Visiting Artist Profile: Salt Lake
2012 Warnock Artist in Residence Andrea Bowers combines Art and Activism
Andrea Bowers lives at the intersection of art and activism. She may have been born there. As a young child she was drawn to art before she could walk, and by the time she was in kindergarten she was discussing politics with adults.
“I’ve always been interested in politics. My dad used to have coffee with all of his friends every morning before they’d go to work and most of them were in unions. So I’d listen to union politics, I’d listen to them argue and I’d get in the middle of it. I remember being 5, 6 and 7 years old arguing with them about gender and race. I wouldn’t have called it that in those times. I wouldn’t have been as specific. But it’s always been a part of my personality,” Bowers says.
Her education nurtured both her artistic practice and her engagement in controversial issues. She received very traditional training at Bowling Green State University where her BFA studies focused on figure drawing and printmaking. From there she went to California Institute of the Arts, which is home to one of the country’s first feminist art programs. Unlike her education at Bowling Green the program at CalArts was largely conceptual.
As part of her MFA course work Bowers took classes in socialism and anarchy, learning in one class how to secede from the government. The training taught her how to question and analyze power structures. “It comes out of a kind of utopian philosophy where you try to analyze what you think is unfair and you try to improve it,” Bowers said.
Initially she rebelled against some of the concepts but then she taught in the arts program at University of California, Irvine, under Catherine Lord. Lord, a well-known artist, writer, and feminist, constructed a multi-cultural program and Bowers found herself immersed in a community that shared many of her interests.
She has been exhibiting her work since the early 1990’s and much of it revolves around themes she was drawn to as a child that became solidified through her academic experience. “I tend to focus on three categories: immigration, feminism, and environmentalism. Not that I stick to that all the time, but I am always investigating the overlap between art and activism,” Bowers says.
Through her artistic exploration of activism Bowers came to participate in an attempt to save an old growth forest in Arcadia. She sat in one of the trees as the others were torn down around her. She documented the experience on film and described her efforts to save the tree as “terrifying” because the crew removing the trees tried to intimidate her by tearing down trees that were attached to the one she was in. For participating in the event, she was arrested and spent two days in jail.
“That’s nothing compared to what Tim is doing, but it was very intense,” Bowers is referring to Utah’s own poster child for acts of civil disobedience, Tim DeChristopher. He is now serving a prison sentence for protesting an oil and gas lease auction in Utah. He placed false bids on parcels of land to halt the process.
“I’m always interested in investigating the tradition of the heroic male figure, which is something I love to critique. Being a woman I love to undermine that figure. In art the heroic male figure is always this guy who manipulates, like Michael Heizer, and the guys who do it out here. It’s always manipulating the land, making big things. The tradition of this country is building big things and making big things that are very macho, heroic and powerful. What I loved about Tim is he is this very heroic, young male figure but his heroic move was to leave something untouched. I admire that greatly about him,” Bowers says.
Two pieces of artwork she created with DeChristopher as a subject were acquired by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA): a drawing, “Tim DeChristopher (I Am The Carbon Tax)” (2010), graphite on paper, and a video, “The United States v. Tim DeChristopher” (2010), a single channel HD video.
For the video she interviewed DeChristopher for two hours. Bowers was looking to tell a side of the story that wasn’t told through the media. “I think one thing I can do is tell a really long, in-depth story that I think isn’t done much in the media these days. The media uses a lot of sound bites.”
In part, her work with DeChristopher gave her an edge on her application to the University of Utah’s 2012 Warnock Artist in Residence program. As part of the residency she is teaching an interdisciplinary special topics course during spring semester. Bowers has turned her studio space at ArtSpace Commons over to her students, which they have named Ground Floor. “They’re turning that into an exhibition space and it’s being offered up free to any social or political organization that needs a place to meet. And any artwork that is exhibited in it has to be socially or politically engaged.”
She also plans to bring in a number of guest speakers that her students can learn from, including Pat Shea, who served as DeChristopher’s lawyer. At the end of the semester Bowers says she hopes her students will walk away with, “independent thinking, critical thought, and an interest in citizenry.”
The students are also looking to use the studio space as a place where people with opposing ideas can meet to have discussions. “I think one of the topics that keeps coming up with the students is they want to try to find a place to hold discussions between these groups where it’s a discussion and not a battle.”
In some ways this mirrors Bowers attempt to document politically charged issues without engaging in an argument with people who oppose her ideas. “I really feel like my practice is about bearing witness, homage, and memorial,” Bowers says. In addition, she says her work may provide a perspective that allows for understanding from people on either side of an issue. “In my work there is also empathy. Maybe through empathy we can find a meeting ground.”
Hints 'n' Tips: Legal
Circle-R or Circle-C?
The difference between Copyrights and Trademarks
Trademarks and copyrights are two very different types of intellectual property rights. You may need both, but first you’ll need to understand the difference between them.
The short answer is that a trademark is a “brand” and a copyright protects a creative work. But that’s not very precise, so let’s dig deeper.
A copyright is a legal right that gives the creator of a work an exclusive right to control how that work is used. Copyright only covers the tangible expression of an idea, but not the idea itself (that’s what patents are for). So if you create an original work, such as a sculpture, an oil painting, a computer graphic image, a poem, a magazine article, a novel, a screenplay, a musical composition, a musical performance (with caveats), or even a computer program (more caveats), then your work is protected by copyright. That protection begins as soon as you create the work and lasts until 70 years after you die, in most cases. (But see my article in January’s 15 Bytes about registering your copyrights.)
You can license or transfer (assign) all or part of the copyright in your work. For example, you can grant someone a right to make certain types of reproductions of your work, or to perform your work only in certain geographic areas.
Copyright is mentioned in the U.S. constitution. Its purpose is two-fold. Copyright encourages those with creative abilities to create works because they have a legal right to control how those works are used. Having those works created will benefit society. Eventually, copyright expires and the public gets unfettered use of the creative work.
The U.S. is a member of several treaties that result in your copyrighted work being automatically protected in almost every country in the world.
A copyrighted work is normally indicated with a Circle-C symbol. The standard format is © [year of creation] [name of the creator or copyright owner].
Changing gears now, a trademark is a word, symbol, or design (and sometimes other things) that is used to identify the source of goods or services that are being sold. A trademark is all about commerce. It’s the “brand” that you want people to associate with your goods or services.
Trademarks can be registered with the state government (which is of limited value, but appropriate for some local businesses), or with the federal government (which is harder, but provides significant legal benefits). You can claim anything as a trademark by placing a TM symbol next to it, but that doesn’t have much legal impact.
If you apply to register a federal trademark for your particular goods or services, your application will be “examined” to make sure it doesn’t conflict with anyone else’s trademark. You don’t register a trademark in the abstract—you must define the goods and services that you will sell using the trademark. Once your trademark is registered, no one else can register a confusingly similar trademark. You show that your trademark is registered using a Circle-R symbol. You get exclusive use of your trademark in the U.S. If you want your trademark to be protected in other countries, you’ll have to register your trademark there as well. (It does get expensive.)
Some things can’t be trademarked. For example, words that just describe what you’re selling generally can’t be trademarked because those words need to be available for others to use in describing what they are selling.
A trademark can last forever, but you’ll need to file forms regularly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to show that you’re still using your trademark.
The U.S. Copyright Office is online at www.copyright.gov; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is online at www.uspto.gov.
If you’re creating art, film, music, or written works, you are creating copyrighted materials. That’s automatic. The exact scope of your copyright and how you can use it depends on what you’ve created, what you based your work on, and what you plan to do with it.
Unless you want those who purchase your products or services to associate them with a particular word or design, you probably don’t need a trademark. Most artists, musicians, and authors prefer that their name be associated with their work. In that case, you don’t need to trademark your name (though it is done in some quarters, such as by Italian clothing designers). But if you are selling your works under a creative name (such as a collection of landscape paintings sold under the name “Apple Crate Art”), then you may want to protect that name as a trademark. If you operate a gallery or a website that uses a particular name or design that you want people to associate with that gallery or website, then you’ve got a trademark that you should protect.
Importantly, titles (of books or artwork) cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. They are considered too short to have the needed “originality” for a copyright. And titles are not considered to function as trademarks. You can, however, copyright a design that incorporates a title. And you can trademark the name of a series of works (artwork, books, or otherwise), because in that case the name identifies more than a single work.