Standing next to 57-year-old Mississippi native Mark Landis in the watercolors aisle of a local art store, the words “master art forger” are the least likely to come to mind. Bald, stooped, and slight of voice, Landis looks more the part of a paint-by-the-numbers hobbyist. And yet for the better part of thirty years, this unassuming figure managed to dupe nearly fifty art institutions in over twenty states into accepting forged art works. Many still don’t know they’ve been tricked. Referring to himself strictly as a philanthropist, Landis never profited from this particular compulsion since he always “donated” the works in honor of his deceased parents or a distant relative. His ruse was also abetted by the unassuming appearance of the man himself – which he habitually refined by dressing as a Jesuit priest. By the mid-2000s, Landis had set up a veritable assembly-line production of forgeries that he created from the comfort of his dim bedroom. In a process that was, no pun intended, deceivingly simple, Landis picked a painting from a museum catalog, made a color copy at an office supply store, affixed it to a small piece of wood, and then drew over it with a mixture of color pencils, paint, and even magic marker. While large institutions usually sniff out such forgeries in seconds, Landis donated to small, regional museums that usually accept such at face value. His works are often copies of little known, nineteenth-century American impressionists, and why on Earth would someone make fakes of such a thing? He is clearly not your average high-stakes forger, which is exactly the kind of cover he thrived upon. The life and journey of Mark Landis is one of the weirder tales that The Avant/Garde Diaries has profiled, and yet it is also one of the most intriguing. A Rain Man-esque character, Landis might not have the most calibrated moral barometer, but through a singularly bizarre creative will and a notable penchant for theatrics, he will likely be remembered more than the iconic painters he made a career of forging.
Directed by Terri Timely / Produced by Brady Welch & Sophie Harris / Edited by Amanda Larson / Photography Direction by Donavan Sell / Sound Design by Rich Bologna / Music by Keith Kenniff / Production Coordination by Ayesha Janmohamed / Transcription by Simone Tolmie / Audio clip provided by Local 12 WKRC-TV / With special thanks to John Gapper
Update – the filmmakers have now posted this “deleted scene” (below)
And finally, some additional info in this (2-year-old) New York Times article.
This piece from Wired magazine had caught my attention a short while back. It is about this genre of writing that essentially claims that everything you have understood or believed to be true about a topic, has in fact, been wrong. And these “experts” often promise to reveal the secrets to this hidden “truth” — which you can know only by, well, reading more of their stuff. Very often it attempts to tap into the latest scientific findings or social research which is (supposedly) shedding dramatically new light on the topic in question.
Here’s the beginning of the piece to give you a taste:
Wander into the pop science section of any bookstore and you’ll be told—over and over again—a disturbing fact: Everything you know is wrong. About everything. Seriously, everything!
You’re familiar, no doubt, with this genre of book. It has metastasized in recent years, with a seemingly unending series of tomes claiming to upend everything we believe about talent (Talent Is Overrated), decisionmaking (The Upside of Irrationality), motivation (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us), personality (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement), and dozens of other subjects.
And not only are you completely wrong about something that seems totally obvious, but the real truth is some theosophical “secret” long “hidden” from you. It’ll take a renegade outsider—like, say, a “rogue economist”—to pierce these veils of ignorance.
The sheer durability of this trope is kind of bewildering. Can it really be true that there’s some gnarled mystery behind every facet of life?
Or is it possible that Everything You Know About Everything You Know Being Wrong is wrong?
[click through for full piece]
It goes on to mention what journalist David Schenk years ago called data smog—with data smog being described as “living with an ever expanding surplus of research and factoids, which can paradoxically making you increasingly unmoored from what you actually believe”.
The particular reason why this resonated with me was that I had originally come across it while I was writing some longer original essays to appear on this blog. And as I was reviewing some of my notes on various aspects of design, there was a common theme throughout of my concern for how much we listen to (or—to say the least—are continuously confronted by) “experts”, “gurus”, etc.…
Of course, I’ll need adequate time and space to express myself appropriately (so please stay tuned). But for now, I’ll allow the brilliant George Carlin to take us all to school on this issue ….
Proving yet again, that in the spirit of Christmas anything is possible.
The Map Table by Birky Design.
From the Birky Design website:
Tailored for your special place in the world, our map tables are crafted from solid hard wood using a blend of traditional and modern techniques. All our wood is sourced from Scottish FSC accredited woodlands. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests.
Some more images here…
And few things give me more joy (perhaps sadly, that is not an exaggeration) than a great video of people making beautiful stuff.
BIRKY Design are pleased to bring you a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how we make our map tables. From the original planks right through to polishing up the table top, this film shows the process from start to finish.
Our maker was Graham Murdoch, based at the Real Wood Studios in the Borders. Also starring Alec Jordan, a boat builder and CNC-cutter in Fife.
Videograoher – John Duncan, JD Productions.
And while we’re talking about great video of people making beautiful stuff, I love watching the craftsmanship in this video of the making of the $50,000 (yes, fifty thousand) Leica M9-P Special Edition Hermès. Oh well, the video is gorgeous and you can watch it for free!
Watch the making of the Leica M9-P »Edition Hermès« – Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas, introduced in Berlin at the “LEICA – DAS WESENTLICHE” on May 10, 2012.
This limited edition is a celebration of the friendship and collaboration between Jean-Louis Dumas, the former president of Hermès, who died in May 2010, and Leica Camera AG.
Though often overlooked, Graphic Design surrounds us: it is the signs we read, the products we buy, and the rooms we inhabit. Graphic designers find beauty within limitations, working towards the ultimate goal of visually communicating a message, be it the packaging of a product, the spirit of a book, or the narrative of a building. Utilizing a language of type and imagery, graphic designers try to make every aspect of our lives defined and beautiful.
Debbie Millman: http://debbiemillman.com/
Emily Oberman: http://www.pentagram.com/work/#/all/all/newest/
Drew Freeman: http://afreeman.co/, http://www.pentagram.com/
Steve Attardo: http://stevenattardo.com/