The first thing I noticed about Juda Nevadomski's painting City Girl was the familiar form of my favorite Sandman character, Delirium. I thought for sure I was imagining things, but I checked my comics anyway. Sure enough, right there in Brief Lives, I saw Jill Thompson's Delirium realizing it's her turn to drive. That exact pose. That exact drawing. Flipped, with different colors.
That pissed me off.
That pissed me off, not only because he didn't credit Neil or Jill or The Sandman, not only because he won awards for this shit, and got put into newspapers, but because since the dawn of social networks, people don't let that shit fly anymore. If I took my Sandman fan art (some of which are pretty damn close to the comic book images) and tried to pull it off as my own, I'd get the shit kicked out of me on the Internet. In fact, I did this once about ten years ago. I drew my fan art using someone else's art to help me with the poses I needed, and I got busted, even though they were totally different characters than my references, someone recognized it enough to rip me a new one. So why should this guy get away with it?
So I put up a comparison shot on Facebook.
Me: "Can someone tell me if J. Nevadomski gives credit where credit is due? Maybe Lux Bar [tagged] can answer, because I haven't seen a single mention of where he gets his content for a few of these paintings being featured."
Lux ignored it, of course, but someone recognized it right away as Delirium.
Me: "Yep! I took the picture on the right straight out of Brief Lives! As soon as I saw the one on the left on Lux's page, I did a quick perusal of his Facebook. He has more than a couple paintings copied right out of Sandman. It makes me mad that I can't showcase my fan-art as original, when my pieces are inspired by (and credited to) my favourite comics, but this guy can practically trace something out of a book and call it his own. I could have it all wrong, but I haven't seen him mention Sandman anywhere."
I got a few more "wow, that's really blatant" comments, and then my friend Jason chimed in, and the shit hit the fan. Jason, balls-deep in awesome ferociousness, took the stand. He blew up Lux's page and posted my comparison photo, but Lux deleted everything. He blew up the event page, but they deleted everything. He got into it with Lux over facebook, and we all got called unprofessional and ignorant.
(before his posts were deleted, a couple people were surprised to see the comparison picture, and a couple people defended him, saying a lot of his paintings are like this, "he's been doing this for years." Right. He's been ripping off comic book artists for years)
Jason's next Facebook post: "Dear LUX: You're showcasing the art of a plagiarist tomorrow. You also deleted my comments, unfriended and blocked me for pointing out that very fact. How fucking sad. I suppose I would be pissed too for not being smart enough to spot BLATANT copies of Sandman comic panels. I hope that anyone on my friends list that may be going to this "Art" show tomorrow, will share this." He'd also attempted to contact Nevadomski, but didn't get a (direct) response.
The responses from his friends ranged from general anger and shock, vows against going to Lux anymore, immediate recognition of Delirium, and contacting Vertigo and the original artist. In fact, I did contact Jill Thompson via Twitter (@thejillthompson). She retweeted, adding "Lichtensteined" to my tweet. Maybe she doesn't care. She probably doesn't see this guy as a threat, being someone who'll never be a real original success or make a living off his work. I don't know.
Meanwhile, on Nevadomski's page: "Word of advice to Hipsters everywhere: If you don’t know what you’re talking about, shut the fuck up." Coming from a guy who, at a glance on his page, seems to revel in hipster shit. Does this count as an actual reply? Does he know we're too old to be hipsters? Is he clumping us in with his intended audience, who are probably too young to remember Sandman in its original glory? I guess so.
And then Lux got back to Jason: "I unfriended you because I didn't think bashing his work on facebook was appropriate or professional. I am very aware of his work and I stand behind this show 100%. I appreciate your opinion, and you have the right to have it, but your nasty approach is not one I can get behind. And I don't appreciate you and your fellow "art expert" friends tainting the waters of this opening that I worked hard to put together. If you don't like it... don't come to the show. Easy as that."
Ignoring plagiarism isn't unprofessional, apparently. How is pointing out a fraud "bashing"?
And Jason's return-reply: "No worries. Your show and your bar won't be getting any of my money ever again. So, you're aware of the fact that he's just ripping off somone elses art and calling it his own? Interesting. Me and my "art expert" friends just wanted to TRY to keep the "waters" of this opening from being tainted in the first place. Showcasing his art is a cheap, sad, farce. Seems to me like you woked too hard on this and can't stand the fact that you got scammed too. How sad. Lux has certainly been tainted for me, and I'll never go back. I'll continue to put both your bar and this sham of a show, on full blast. Sorry you got suckered. Sucks that you can't just admit it. I hope it fails. I know there will be several people attending that plan on letting everyone know what a joke this guy is. Toodles!"
Jason's friend Ken had this to say: "Seriously though, this controversy provided both the bar and the artist a platform to win over conflicted minds and potentially add patrons. Had they handled it I'm a positive way they could have invited people to attend, have meaningful discussions over a few drinks, and promote themselves. Instead they handle it was abrasion and negativity? They would have done better to keep their mouths shut. I doubt it will be the end of the bar, but it certainly will further alienate art minded regulars of the neighborhood. It's sad really. Fucking cunts. I AM A FUCKING ART PROFESSIONAL, therefore i have earned my opinion to call this a sham, coupled with cheap parlor tricks, and no sense of soul."
And then we heard from the man of the hour. On the event page, Juda Nevadomski wrote another indirect response to Jason:
"Slander: In response to the allegations made.
I really don’t owe anyone an explanation or an art school lesson. This is ridiculous harassment, slander in the guise that I am somehow trying to lie and hide something, that is not the case. The person making these attack posts does not know me, does not know anything about pop art, and I have not met or spoken to him EVER in my life. This person has not uncovered any hidden truth, and is not making a new argument against Pop Art. If you don’t like my work, the work of Allie Hartley or the methods behind creating Pop Art, simply to not come to the show. I also never denied or took undue credit for anything I have EVER done.
My commission cards read: “Original Creations as well as Interpretations of Your Favorite Comic Book Characters.”
You may notice I have a Batman painting as well and never took credit for inventing the character of Batman. I have worked too long and hard to build my reputation to have it tainted by person who does not know what they are talking about.
Enjoy the show."
(He also included the free dictionary definition of Pop Art, as well as the link to the Wikipedia page for Lichtenstein)
Why yes, he does have Batman paintings in his portfolio. He also labeled them as such (one, painted on a door, called "Batdoor" and another called "Darknight Rise").
And I don't think he understands the phrase "interpretations" in regards to his commissions. Another artist making original art while using someone else's characters is an interpretation. Fan art is also an interpretation. The image is different, but it's the same character, with the same name. People draw fan art that are sometimes just copies of comic panels or covers, and they're colored differently, or have different elements, like clothes or something, and they call them fan art. Credit where credit is due. "Interpretation" does not mean trace the image, change the color, and not mention what it's an interpretation of, and try to pass it off as your own creation.
I also think he thinks Pop Art means "only ripping off other artists and calling it your own omg look at me I am Lichtenstein reincarnate." But that's just what I think.
In the end, I feel really bad about Allie Hartley's nice work being shown alongside Juda Nevadomski's, and that she has to get a little backlash from our blow-ups against this guy. She hasn't commented at all on the whole ordeal as far as I can tell. If you want to go to Lux tonight to support her, do it. I might.
She has cool art, cool stickers and pins, and she's pretty original (see? Pop-Art can be original).
There's also a poutine truck that parks outside. Best poutine in Rochester, if that helps your decision.
(this piece - "Meow" - is Allie Hartley's)