Do I or Don’t I? That is the question… Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Should or shouldn’t you include people in your art that may not appreciate their so-called participation?

I’ve created work with model permissions throughout my career. If I use photos from someone else I am pretty good about asking permission. But, I’ve reached a circumstance I’m not quite sure how to answer. In previous situations I have never accessed my anger at another in my work. I think a recent piece I’ve been working on has definitely done exactly that. So here is the question (or many related questions): is it appropriate to make this work and eventually have it shown? How much of the likeness is needed for it to be insulting or against the individual’s rights?

When I look at work by someone like DeKooning, he clearly was not representing women in a kind way. In fact his representations are angry and ugly. That did not stop him from showing, being publicized, and now be entered into history books. Many famous artworks are celebrated for their actual reference to an event, a person, a place. Yet today is so much more litigious, how is that affecting artists’ choices?

Several years ago when I was grieving a loss, I drew that person in a rather unkind light. It was at the recommendation and urging of a friend who said it helped her tremendously in a similar circumstance. (See Creative Grieving Post). It was the first time I’d ever manipulated a likeness to represent someone with a conscious commitment to being mean. I was terrified someone would see it and only put it in my sketchbook so that I wouldn’t offend anyone. Still, I was afraid to bring my sketchbook out when people asked because they might actually recognize the individual or ask me about that drawing. So, it has remained hidden.

This new work is on a canvas; a bit harder to hide. And while I am manipulating the canvas so it does not represent immediate likeness, there is a chance it could hurt the individual represented if they figured it out. I hate that notion of hurting someone. Yet, art is my emotional outlet and a genuine place of release. My artist blog is also a place where I share my creative process and experiences. If I hold back, what does that say about me?

I would love to hear your opinions or your own experience in handling this kind of situation.


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