When the newspaper of record frontpages a story headlined “Copycats, or Inspired by Nature? Glass Artists Face Off in Court,” I’m reminded once again of Norman O. Mustill, the “original cat” whose art was copycatted with impunity in the pages of the very same newspaper, as detailed in THE COPYCAT AND THE ORIGINAL CAT.
The New York Times story, which appears on the NYT Web site with the partial headline “Glass Artists Face Off in Court,” quotes Dale Chihuly, who is suing two glass blowers, as saying, “Look, all I’m trying to do is to prevent somebody from copying me directly.”
That’s pretty much what Mustill said when he objected to having “my work morphed, reinterpreted, redeployed, and included (anonymously) among the famous” by an artworld darling who has boasted in print, “Copying has been an extensive part of my work as an artist …”
Chihuly’s complaint and Mustill’s sound comparable to me in broad outline, even if the artists themselves and the particulars of the issue are not. Chihuly has made millions of dollars from his work. He is “perhaps the world’s most successful glass artist,” The Times reports. He employs a factory of craftsmen to make his pieces, and his natural forms are “inspired by the sea.”
I don’t know how much Mustill has earned from his work, but I don’t think he’s become a millionaire. He is known only among the cognoscenti of what was once regarded as the avant-garde. Everything he creates is made with his own hands. And his forms, natural and unnatural, are inspired by nothing more than his own eye and a mind cognizant of reality and art, history and politics.
With the money and resources and the determination to sue, Chihuly rates the front page. Without those, Mustill can’t even get a letter stating his objection into The Times.
Equally peculiar if not more so, the public editor of The Times, Byron Calame, has chosen to ignore the matter. As posted previously:
I messaged Calame on March 13, alerting him to the [Copycat] item and expressing my dismay at “three months of stonewalling in this matter” before finally receiving an unsatisfactory reply from a Times Style Magazine editor. I got back Calame’s standard automated response that my message was received: “Everything sent to this mailbox is read by either me or my associate, Joseph Plambeck. If a further reply is appropriate, you will be hearing from us shortly.”
I’ve heard nothing from him shortly or longly.
I’m still waiting.
Postscript: Gee, Virginia. Do ya think there’s any connection? The Times has a full-page ad today (Friday, June 2) for a Dale Chihuly show on page 7 in the main news section of the print edition. The ad is too big for my scanner. So here’s the top third of it. Ya think Barney (Byron to you, Virginia) will notice?