This week we’d like to introduce you to mixed media artist Demetri Broxton. Demetri is of Creole and Filipino heritage whose work is often inspired by “his connection to the sacred art of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.” He has his collection permanently displayed at the Monterey Art Museum. You can follow Demetri on Instagram @dbroxtonstudio.
What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
I have been a creator my entire life. As a shy, only child, I found solace in the creative process where I didn’t have to rely on speaking to express myself. I fell in love with black and white, darkroom photography in high school, adopting that as my art form all four years. However, when I took my first painting class in college, I immediately knew that being an artist was the life path I wanted to pursue.
The creative process is so freeing for me. I feel like when I’m in my studio, I’m not only working out how to execute an artwork, I’m also working on my inner-self. Because of the meticulous nature of the work I create, I often think I’ll never finish a project once I’ve begun. Nevertheless, I always finish and learn something about my ability to persevere in the process. I’m learning to enjoy the journey and that’s definitely a lesson for other aspects of life.
Can you talk through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
My artwork revolves around music lyrics and I am one of those people who listens to music the majority of every day. Most often, I’m listening to music and verses from a song get stuck in my head. I’m constantly listening for double entendre in lyrics. These lyrics become the basis of the piece and inform the other materials and form of the artwork – either boxing gloves, robes, or free-form sculpture. Each piece takes at least a month to complete due to me working with tiny glass beads and other small items that are meticulously hand sewn onto the surface I’m working on.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have an incredible gallerist who is able to find a market for my artwork. I’ve sold nearly everything I’ve made so far. I’ve been able to retain a few pieces for my own personal collection. Those pieces are experimental in nature, such as the first pair of gloves I completed using construction nails and the first boxing robe I ever made.
When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?
I’ve been aware of copyright ever since high school when my English teacher spoke to the class about plagiarism and intellectual property. He made a connection to these topics and copyright. On a more personal level, Instagram is where issues of copyright have most impacted me. For visual artists, Instagram is an incredible tool for raising awareness about our art practice. However, the site allows one’s work to be copied and spread without permission. I’ve had people make fake profiles that impersonated me and my artwork and even an artist who tried to directly copy my artwork and claim it as their original idea. It’s hard on both cases because creators work so hard to produce our work and coming up with original ideas takes an enormous about of time, energy, and thought.
What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time, and money into?
Fortunately, I’ve only had to deal with this issue twice. But when I’ve discovered someone stealing my work, I first contact them directly to let them know I’m aware of what they’re doing. When someone created a fake Instagram account using my artwork and claiming it as their own, I asked the person to take their page down. When they refused, I got friends and other followers involved to report the page to Instagram. I eventually had to file an intellectual property infringement case with Instagram and then go through the tedious process of proving the content belonged to me. It wasn’t fun and took over a week, but Instagram eventually took down the fake page.
What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
I would tell artists to be vigilant about anyone copying their work. The old adage says that imitation is the highest form of flattery but for a creator, imitation could lead to loss of sales and devaluation of one’s work. Artists should know all the resources available to protect their intellectual property. The U.S. Copyright Office is an incredible resource as well as the College Art Association. I would suggest learning about your rights as a creator, and protecting your works through copyright, before placing any of your work online.
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