It was a dark and stormy night…
Actually, it was pretty nice out, on a warm spring afternoon. We don’t do clichés in this blog.
I was walking around my art class on the second-to-last week of senior year in high school. The entire class was preparing for the huge art show and auction that was held every year to raise money for the cost of art supplies. This was very necessary in our case, because it was reaching the point that some students had to buy themselves and another student the supplies they needed when the school couldn’t pay for it. Or refused to pay for it.
The auction consisted of several dozen pieces of art made by the students, whether it be sculptures, paintings, ornaments, wind chimes, the works. We made anything that we thought could sell for good money. On this particular auction day, my teacher had put various students in charge of selling certain pieces, displayed on tables around the room. If a student has made a large amount of items themselves, the teacher would usually allow them to stand and sell off their own stuff. Customers seemed to like buying directly from the artist.
I had been taking art classes taught by this teacher every year of my high school life, and I was always his hardest worker in class, so I won’t hesitate to say that I was his favorite student. He put me in charge of a table of my own, where my sculptures and paintings were displayed. But I told him that I wouldn’t be able to stay for the auction because I had to go home and work on the graduation essay that would be due in the next week. He shooed me off and told me to let another student know that I was leaving, and to put them in charge of my table.
Fair enough. I walked across the room to a group of girls that I recognized from class but didn’t care enough to talk to during the school year. I asked one girl in particular–let’s call her Brooke, because I can’t remember her fucking name–if she could watch my table and sell off my items. “The prices for each piece are written on a piece of paper on the table,” I add, pointing to the table for emphasis. I also told her to mention the artist, me, if anyone asked who made the pieces. She gladly agreed and made her way over to my table. I made it out of the room just before the customers started coming in. I was confident that everything would go smoothly and that there would be no hiccups.
Except the next day, Saturday, I found out about a big hiccup. A very big, plagiarized hiccup.
My friend Leigh Ann texted me that morning, asking a simple question. “Did you make all of those sculptures and stuff on *describes location and look of table* at the art auction”
“Because Brooke was telling all of the customers that she made them. She even went as far as making up an explanation for each piece, explaining her ‘creative process’.”
I was struck with disbelief at first, thinking that my friend was just messing with me to see if I’d freak out. But as our conversation continued, it was very clear that she wasn’t.
“Why would she do that to me? It’s not like she never made anything worthwhile over the semester. Why go and sell MY things in her name?”
“She’s been jealous of your work all semester. I see it in her expressions whenever you’re working on something and she keeps casting glances your way.”
Hey, there aren’t supposed to be any clichés in this blog! You said so, yourself!
Yeah, yeah. Relax, it’s necessary to this story. No more clichés after this, ok?
I started to mention that my initials were still written under each painting and carved into the base of each sculpture. Leigh Ann reminded me that the teacher had advised us to paint over them so as not to compromise the price. So my art was completely blank. All twenty pieces unnamed, vulnerable to plagiarism. Which is exactly what it resulted in.
“Didn’t the teacher take notice of it?” I asked desperately. Perhaps I was getting overly dramatic, but when someone is giving your stuff away in their own name, I tend to become angry and upset about it.
“He was directing the slideshow and parent-teacher meeting at the front of the room,” Leigh Ann answered. “He was distracted, but I did manage to get over to her and call her out before all of your stuff was sold.”
That was a small sigh of relief. “How many were saved?” I asked quietly.
“I think around nine or ten, but that’s ok, right? Better than none!” Leigh Ann said, trying to be cheerful. “A lot of the customers were baffled to witness the art thief in all her glory. I made sure to catch up with the ones that had already bought something to mention that you made it.”
“Well, how much money did the auction raise?”
“According to the charts at the sales table, around $5600.”
“I guess plagiarized art sells for top-dollar!”
“It’d be a priceless opportunity for both of us to kick her ass next week. That’s one thing that does have her name all over it.”
I never did get to face off with Brooke in person, though. Ironically enough, she didn’t show up at school until the day before school was over, and even then she kept far away. The way her eyes bugged out and how she stumbled to get out of my line of sight when I took notice of her was satisfying enough. Turns out that a bunch of other students informed the teacher of what Brooke was doing. She was banned from any future art auctions, so yay, happy ending!
I’m not sure why people have this obsession with taking what isn’t theirs. It’s happened to me when I’ve posted pictures of certain paintings online, as well. I’ve even been accused of plagiarism, myself, when I was posting pictures of a painting that was sitting right next to me. Everybody wants a taste of the good stuff, I suppose.