Things That Matter

Etsy Artist Sues Frida Kahlo Corporation After They Claim Trademark Infringement

Artisan Nina Shope from Denver, Colo. is suing the Frida Kahlo Corporation (FKC) after her handmade Frida Kahlo dolls were flagged for deactivation. Last week, FKC lodged a trademark infringement claim with the popular e-commerce site Etsy.

Shope is demanding that the corporation ask Etsy to rescind its trademark infringement notice. The lawsuit also names a Panamanian organization related to the corporation, Frida Kahlo Investments, S.A. FKC is registered in Panama and has an office in Florida.

“I don’t believe that artists should be bullied or threatened into abandoning their art, silencing their voices, and stifling their creativity. That is the main reason why I am challenging the FKC’s alleged trademark registration, that has been used as a cudgel not only against me, but against a number of other creators and artists,” Shope wrote in a post on Facebook.

The complaint asserts that the FKC “submitted a false trademark takedown to Etsy claiming that Ms. Shope’s non-infringing use was in fact infringing.”

Shope isn’t the only Etsy artist selling Kahlo-inspired items on the site, a search of “Frida Kahlo” brings up more than 19k results while a search for #fridadoll on Instagram has more than 5K results featuring various artistic renderings.

The rights to Kahlo’s image expired in 2004, 50 years after the beloved Mexican artist and feminist icon died, and Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, the artist’s niece, placed a trademark on the name “Frida Kahlo,” and assigned that trademark to the FKC.

In 2018 the Kahlo family won a temporary injunction against toy manufacturer Mattel, forcing it to cease sales of its doll resembling the artist in Mexico as part of their “Inspiring Women” line.  

“I would have liked her to have a unibrow, for her clothes to be made by Mexican artisans. We, the Kahlo family, are the ones who have the rights to all these things,” Mara Cristina Romeo Pinedo, Frida Kahlo’s great-niece and Isolda’s daughter, told the AFP.

The mother and daughter disputed FKC’s rights to the artist’s name and image, demanding a redesign of the Barbie.

Consequently, FKC filed a lawsuit against Romeo Pinedo, alleging that she — who remains a shareholder and director at FKC — became dissatisfied with the group in 2011 and began a campaign to discredit the corporation and take over its role as the licensing agent for commercial products featuring the artist’s name and likeness.

“The Frida Kahlo Corporation actively participated in the process of designing the doll, Mattel has its permission and a legal contract that grants it the rights to make a doll of the great Frida Kahlo,” the company’s statement said.

Unlike Mattel, Shope and the other Etsy shops selling merchandise with her likeness are operating on a creative basis rather than overtly selling items directly connected to Frida or her work.

Shope’s complaint states, “The name of a doll does not violate the Lanham Act [the federal statute for trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition] unless the name has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever, or, if it has some artistic relevance, unless the title explicitly misleads as to the source or the content of the work. Here, neither concern applies.”

“We believe the doll represents a historical figure—you have to be able to say who that historical figure is without violating trademark. This is a brand new problem in the world of law and the world of art.” After having work removed from Etsy “the only way to get it back up is to sue the rights owner,”  Rachael Lamkin, Shope’s attorney, told ARTnews.

In a statement to ARTnews, a Frida Kahlo Corporation representative said, “We have made a significant investment in protecting the Frida Kahlo legacy, brand, and trademarks. We are prepared to vigorously defend our intellectual property and trademarks whenever our rights have been violated, and to stop any confusion that may be created in the market by such infringing activity.”

As of the time of publishing this post the handmade dolls are still available for purchase starting at $68 and featuring Frida’s signature unibrow.

Shope, who goes by SnapdragonOriginals on Etsy, launched a website detailing the reasons for the lawsuit, which she calls a “scary but exciting path.”

“I never imagined I would end up in litigation, especially against such a powerful corporation. However, I believe in supporting the rights of artists (especially those of us who are small artisans and craftspeople) to create beautiful and meaningful works of art that honor the legacy of Frida Kahlo. Although my Frida art dolls and hoops are not the totality of my collection (I have many folk-art inspired creations that I will later include on this website), they are a core element of what I create,” she wrote. “I will let you know how the lawsuit progresses, and hopefully the results will free more artists to share their visions with all of us.”

This Peruvian Queen Has Been Brought Back To Life In An Ultra-Realistic Sculpture And People Cannot Believe She’s Not Real

Things That Matter

This Peruvian Queen Has Been Brought Back To Life In An Ultra-Realistic Sculpture And People Cannot Believe She’s Not Real

odnilsson.com

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors looked like — if you shared the same cheekbones, hair texture, skin tone or smile? Sure, some of us have seen illustrated reimaginings of our ancient forebearers, but there still remains a longing to know what they might have looked, felt or sounded like in real life. In Sweden, one man is using his artistic talents and archeological knowledge to give us a glimpse of our primordial relatives.

Oscar Nilsson is a sculptor and archaeologist who specializes in reconstructing faces.

Credit: odnilsson.com

Since the 1990s, he’s been using his skills to hand-sculpt the faces of people who lived hundreds to thousands of years ago. Through his company, O.D. Nilssons, the creative works with various museums to help restore faces of people whose remains were discovered during archaeological excavations.

In the past two decades, Nilsson has revived more than a dozen primitive individuals. He has restructured a young woman from the Stone Age, who lived in what is now Brighton, United Kingdom about 5,500 years ago. His reimaginings show that people who originally inhabited the area weren’t white but rather a deep brown that resembles those from North Africa. He recreated the face of an 18-year-old girl who lived in modern-day Greece about 7,000 years before Christ; a malnourished, anemic man who lived during the Bronze Age about 3,700 years ago; and a well-built man with a “Suebian knot” who lived in Britain about 2,400 years ago in the Iron Age.

In addition to the unnamed progenitors, Nilsson has also used unearthed remains to restructure the faces of leaders of the past world. Through his work, he has brought to life Birger Jarl, the ruler of Sweden from 1248 until his death on Oct. 1, 1266, as well as Estrid Sigfastsdotter, a rich woman who lived in XI century AD near Stockholm and died around the age of 80 at a time when the life expectancy was about 35 years old.

One of our favorite Nilsson reconstructions, however, is that of Huarmey Queen, a Wari monarch woman from what is today northwest Peru.

Credit: odnilsson.com

In 2012, a Polish archeological group found a burial of the indigenous Wari culture, which would later become the Incan Empire. The tomb carried the remains of 58 noblewomen of different ages, all buried with “extraordinary luxuries.” Huarmey Queen, for instance, was entombed with jewelry, gold ear flares, a silver goblet, a copper ceremonial axe and expensive textiles, among other splendors. In his sculpture, the woman is seen aged, with peppered hair and wrinkled skin. She has deep brown eyes, sharp cheekbones, lightly golden skin and large gauges in her ears.

Nilsson is able to make his restorations through a process that requires much time, patience, skill as well as anatomical, archaeological and historical understanding. The sculptor uses skulls discovered during archaeological digs as his base. He digitally scans the remains in an effort to perfectly map the craniums, using a 3D printer to rebuild them. With his knowledge of anatomy, he then overlays the restructured skulls with muscles. Using DNA analysis of the corpse as well as the surroundings of the site where the remains were found, he adds details like skin, hair, eye color and clothing.

In his work, he uses skin-pigmented silicone, actual human hair — which he inserts strand by strand — and prosthetic eyes. The entire process for one face restructure takes about 200 hours.

Credit: odnilsson.com

“The human face is a motif that never ceases to fascinate me: the variation of the underlying structure as well as the variety in details seem endless,” he says on his website. “And all the faces I reconstruct are unique. They are all individuals.”

As a university student, the artist studied archaeology, hoping to become a forensic artist. The man, who says he is fascinated by faces and history, told the DailyMail that he “wanted to see what the people from history look like.”  

Through his collaborations with museums, which hire him to recreate faces for various historical exhibitions, he is also able to give people a glimpse of what their own ancestors looked like. For him, his human-like sculptures are both a window into the past as well as a way to engage youth in history.

“I hope people get a feeling of ’I know this guy,’” he said. “It is the most effective way to make history relevant, especially to the younger generations.”

Read: The Aztecs Built It Out Of Human Skulls And Archeologists Are Starting To Uncover Its Mysteries

Kids On Both Sides Of The Border Wall Now Have Something Small To Smile About Thanks To An Artist Who Installed Seesaws

Things That Matter

Kids On Both Sides Of The Border Wall Now Have Something Small To Smile About Thanks To An Artist Who Installed Seesaws

rrael/ Instagram

Lately, when you think of the U.S-Mexico border, you think of the children being kept in cages, of migrant folks being kept in unthinkable conditions in detention prisons, and you think of the possible construction of Donald Trump’s beloved wall–among other negative connotations that the border brings. Then there are times when heartwarming images and scenes from the border show that despite the weaponization of the border, we’re still connected to one another in many ways. 

Architect and artist Ronald Rael designed and installed pink seesaws at the border for children from the United States and Mexico to play together.

The art installation, “Teeter-Totter Wall,” was created by Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San Jose State University.

The custom-built seesaws were placed on both sides of the steel border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico. The artist called it “one of the most incredible experiences of his career” in a post he shared on Instagram. 

About a decade ago, both Rael and San Fratello had designed the concept for the seesaw at the border for a book titled “Borderwall as Architecture.” Now, the drawings became a reality. 

Despite the negative headlines that dominate the news cycle every day, it’s refreshing to see artists like Ronald Rael use their platform and creativity to spark positivity and strengthen our sense of community. 

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side,” Rael wrote in his Instagram caption. Rael also gave a shoutout to the team who helped make this powerful art installation a reality in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.

CNN also points out that the New Mexico town is also where a militia detained migrants in April (the ACLU called it a kidnapping), and where a private group began building its own border wall with the use of millions donated to a GoFundMe campaign. 

Last week, the Supreme Court also gave Trump a victory in his fight for the construction of a wall along the border. Further, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to use $2.5 billion in military funds for it. 

Despite all of the negative news surrounding the border, it was a different scene there on Monday near the Sunland Park stretch. Instead, it showed a heartwarming and lighter scene compared to what we’ve recently seen.

The art installation that this artist created is also meant to serve as a reminder. A reminder that “we are connected” and “what happens on one side impacts the other.”

The pink seesaws showed people from both sides of the border coming together in a unifying act. Children and adults alike on U.S soil were recorded playing with children from the other side. These light-hearted scenes from the border make one for if only a second forget the actual reality of it all. 

RAICES, a non-profit focusing on immigration legal services in Texas, shared on Twitter that “Art is such a powerful vehicle for change”

In the past, other scenes of art installations at the border have made rounds. For example, The Guardian notes the time when an architectural practice in Mexico designed a pink interpretation of Trump’s border wall. 

Claudia Tristán, the Director of Latinx Messaging for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also praised the art installation for the message it spread. 

“The symbolism of the seesaw is just magical,” she wrote in a tweet. “A #Border fence will not keep us from our neighbors.”

The video of architect and artist Ronald Rael that’s also making rounds on social media shows him saying that the seesaw that there are still “good relations the people of Mexico and the United States.” Therefore, the seesaw can portray that we are “equal” and the wall, he says, cuts those relationships between us. 

Ultimately, it is important to remember that with or without the U.S.-Mexico border, much of this land belonged to and will always belong to Native Americans.

We need to remember that the homelands of tribes including the Kumeyaay, Pai, Cocopah, O’odham, Yaqui, Apache and Kickapoo peoples were all split into two by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsen Purchase–which is what makes up modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas

So while it is important to highlight the positive and humanizing images on the U.S.-Mexico border when we can, we should also be mindful of the indigenous communities to which this land belongs to. 

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