The word I keep finding myself using today is surreal. And it’s the only appropriate word I can come up with. How does some random guy from a small town in Georgia end up in the news following a terror attack without even being there? In my case it was because a piece of art I created four years ago caught fire as a social media tribute flag.
Last night I noticed a strange spike in views of just one image. I hadn’t watched the news. I honestly try not to lately. After our last year with my father’s illness and death, it’s hard to feel too wrapped up in the day to day world beyond my door. So that was how I found out about the Manchester Arena Attack. When I tried to find out why views were spiking on that one Manchester print, I saw the news. At the time, I didn’t really contemplate WHY so many people were finding that particular image. I posted it myself on my Twitter and Instagram accounts and called it a night. I think I spotted that a few other people had shared it but I still hadn’t really caught on.
This morning, as I woke, I started scrolling through the Instagram feed for some Manchester hashtags and every time I scrolled, I passed another copy of my “tribute flag” for Manchester. I posted my morning observation to my Facebook art page. It was still sort of bizarre that I was seeing my art from four years ago all over. It wasn’t connected. It wasn’t intended to capture a moment, but in a really eerie way it did seem to fit, you know? I hadn’t had breakfast yet before the phone rang and I started getting emails from reporters. I was honestly in so much of a daze that I barely remember who I spoke to. It was never entirely clear to me until the last minute if anyone was actually going to publish a story about my bizarre connection to all of this as the author of an accidental tribute flag for an attack that was four years off when I made it? It seemed really unlikely to me because I felt like everyone was looking for this deeper angle where I had some actual connection to Manchester, had been there, had family from there or was somehow actually connected. Maybe it says something about how I see myself but by afternoon I was convinced that those calls and emails were the end of the trail. And then later I saw that TMZ had published an article about me and my “stolen art.”
It wasn’t until I read the article that I realized actual celebrity level people like David Beckham had shared my unintentional tribute flag for the Manchester attack. I think at that point it passed surreal and entered the realm of Alice in Wonderland ala a journey down the rabbit hole…
I was asked earlier today how I felt about my work being “stolen” and I’ll say what I said then again. I think stolen is a strong word. That makes it sound like someone beat down my door. If someone were printing thousands of t-shirts with it in a backroom somewhere and selling them, I would be unhappy about that. But worrying about people sharing my work without actual attribution, well… If I lost sleep over that, I would have taken my work off the internet years ago. That way lies madness! In many, many ways, the internet is still in its infancy. I suspect one day we’ll have stronger ties between content and creator but for now, this is just the way it is. What’s more if my art helped someone share their feelings about a tragedy, then that works for me. I just have no complaints about that.
I was also asked about profits from sales. I have sold this in the past and since my art is how I make my living, I intend to leave it up for sale. In the near-term, I would feel really weird profiting from print sales for this particular print. Now, there haven’t been any today. And I quite honestly will be surprised in there are any in the near term. I don’t think people right now are hunting for Manchester decor. But I’d love to be proved wrong and need to write a check to charity. My experience is that I have offered profits from print sales for past tragedies that met with deafening silence. Perhaps my accidental tribute flag will hit more eyes in the end and I will post back on that down the road.
You know, but I didn’t expect an article to be published about me either. Warhol once said that in the future we’d all have 15 minutes of fame. I don’t know if that’s so but I think he vastly missed how long our attention span is here in the future. I’m betting on two or three minutes of “fame” at best. And whatever the case, if it were in my power to wave a magic wand and stop someone from bombing that arena, I’d happily give up my few seconds in the edge of the spotlight.
Someone asked me today how the attack made me feel. Because my father’s death is still fresh, I can definitely empathize with people who lost a loved one in the attack. But that’s in a very limited way. As unfair as it feels, my father simply reached the end of his life. He wasn’t maimed or blown to bits in a senseless act. I can’t begin to imagine how the victims, their friends, and family must feel except I truly have kept them in my thoughts every since I read what happened at that concert last night. For any who read this, please take care.
And for the rest of you, always keep your loved ones close. Fate can be fickle sometimes.
PS – For those who would like to see the original artwork on my site – see the Manchester Union Jack Flag over at TisdaleArt