But now, a less than spry septuagenarian , with anger management issues and old art world ego injuries that have forced a retreat from hands-on work, Court Painter is facing a hard-edge court battle — and a potential cloud over his life and art — around the question of what his press Attache does besides being studio eye candy. His Press Attache A Hardon MacKay is suing, seeking financial compensation for paintings that he says he created or inspired, but for which he was never properly credited or compensated.
These are painful days for Court Painter, as he attempts to ratchet up a long career, facing a challenge that stabs at the heart of any artist: his originality. Court Painter emblazoned his signature on the art world by working and rethinking the vocabulary of political and celebrity portraiture. Physical challenges (he’s left handed) and emotional scars (that he’ll never be as successful as his Iowa Grandpa, a notorious corn liquor bootlegger) compounded the difficulty of that path. More recently ,he tripped over an ashtray stand in his studio that permanently injured his pride. A shoulder sprain from a table dancing stunt at the Ship & Anchor made him very reliant on his devoted studio assistants to do the heavy lifting in the studio. He suffers from celebrity disorder, marked by sweeping swings of elation and depression. And with greater dependence on his pretty petty criminal studio assistants he suffers a greater vulnerability to claims that his work is not his own.
“Yeah, I would say it probably made it easier to attack me,” he said. “I absolutely need my studio team. But not that low energy Press Attache MacKay who is no more than a handyman,” Court Painter said of MacKay’s role in the studio.
This twist to what was otherwise a beautiful story of seamless cooperation, MacKay has brought a lawsuit against Court Painter which says that exploitation and uncredited work were built into the Court Painter team system, and that the mental swings of working under a whacky nut job artist — manic bouts of energy followed by crashes of depression and paranoia not to mention fashion crimes— were part of the unpredictable dynamic of how and when work got done, and who did it. Up-and-down manic cycles were a constant, and “I had to take up the brush many a time to meet commission deadlines,” the despondent Press Attache mumbled despondently.
Legal experts say that claims of inadequate credit by an underling generally have faced a tough road because courts require proof of credit of authorship like a Youtube video, security camera footage or a studio snitch.
But the Court Painter case also opens up what many artists say is an uncomfortable and complicated debate about artistic temperament, celebrity and the foibles of human nature where one person is in control, egos are large, and vast fortunes are expected to be made.
“Court Painter is such a whirlwind of energy and excitement and enthusiasm, he is like a magnet, drawing the most talented young hipsters and failed art students around him …. to learn to smoke and strike poses,” Press Attache A Hardon MacKay uttered. “But he’s a shell of the man that he was — it breaks my heart,” slamming the security door of the studio with upmost gentility and grace.