Penelope Umbrico

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I thought that Penelope Umbrico's lecture was quite enlightening. Her work with collage was very interesting. I had no idea that someone could make art out of photos pulled from places like Flickr or Craig's List. One important point was how few of her pictures she actually took herself. Obviously, she is a talented artist and photographer, but I thought it was interesting that she spent most of her time on her collages sorting through Internet photos to find perfect fits. I thought that this was mainly instructive because I feel that most artists have a kind of immediate aversion to using the work of others. Whether or not it is justified, most artists that I know want to do all of their own work and create something that belongs to them completely. Umbrico took a much more collaborative approach, by using photos that others had taken with no intention of them being used in a larger piece of art.

The other point raised by the lecture for me was the issue of ownership and art. Umbrico seemed to "steal" photos off the Internet willy-nilly, certainly never pausing to ask for permission from the original photographers. Although I appreciated the collaborative feel this gave her work, in the end, I thought that it was rather disrespectful and cavalier of her. She's no hypocrite--obviously she's fine if people use photos of her art, but it didn't seem right either to be so rewarding of what amounts to theft. If she had been using stock photos it might have been different, but most of the photos actually belonged to somebody.

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I can understand your reaction to Umbrico's work in terms of her usage of other's work, and it certainly raises questions about ownership. That said, Umbrico's work is at its core appropriation: in many cases, asking for permission would either be impossible, too time-consuming, or even defeat the whole purpose of the art. In the same way that some object to street artists such as Banksy "defacing" public property in pursuit of their art, I can understand that some will be uncomfortable with this. That said, her appropriation does not seem to be a cavalier afterthought to me, but the entire focus of her art. For that reason, I think what she does has an excellent purpose.

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This page contains a single entry by joh09227 published on April 25, 2013 9:20 AM.

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