The eternal question you often hear about the world of creative expression is: What is art? And every day, there’s a new artist, a new genre, a new take on an old genre by an artist who is neither old nor new. People will argue that something “new” is indeed art, but it doesn’t deserve as much respect or consideration as another form of art. And this cycle seems to sadly repeat itself ad infinitum.

Well, I’m not here to dictate the characteristics of art, but I will tell you a story or two that might raise your interests about creative formats that speak for themselves. So here I am back with another round of Extra! Extra! — my series on news about the artistically inclined that may have left the headlines a little too soon.

Make note of these tales for a look at what you missed:

Infringing On The Fringe

Revok Reyes and Steel art in SFIt’s no secret that I am a lover of street art, graffiti and tagging. I have no talent for it myself, but I admire the hands that can take the ordinary and use it to make something extraordinary. I also am enamored with the world of fashion, and the strange hold it has over us. So imagine my sadness when I hear some in the fashion industry using the “inspirational” work of street artists to create a new line for their collection without compensation.

That’s exactly what’s being alleged in a number lawsuits against some pretty big power (fashion) houses this spring. Robert Cavalli, American Eagle and Coach all are entangled in a web of accusations made by graffiti artists who claim their work has been used without permission to help line the pockets of companies and moguls who can certainly afford to pay them for their “inspiration.”

And it has some people in the fashion industry scared witless that the courts seem to be leaning in the favor of the street artists. But artists like Maya Hayuk and the Mad Society Kings think that’s a good thing. Fashion is a considered a respectable creative empire, but graffiti and tagging is still fighting for acceptability among mainstream audiences. If the courts should rule in the favor of the “little guys” in most of these lawsuits, will this result in legitimizing graffiti as a respectable art form? Or is it destined to remain on the fringe unless it’s made more marketable to the mainstream? If the latter, then I imagine the artists would prefer to enjoy their lack of legitimacy a little bit longer.

I See Your True Colors

Good Magazine image credit DassAngelica Dass knows the importance of color in her art and she’s betting that you will see the importance of color in her current project regardless if you’ve never held a paintbrush in your life. This Brazilian powerhouse began a grand experiment in 2012 to catalog all of the natural complexions of the human race as Pantone colors for artistic appreciation.

Titled “Humanæ,” Dass wants everyone to take away from her project what they personally interpret without any guidance from her or her layout. But ultimately, she states how the work is a commentary on the lack of natural hierarchy that society insists is inherent in skin color, race and ethnicity. With volunteers as subjects, Dass has traveled from Madrid, Spain to Bergen, Norway to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Daegu, South Korea to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to capture the vast variety of complexions that create the human race.

There’s no clear indication of when Dass’ project will be finished or even if she worries that she’ll repeat herself and duplicate a Pantone color, but as of now, there’s no sign that she plans to stop. Is the notation “(work in progress)” in the project’s title a representation that a complete Pantone catalog of human skin tones is impossible? Or is it a reflection on the complexity of our diaspora thereby rendering the obsession with racial hierarchy meaningless and futile?

What You Got On That 420?

Since the recent non-federal legalization of recreational marijuana in the states of Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon (and let’s not forget Washington D.C.) was implemented, it’s no surprise we’re seeing more and more news about the proper use, storage and downsides of legalizing it. But what about that favored relationship of art and drugs?

Artists have been “refocusing” their creative energy with cannabis — among other things — well before it was ever considered sinful, harmful or very expensive. But now in the state of Colorado, an artist doesn’t need to stay cooped up in the dank recesses of their personal studio to partake. Heidi Keyes’ “Puff, Pass & Paint” class is a hit with not only local Denver-ites, but with tourists in town who want to experience the freedom of cannabis use in a public, non-hassle environment as well.

Puff Pass Paint

But don’t be misled. It’s still all about the art. “The class is more about the process of being creative than the end result. And I think cannabis certainly helps that,” shares Keyes about her weekly sessions where students paint a specific scene determined in advance. One can’t help but admire Keyes‘ business savvy, an important trait for any professional artist. Yet how does one gauge the effectiveness of the class if the students are exploring creation through restricted instruction? Could a course with less hands-on instruction inviting a greater freedom to explore a student’s artistic whims be more supportive?