like first to draw your attention to the dates of the post and tweets. February 22nd was two days before George's status pointing out the mis-attribution on the Ice Cream head. So what does this timeline mean? Was he pissed his secret failing toy project was outed and that's why he won't speak up to the latest accusations and intrigue? Was there some contractual element that George broke by posting the image?
A more nefarious and completely made-up guess of what this could mean, in light of the mis-attribution George identified, is that now it'll be clear to a lot more people that that "similar" line of figures coming out could potentially be a lot more "exact copy" than "similar". And he wouldn't be able to use the line "...created entirely in NYC - design and sculpt...". As if that means anything anyway.
A story for another day, perhaps, is why the original post by Urban Vinyl Daily that contained the picture Buff was so upset with, has since been deleted? Is this continued support of the thesis that toy blogs are a lot less about news than they are about catering to artists? Unless they were worried about the consequences of pissing off Buff why remove it? Can you imagine (yes, I realize this is a major stretch in comparison) the enter-your-hometown-newspaper-here going back and deleting news stories because one of the subjects was bothered by it? That's kind of the point, isn't it? Maybe it's still there somewhere but I sure can't find it. I would love for there to be a good reason or for me to just be too stupid to search correctly.