Plenty of Forms in the Sea

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The glass artist Dale Chihuly is suing a former collaborator, Bryan Rubino, for copyright infringement, arguing that Rubino's lopsided, sea-inspired sculptures are obvious knockoffs. "About 99 percent of the ocean would be wide open," says Chihuly. "Look, all I'm trying to do is to prevent somebody from copying me directly." Rubino, not surprisingly, sees things differently: "Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art. If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."

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  1. Can we *please* go back to the days of the Italian Renaissance, where people flagrantly copied each other and nobody gave a shit? Or if they did, they settled it with fisticuffs or stilettos?

  2. Amen anon. Let’s call this one, reason no. 3247 to do away with copyright.

    Side note. I first became aware of Chihuly about ten years ago. I became very impressed with his work. But then it started popping up every time you turned around. I’m getting a little aesthetically burned out on it.

  3. i admit i had never heard of him before but now a large amount of his work is on display in my town and from what i’ve seen in advertisements – some of it looks stunning.

    for those who have seen his work – is it worth the $30 (for two)?

    i’m not quite sure how this works out for chihuly anyway – it’s not as if rubino is trying to pass off his work as chihuly’s and it’s not like he’s copying a recipe or something.

    an artist’s rendering of a subject doesn’t put that subject off limits to others.

    michelangelo and donatello both created a sculpture of david. both are worth seeing. chihuly should relax – isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

  4. I like Chihuly’s stuff well enough. He definitely has panache–see one of the specials on his work (like Chihuly Over Venice). I met him in Columbus back in the 90s when my then-girlfriend (an OSU art professor) made me go to an installation of a few of his works at a local museum. I suppose that quasi-personal connection made his work more interesting to me than it might have been otherwise–oh, well.

    As to the copyright issue, that’s going to involve the usual metaphysics associated with copyright. I’m just guessing here, but the copying will have to have been quite close for Chihuly to prevail. He may be morally right, but proving it is another issue altogether. I’m just not seeing a copyright violation in using the same medium to render interpretations of similar objects found in nature. I’m also uncomfortable with attempts to protect style as opposed to expression. Chihuly no longer blows his own glass, so there’s some question (which may be resolved by contract) of who has created what.

  5. Funny thing about Chihuly. He only has one eye, so he can’t work in three dimensions. All his glass is made by his team based on his inspirational swirly paintings.

    How did he lose his eye? Drunk driving accident in the UK. (He was both drunk and driving.) How long ago? 20 years.

    What is the case really about? Chihuly’s oversized ego and an attempt to penalize disloyalty.

  6. Pro Liberate: “…Chihuly no longer blows his own glass…”

    *snicker tee hee*

  7. I’m reasonably familiar with Chihuly’s work — I’ve gone to one pretty extensive exhibition, and have also seen some of his “public art.” (“Public art” is generally the stuff that nobody will spend their own money on, so they seize someone else’s money to buy it.)

    Frankly, he seems overblown, if you’ll pardon the phrase. Some of his stuff is neat to look at, but I guess I have a bias towards art that doesn’t shatter into a million pieces if you brush against it. Too, in the seismically active places where it tends to be popular, his stuff has a limited lifetime.

    What’s next? Will Piers Anthony be suing people who write light fantasy fiction? Will the Spice Girls be suing bubblegum pop girl groups?

  8. Clean Hands, I rather like the stuff that comes out of Chihuly’s shop (but see my disclaimer above), though I think his popularity stems as much from his “rock star” clientele as from the actual quality of the pieces produced. It does have a certain transience, but it’s not meant to be Donatello or Michelangelo. At least, I don’t think it is.

  9. That’s hilarious that Chihuly says, “This lawsuit is not about money,” when of course it is. He doesn’t want cheaper like glassware of a similar technical quality to his to be sold. I might have a certain amount of contempt for the poverty of artistic vision of the glassmakers creating things remarkably similar to Chihuly’s vision rather than creating their own distinctive style, but I’d say they have every right to do so.

  10. His glassworks are interesting, and fairly unique (or else why sue, I guess). No one in their right mind would copy his paintings, though. I mean, even in the world of modern art, they’re crap.

  11. Why would Chihuly sue two unrecognizable names that used to work for him? Maybe we can chalk this up to some savvy marketing by Chihuly, Inc to get some cheap advertising for his former understudies. I don’t think most people can name more than one artist in America working in glass.

    Chihuly is to glass what Thomas Kinkade is to painting. Well, not exactly true, but I wouldn’t put this past him as a PR stunt to help his proteges and expand the Chihuly influence.

    Or maybe his head has swelled so much that the eye patch is cutting off circulation.

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