The ATC Debacle and WTF?

On a couple of mail lists I belong to, the subject of people selling Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) has come up. ATCs were the brainchild of a Swiss artist. In the mid-1990s he came up with the idea of small (3.5 x 2.5 inch) original works of art that would be traded in person. The only stipulations were that they would be a certain size and that they would be swapped, not sold. Other than that, anything goes. The idea was that artists would meet in person and trade their small works of art. It would be a way for artists (most of whom aren’t rolling in money) to collect artwork from other artists.

So what’s the big deal? Well, quite a few folks are selling “ATCs” on eBay, which has spawned much discussion. The pro camp says, rightly, that people can do whatever they want with the art they create. The con camp says, also rightly, that selling ATCs undermines the purpose of ATCs and goes against the originator’s intent. While I would personally not support an artist who sold ATCs, it is their right to do so.

Of greater concern to me is the possibility that ATCs that have been traded to others will be sold and resold. As artists trade ATCs with the understanding that they will not be sold, I think it constitutes a breach of contract to turn around and sell an ATC that was received in trade. I think that doing so is mercenary, dishonest, and exploitative.


I also seem to be plagued by assberets who cannot read for comprehension. There’s nothing so irritating to me as making a point, then having someone respond to that point with something completely irrelevant to the point. What are they teaching in schools these days?


A few days ago, in another group, someone asked why there was a dearth of African or African-American imagery in the crafting community. I responded that I didn’t think there was a shortage of such imagery (just Google for African American quilts). I’m sure all the African American artists, artisans, and craftsmen would be surprised to know that their works don’t exist. Even more so all the artists in Africa.

But, that apparently wasn’t her real question. She actually wanted to know why more whites weren’t incorporating African or African American imagery in their art. M’kay.

I don’t feel a burning need to incorporate African or African American imagery in my own art. My art tends to be about me and my experiences. I also don’t know anything about what it feels like to be African American, much less African, so I’m not likely to address it in my art. I do use a wider variety of imagery in my gluebooks, but I consider gluebooks to be separate from my other art. Pretty much all the imagery in my gluebooks comes from magazines, books, etc. so I use what I have. (Thank you, though, to the kind soul who informed me that Egypt is in Africa. Who knew?!)

What sent me over the edge, and finally prompted me to unsubscribe from the group, was when the original poster made a comment that “we” should explore different cultures and that “we” should incorporate more design elements from other cultures in our artwork. If the concern is, as she claimed, to gain cultural understanding through exploring African American artistic styles, then that seems to me to be reducing the African American Experience (as if there’s just the one) to a design element. (Pardon me while I vomit.)

  1. She doesn’t know bupkis about me and my culture, so she can hardly know what my experience with “other cultures” might be.
  2. Why do I, as an artist, have any sort of responsibility to address cultural differences or racial issues?
  3. Talking about African Americans as if they’re from a different planet is probably not the best way to go about engendering racial harmony and mutual understanding.
  4. Reducing an entire group of people to a design element is exploitative
  5. Instead of exploiting African Americans, which is what I feel the OP was encouraging, why not first educate yourselves enough to know why the entire discussion, as it unfolded, might be offensive?

The final straw, though, was that I received an e-mail from someone wanting to know if I’d be interested in an “ancestor swap.” I didn’t answer her, because I was gobsmacked. I have no idea how to reply to something like that. My ancestors are mine, mine, mine and I’m not inclined to share them. If you want to acquire fake ancestors, buy a box of orphaned ones at a flea market.

No, I lied. The final, final straw was the way everyone went around patting themselves on the back for having such a sensitive, understanding, thoughtful discussion. Okaythen.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Crankypantsing

One response to “The ATC Debacle and WTF?

  1. Pingback: Color Erratica: Red and Green | red paper boat

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