Local artist accused of misrepresenting reproduction as original work
By Stuart R. Wahlin
Zion Development’s Doors of Rockford art show and auction, showcasing original works by local artists, has become an annual fund-raising tradition in recent years for the non-profit community development group.
Following Zion’s most recent competition last October, however, one local family discovered that a featured submission by local painter Jan Pozzi may not have been quite as original as many had previously thought.
According to Roger Gustafson, a local attorney, Pozzi’s submission, “Grandma’s sewing room,” looks suspiciously like a late-1800s or early-1900s painting by Patrick Adam called “Interior—Morning.”
Gustafson said his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Ward, has had a print of a nearly identical image hanging in her home for the past seven years after purchasing it at a furniture store in Indiana.
“Our family carefully compared the two, and it is clear that the work by Pozzi is an exact copy of my mother-in-law’s painting,” Gustafson indicated. “The Pozzi piece does not give credit to Adam, or even indicate anywhere that it is a reproduction. In fact, Pozzi even signed her piece, indicating it was her original. So, aside from it not being original, it doesn’t event depict a local scene.”
According to the submission guidelines: “Entries must be two-dimensional, original, non-functional works of art, any medium except photography, reflecting the Rockford area and in keeping with the theme of ‘Remember When.’ We encourage the inclusion of a door, real or metaphorical, in your submission. Artists must identify the location of the door depicted.”
Pozzi’s submission was said to depict the interior of a home at 620 N. Second St.
“It’s similar to the sewing room that my husband’s grandmother had in her home,” Pozzi said, acknowledging Adam’s painting was the initial inspiration for her piece. “My husband said, ‘Oh, that looks a lot like my grandma’s house, where she had a sunroom she used to sew in.’
“I just saw a tiny little picture in a magazine for the idea. I didn’t look on the Internet and find a great big photograph and copy it verbatim, you know?” Pozzi explained. “If I had a great big picture of it, I could really show you the differences. But to somebody that doesn’t know much about art, they’d probably think it was exactly the same. As long as you make three changes—only three—then you’re OK. But I made way more than that. I tried to make it my own from a 2-inch picture.”
Gustafson reported his family met with Zion Development Executive Director Brad Roos and staff to discuss their curious discovery.
“They compared the works and agreed it was a copy,” Gustafson noted. “They said they would take this seriously, confront the artist and retract all the advertising with the Pozzi piece on it.”
According to Zion’s call for entries: “All accepted entries will be sold at silent auction with artists receiving 75 percent of the sale price. Artists are guaranteed a minimum of $260 through sponsorship.”
Pozzi said she was awarded $750 in the competition, but that she returned the money after the issue was raised by Ward.
“She thought that I should give back the money, which I did,” Pozzi asserted. “I wasn’t upset to send it back, because I could see what the woman meant about having something that was similar to hers. If they want me to, I will buy the painting back from the people that bought it, and give them the money that they spent, and destroy it. I don’t care if I ever see it again. I’m not even gonna be in Zion again. That’s it. That’s it for me. I just—I can’t do it. This has got so many bad memories for me now that it’s almost destroyed my life as an artist.”
Pozzi added it is commonplace for artists to copy images for the Doors of Rockford competition.
Reportedly, Roos left a follow-up message with Ward March 8.
“He stated that the artist is sorry anybody thinks this is a problem, and apparently admitted the forgery,” Gustafson reported. “But Mr. Roos said that because Pozzi has donated her time and money to the charity in the past, and because she is a friend to Mr. Roos, they consider the case closed.”
Asked to comment, Roos declined, referring questions to attorney Bryan Selander, who is also Zion’s Board of Directors president. Selander had no comment.
Roos stated in an e-mail, however: “I am saddened by Mr. Gustafson’s client’s [Ward] response to this matter as we have taken substantial steps to address what appear to be the client’s personal concerns including trying to speak with the client directly (without success) about all the steps we took to talk with all parties involved. We had considered the matter resolved having heard nothing from the client for quite a while. We are mystified.
“Unfortunately, I must ask you not to contact me directly as we will refer everything to our attorney,” Roos added. “How sad when everyone involved at our end wants disadvantaged people to be assisted by these efforts.”
Responding to Ward’s concern, Pozzi said, Roos called the couple that purchased her painting to explain the circumstances.
“We talked to the people that bought the painting from me, and they don’t care,” she noted. “They know that it’s similar to the other one.
“The people that bought the painting from me love it, and they want me to come over and see it on their wall,” she added. “They don’t want me to feel bad, but I do.”
Pozzi said she feels terrible about the incident, but maintained the image she created from Adam’s painting was different enough to be her own.
“I haven’t been able to sleep because of this. It’s been horrible,” Pozzi reported. “Something like this happened to me about 20 years ago, where I painted the [Anderson] Japanese Gardens, and Mrs. Anderson saw that I painted another Japanese garden for some other people, and she got all upset.”
Anderson’s son reportedly sided with Pozzi, explaining to his mother that it’s normal for artists to create multiple depictions of the same scene.
“It wasn’t at all like hers, but it was the same scene,” Pozzi explained.
“I changed many, many things in this painting, and I made it my own. And I know it looks a lot like the original, but it was also a donation, and I gave back the prize money,” Pozzi stressed. “I’ve been through hell with this, and I didn’t expect to be in the paper so much. I didn’t know it was going to be that popular that it would come back to haunt me like this. It was just a nice donation for Zion, and everything I’ve done over the years for them has always been extremely original.”
Pozzi said she has not been able to paint since the controversy arose and fears the incident will tarnish her reputation as an artist.
From the March 24-30, 2010 issue
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