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17th May 2009

Interview Magazine Uses Warhol Portrait by Judy Rey Wasserman as Twitter Avatar

Tuesday, May 12, began as most days do with me still groggy, drinking my morning coffee while saying: “Good morning” on Twitter. It seemed like an ordinary day until a Direct Message (DM) from friend Brian Sherwin (@myartspace_blog ) asked if my portrait of Andy Warhol was the avatar being used by Interview Magazine @Interviewmag for Twitter.

I know Brain Sherwin through Twitter and Facebook where we have become friends. He is aware of my work and the new theory of Post Conceptual Art that I am founding. Aside from our love of art we share something else. We get and function well in the new world of Social Media. Brian’s blog is one of the highly recognized art blogs. I am the top rated fine artist plus am in the Twitter elite according to both wefollow.com twittergrader based on the number of followers I have (over 67,000) and my active participation. Brain and I each head up Facebook Groups (mine is Sharing a Transforming Vision with over 375 members), plus I have a new fan page.

Brian Sherwin deserves credit for discovering that my work was being used by Interview Magazine as their Twitter avatar. However his initial contact to me was in the form of a question as I had not been promoting Interview Magazine nor the fact my work was representing their Twitter account as I naturally would do.

Here are my initial Tweets to Interview Magazine on Twitter:

@InterviewMag Avatar you’re using is my portrait of Andy Warhol w.Psalm 19 4 strokes. If U credit me & link to my site it’s OK 2 use it.

@InterviewNews OMGosh! You’re using my Psalm 19 portrait of Andy W. for this Twitter avatar 2. My eyes actually filled w. tears of joy TY!

@InterviewMag See: Andy Warhol is a Grandfather to Post Conceptual Art http://is.gd/zaoy [Follow me- I can’t follow U /any1 til later 2day]

Clearly my initial, and to some extent continuing response is one of joy that Interview Magazine thought highly enough of my work to use it to represent them. The I tweeted the news to both @artnetdotcom and @whitehotmag,, which are well respected online art magazine Twitter members and friends who I follow and who follow me back. That I ReTweet (RT) art news from those members, Brian’s blog and other art sources but had never RT’d Interview Magazine. At that point I was unaware of Interview magazine’s Twitter presence, plus I tend to RT members who follow me back.

So I called Interview Magazine’s offices, which is Brandt’s publishing and also publishes Art in America. I was put brought to someone who supposedly dealt with their Twitter accounts. I was busy thanking him enthusiastically for using my work when we somehow—and not from my end— were disconnected.

It seemed reasonable and possibly beyond serendipity that Interview Magazine would want to use my portrait of Warhol. According to their posts on their Facebook fan page to promote Interview magazine’s Twitter account on April 24. This seems to naturally follow my blog post from April 17 that Andy Warhol is a Grandfather to Post Conceptual Art. That blog had used my Warhol portrait as an illustration.

Hoping for the best, and still bubbling with joy over the serendipity of having my portrait of Andy Warhol used to represent the magazine that he founded to be the hippest and most avant guard promoter of art, fashion and people I called back This time the phone receptionist sent me to some male who was higher up. I explained how happy I am to have my portrait of Andy Warhol used as Interview Magazine’s Twitter avatar but needed the work attributed to me somewhere. And, again we were disconnected.

I had not asked for anything but credit for my portrait indicating that I was—and still would be—happy for Interview magazine to use the work as long as I receive credit. Perhaps I am naive, but when someone is happy with me and friendly I am polite and friendly back.

Still, I remained positive and hopeful determined to create good buzz about the fact that my work was selected by Interview Magazine to represent them on Twitter while the conversation with Brian continued in the stream and with other Twitter members who follow either of us.

New media, especially social media person that I am, I kept watching my Twitter stream and Facebook Fan Page wall for a message from Interview Magazine. I was still thinking that the true spirit of Andy Warhol – who was as cutting edge as they come while retaining both cultural and spiritual historical sensibilities—was guiding Interview Magazine. He would have thrived in this new Social Media.

@ myartspace_blog Warhol who also painted religious art is looking down on this & smiling. His portrait’s cre9ted w. my fav Psalm 19.

Then Brian discovered that Interview Magazine was using my Portrait of Andy Warhol for their avatar on their Interview News account.

In the meantime, Brian and I are carrying out a conversation in the Twitter stream and in direct messages (DMs). Although I had recently Tweeted that Twitter is where I get my breaking news, I never expected to be a part of it, even in my small way via my Tweets.

Several weeks previous to this, when the Shepard Fairy trial was making news, Brian Sherwin and I had a long and detailed series of emails regarding Artist’s Rights. Brian is a champion of our rights and although I do not always agree with his tactics we are in full agreement that more needs to be done to protect and inform artist’s rights. I am for educating artists, legislators, enforcement officials, educators, etc., plus opening dialogues as there is a lot of new technology and media that needs to be addressed. Brian’s focus includes mine but he also focuses on specific perceived or adjudicated wrongs and copyright infringements.

I am aware that founding a Post Conceptual Art theory, including the called UnGraven Image puts me in a kind of leadership position. That UnGraven Image is the first theory of religious art (fully inclusive for all) founded in the USA means that need to always take the high road to the best of my ability, especially I the art world. I don’t have the luxury of not standing up for artist’s rights. Brian knows this. Certainly neither of us expected that I would be facing an infringement of my copyright only a few weeks later.

As we continued to message in the stream, I remained very happy about the situation and eager to have my work represent Interview magazine as long as it was attributed to me. Frankly, at that point the idea of receiving monetary compensation did not enter my mind as the recognition and public relations that comes my way from this is a kind of compensation that money cannot buy. Especially as I continue to assert my strong Post Conceptual hereditary art link to Andy Warhol. It seemed fitting that the magazine on the cutting edge in the last century would position itself with Twenty-first century Post Conceptual Art.

In a DM Brian Sherwin informed me that he had a contact at Art in America, which is also owned by Peter Brant, about the avatar situation.

Later that afternoon Kelly Brant called me from the Art in America offices. Kelly is Peter Brant’s daughter and responsible for the online presence of their three magazines.

Excited and happy to finally hear back from someone, this time I managed to hit the button weirdly located on the back of my land-line receiver so we were disconnected. I guess it was fair, except I called back immediately and apologized for the hang up. It surprised me that Kelly was not by now familiar with my web site, that she had not discovered I was founding a new theory of art as mentioned above, have a free PDF manifesto booklet to download, new videos, including on You Tube that have over 1,500 views, etc. What she did know am one of the most followed people on Twitter and an artist.

Kelly was surprised when I explained that the portrait was created by hand with pen and ink symbol-strokes that are the Torah letters of Psalm 19. It is not a manipulated photograph. She asked what my reference was and I answered that I had used several different images that are online.

Kelly Brant had a three o’clock appointment so she called me back about 15 minutes later and we resumed our friendly conversation.

This did concern Kelly as she mentioned the recent Shepard Fairey case regarding the Hope portrait of Barack Obama. However, I had used several reference images, plus there were no multiples being sold, so there was and is no possibility of copyright infringement on my part. Recent court cases ruled in favor of Richard Prince and Jeff Koons as their work is original, not simply digital manipulation, although they referenced other works.

The idea of the Essence Portraits comes from the understandings that our bodies are essentially created of the energy/pre-matter of elementary physics’ strings, which my symbols always refer to, plus we have within us the essence of The Divine. From this first portrait and continuing, I want to show what lies beneath, the essence of a person through these portraits. As with any of my works, while our minds perceive narrative imagery all that is really on the canvas or paper are letters form a text. When we look at my portrait of Andy Warhol, what we really see is Psalm 19 in the original Torah font, which Warhol’s Eastern Orthodox Church reveres.

This Warhol portrait focuses on the expression, the vulnerable punk angry brood that Andy Warhol revealed in his iconic self portrait, Twice Denied. That portrait is full face. I found a photograph that I could use for basic features that is ¾ face while changing the expression to that in Twice Denied. I also referenced many pictures and portraits of Warhol’s wild hair and wig. Clearly he used that feature to sort of hide behind, so in life people would be drawn to the hair that seemed to distract from his face. So my work uses the whole of the white space as the hair and only suggests it. Thus in my portrait the white becomes the hair and a sort of support for the portrait. Plus, of course, I did this in a very minimal way to pay homage to Warhol’s own work.

By the end of the conversation Kelly and I were looking on our computers for place where the mention could reside. She offered a mention on their Twitter profiles, but I declined that as it is such a limited space for them to use to better define the magazine. We thought the bottom right hand column of the online magazine would do but I remained open as long as I was credited somewhere. She then said she would have to ask legal and we agreed to speak the next day.

I was prepared and quite happy to make an announcement that there was just a misunderstanding and that I and Brandt communications have a good relationship and there is no problem. I still hope to make that statement. It is difficult for me to see that this publicity, which I am sure will linger can do anything but help found my career and Post Conceptual Art. If Andy Warhol is looking down on this I bet he is enjoying my current 15 minutes of fame.

I was eager to announce that my work is being used with my permission once I was receiving credit for it from Interview Magazine.

I went off to run some errands land when I returned my portrait of Warhol had been replaced by a photograph on both Interview Twitter accounts.

Brian and I emailed back and forth about that and more. Brian raises many good points and questions. However, I preferred to wait to hear again from Kelly. I hoped that my image would be used and I would receive public credit or at least acknowledgment of my work. I remained enthusiastic that my work had been viewed as important enough to represent Interview Magazine on Twitter. Whether Interview Magazine or anyone at Brandt publishing ever credits me the witnesses and screen shots prove that fact.

I asked Brian to hold off writing his article for just one more day. This was quite a request considering Brian had made the discovery, it was a breaking art news story and controversy, plus it deals with the topic of artist’s rights, which he champions.

The next morning my ongoing Google search greeted me with Brian’s just published controversial article. My first reaction was that I really need to stay off the Internet until I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

Brian Sherwin’s article on article myartspace>blog is a must read. Interview Magazine Copyright Infringement Controversy on Twitter and Facebook . There are many comments to his article and I urge you to leave yours.

All of facts that involve me personally are correct and Brian Sherwin uses my image with permission, plus he credits me. The points he make deserve consideration at least. Brian’s article placed me in the controversy where I would have to respond in some way.

I look forward to a second chapter and blog about my relationship with Interview Magazine and Peter Brandt’s communications media. I suspect some surprising twists and turns as I strive to take the high road. You can scroll down past the previous post to see a larger image Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol) and also read Andy Warhol is a Grandfather to Post Conceptual Art . You are encouraged to leave comments on any of my blogs and please include your Twitter ID and other social media info so others can easily find you!  All Avatars shown in this post are used courtesy of the Twitter members or they are blurred.

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.

Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]

4 Responses to “Interview Magazine Uses Warhol Portrait by Judy Rey Wasserman as Twitter Avatar”

  1. nancy egol nikkal Says:

    Unbelievable – but believable. Timely – WSJ today article today about Judge Sotomayor’s private practice background in intellectual property rights and artist copyrights. And, It happens everywhere and now on Interview’s Twitter site. I hope everything works out well for you because you have been so trusting in their good will and so generous in spirit and your blog presents your case well.

  2. Trixie Says:

    Basic journalism 101 – always source and credit your material. I cannot fathom why a supposedly professional magazine, especially one that champions artists, would not credit an artist for the avatar they were using. It smacks of dishonesty and lack of integrity on their part, and makes me question whether they were trying to pass the avatar off as their own. Any follow up to this?

  3. Donna Says:

    Hello Judy – can you update the readers as to what happened in regards to this matter? I tried searching for further news on this matter online and found nothing.

  4. judyrey Says:

    I enjoyed a few conversations with Ms. Brandt who runs the web for the magazine. I am and was happy for Interview to use my avatar so long as they credit me. However, due to legal concerns it was removed and what occurs next is in limbo, except that for me it was a great experience and I do not intend to seek any renumeration. The publicity itself is great at this point.

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