The Curious Case of Todd Crespi
Last week the New York Times had this article about the artwork of DC area artist Todd Crespi.
The article, by Adam Liptak, presents points of view on Crespi's art (he specializes in courtroom artwork), trying to figure out if Crespi crossed ethical lines in the way that he represented his artwork to his clients.
Essentially: did he create the artwork live and in the courtroom, or did he create later in his studio? The discussion extremes in the article range from:
Mr. Crespi has no Supreme Court press credentials, and artists who work at the court regularly say they never see him. It has been years, they say, since he sat in the alcove reserved for artists near the justices and advocates, the only place in the courtroom where art materials are allowed.To quotes like:
“Todd does not come to the court,” said William J. Hennessy Jr., a freelance artist whose work appears on several television networks. “I have not seen him at the court for at least five years.”
Another artist, Dana Verkouteren, agreed. “He’s never in the courtroom,” she said. Instead, she said, Mr. Crespi works from a standard background, adding images of the advocates based on photographs.
But Art Lien, an artist who works for NBC, said he was “not very critical of Todd.”Crespi responded yesterday with a Letter to the Editor clarifying that
“If they know what they’re getting,” he said of Mr. Crespi’s clients, “why not? Artists have been doing that forever.”
Ms. Verkouteren, another colleague, said of Mr. Crespi: “He might be a genius. He might be a wacky genius.”
In the absence of a specific media assignment, I attend the session (like any citizen willing to queue at 6 a.m.), then produce meticulously rendered paintings based on many years of experience as a court artist and portrait specialist.So according to Crespi, he does attend the court cases; just not as a media assignment (and thus why he's not seated with his colleages). But in any event, is there a valid issue in Liptak's original argument? For the final product: does it make any difference if he produces the artwork right there in the courtroom or later in his studio?
Plein air artists have a valid distinction between a landscape painted on the spot and one painted later in the studio from photographs or sketches. But does this logic apply to courtroom artwork?.
I realize that the main issue with the Liptak article centers around what Crespi tells his clients - not necessarily the final product. But my question deals more with the process itself. I am also clear that creating and marketing the artwork under the impression that it was created on the spot inside the courtroom (as Liptak says Crespi is doing), when it's apparently created from a combination of both courtroom and studio work, does have ethical issues associated how the artwork is "marketed" to potential clients. No one will argue with that. My question is about the process itself, and only about the process.
By the way, Crespi is also an accomplished filmmaker and
Crespi’s film work in FUGAZI’S INSTRUMENT has been seen around the world at such venues as The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Kennedy Center, and the Whitney.Todd Crespi currently has an exhibition of "New Beach Paintings" at Dupont Circle's Studio Gallery, although curiously there's nothing about the exhibition in the gallery's website.