Letter to Chuck Close from the digital artist whom he threatened with a lawsuit


Scott Blake is a computer artist who created a Photoshop plug-in called th "Chuck Close Filter," which transformed images into mosaics reminiscent of the famous hand-made mosaics created by Chuck Close, whom Blake calls "the 14th richest living artist." Close objected to the filter, and threatened legal action, so Blake complied; although Blake believes that what he's made is legal under the doctrine of fair use, he can't afford to litigate against a multimillionaire adversary.

The issue has eaten at Blake since the 2010 exchange, and he's published a long, illustrated article laying out the case for his work, and placing it in the history of art, the history of computer art, and within Close's own work. He's got a (somewhat daffy) plan to republish his work long after Close and he are dead, but that's a distraction from the main point, which is a heartfelt letter from a young artist to an older artist who first inspired him and then prohibited him from making the art he was inspired to produce.

I believe my art is fair use, but I don’t have a war chest to back up that assertion in a courtroom, so the wealthy bully wins by default. My only recourse is to publicize my defeat in order to shine a light on these types of situations. My hope is that Chuck Close develops a sense of shame and regret, realizes his mistake and offers up an apology. I want this article to serve as a point of reference for current and future artists. The worst part about this whole mess is that it makes established visual artists like Close seem petty. By not embracing new and interesting ways of making art, he is contributing to the widening of the generation gap. His irrational fear of computers has made him wildly out of touch with my generation and generations to come. I feel he singled me out because I choose to work in a medium that he finds inferior.

I think Close is confusing enterprise with creativity; they are not the same and in some cases can work against one another. In the end, I believe Close’s misguided and hypocritical actions will do more harm to his legacy than any so-called “derivative art” could ever do. His behavior has left me no choice but to carry out my 100-year plan.

This project started off as a simple college assignment and has quickly turned into a battle for visual artists’ rights. I’m fighting for creative freedom and battling against an antiquated way of thinking that is stifling a new form of artistic expression. It is inevitable, and artists like Chuck Close need to be willing to pass the torch to the next generation.

My Chuck Close problem

(Image: From left to right: Scott Blake’s version of Lucas, version of Phillip made with Lucas tiles, self-portrait with Lucas tiles)

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