Folk Fest 2009

8.27.2009

  a favorite at Alcove Arts by Sergio Mora

Betty and I went on our annual pilgrimage to the Slotin Folk Fest looking for affordable new pieces to add to our respective collections. Very quickly we realized that things had shifted slightly; many of the dealers and artists from last year were not present. It is a curious situation. The mission statement on the Slotin website states that this festival is to promote the art of mostly rural, untrained, self-taught artists who dont have access to traditional art venues. With a booth fee of 900 dollars its a bit difficult for those authentic artists to exhibit. And the hall was chock full of MFA's and, looks like, anybody who can pay the freight to get in the show. 

I saw a lot of what i call "style memes" there: God help the artist that gets out a unique vision because next year there will be copy artists. You can just see that whatever sold well has been examined and then art is made to fit the market. Then there are sellers in there that mystify as to how they could have been included as folk art.

Back to the art school people: this post is not a dig on them. while i would like to see more self-representing self taught artists at this show (most primitives are represented by dealers and their work is very expensive), i am delighted with the trained artists' work.  Many of them are finding their way back to a pure expression. William Skrips said it best when he detailed how he had worked to undo all the training and instruction that he had received from Art in America style giants at his NYC art school.


I think he has been successful. His assemblages are simultaneously raw and polished and infused with some hint of classical art; in some of the pieces i could feel my mind traveling to a pieta or crucifixion stone or odd-wheeled contraptions you might find in a Bosch painting.

             the raggedy fabric, the nails, the bondage wraps and anxiety grimace on this piece are perfection.

I met Karl Mullen last year and loved the work. I wasnt disappointed this year. He remains a favorite at this show, representing the best of the primitive totem people drawings. The drawings are on large paper -like 40 x 60 - and are drawn with a combination of powdered pigments and wax crayons. But what he does to the paper really makes the surface sing; he coats the pieces in walnut oil which makes them appear and feel like heavy animal skins. A true outsider artist from ireland his resume reads like a traveling jack-of-all-trades just like a folk artist of old might have been. His subjects are musicians and kings and circuses and figures from another time that you know from intuition or memory rather than actual experience.

 Mullen's frenetic line work somehow portrays a 
figure with a look of slightly melancholic introspection

I found Randy Tobias early and picked out a new piece. I love Randy's work; his take on classic southern religious vernacular is my favorite of the clay work. Randy is a real outsider artist: he doesnt even have a website for me to link to. or a dealer. he can still be found at the "Turn n Burn" clay weekend where potters come out to a certain highway in north georgia to sell their wares by the roadside.


Angels, devils, snake-handlers, parsons, empty-souled demons and hybrid face jugs in amazing glaze combinations are shelved like a police line up.

Some of the figures remind me of characters in popular culture, for instance this angel with a red glaze stigmata is a dead ringer for Yoda.


some of the "preachers" reminded me of the weirdo preacher in Poltergeist II who is actually Satan in a terrible transparent pale corpse suit; you could sense there was more to what you saw on the surface. In the end, i chose this piece to keep the one i bought last year company:



there was so much to see and my notes were poor. i cannot tell you who made this lobster girl; she was quite small and secured inside an abalone shell. there was a table of these small sculptures that i liked and i regret now i did not buy this.

Betty liked this wire dress. It was one of many dresses at the show: dresses of wood and bottle caps, dresses of tin and wood, dresses of plaster - many dresses by many artists all without any flesh to fill them out.

The guys from minivan (They call themselves minivan because they travel around the country to show selling work - out of the minivan) were back and they had, once again, one of the strongest exhibits in the show. The always seem to have their pulse squarely on the collective zeitgeist with edgy works made with and on unconventional materials - perhaps the kind of salvage all of us will employ someday in the post land of plenty america. In the image above you can see what i mean: people in struggles; fights; parachuting "out"; surviving; falling.

Casey McGlynn is my favorite of the minivan artists. This little red pig is a good example: he has written "the living piggy bank" on the painting which is so absolutely correct in an age where money is precariously teetering on the verge of having no value at all. His work is very personal and narrative with messages scrawled into available spaces around the figures. His interest in playing the guitar is evident in the portraits of players and he continues with a vocabulary of animals interacting with people. The surfaces of his paintings are richly layered and messy but still surprisingly clear.



Anthony Pack continues to delight: i bought a piece last year: a paprika man that flies over my kitchen like one of those indonesian spirit protectors. Anthony is out of Kansas City and did his time at Hallmark before finding his way to this:




Each figure is infused with amazing personality and life and his craftsmanship is King. He is the best of the kitchen gadget junk sculptors - and there were quite a few at this show.

I liked Steven Chandlers drawings on plywood. He calls them Georgia Red Mud paintings. They are very much in the style of early southern primitive artists only more linear.



*note: steven chandler visited this blog and left a comment about his video on the show. . its an interesting look at folk fest from an artists POV with some undeniable damning evidence of another artist's goat painting that was copied (exactly-like a stencil) from Stevens original work; which addresses the issue of the increased copy cat situation at the show. if you are interested in art and commerce and what is "folk", check it out.

Overall, this show remains one of my favorites of the year. I subscribed to Art in America in a two for one deal when i ordered it for a friend as a gift; and rarely saw work within those pages that i actually wanted to read about, much less liked. I could say the same thing about some of the shows at the name brand galleries in town. At this show its fun to see the favorites but theres always that chance of finding something really good at an affordable price and the possibility of seeing an artist emerge fresh before a dealer gets a hold of them. I wish that somehow the pricing could be dropped on the booth spaces and that the dealers could be kept out. With an honest jury, the show could be restored to its earlier manifestation: that of a tent revival of outsider art.

42 comments:

  1. I remember when you went last year and once again, your post is ALMOST as good as being there with you. I find the entry fee high; almost as much as I've paid for trade shows, but perhaps this keeps the quality of the artists at the show high?

    I love the Wiliam Skrips piece with the crown. Are the prices of the art truly affordable? Is there an average, or is all over the board? Lobster Girl is also beautiful. She floats in that shell and the artist made her human parts and lobster parts seem natural.

    You've given me almost too much to look at, so I'm going back over it all again.

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  2. boxer: no. i think with a strong jury you could make sure the quality of the show was high, while allowing for artists who are truly "outside" the normal channels of art commerce a chance to be seen and found. I see art at the little guerrilla art shows that can spring up on the road in backwater georgia that belongs there before the ladies who could afford the double booth to present their predictable country oil paintings that are fake primitive grandma moses joints. not that they dont have a right to sell -but im talking about this one particular venue.

    that lobster girl was good. why didnt i buy it? its just now everything is "do i need this?" but apparently i "needed" randys preacher. grrhahahahaha

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  3. Well now I have a mission. Find lobster girl artist.

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  4. I looked over the list of attendees and went to a few of their websites and you are right .... Monied. A jury is the best way. I really really love the first painting too nearly missed it my first pass. Go Shamy!

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  5. So many new people to look at - I LOVE Anthony Pack's work and have been drooling over it for ages. :) Love Karl Mullen's drawing - fabulous. And I love Sergio Mora's piece, too. Thanks for sharing! I have a lot of homework now. ;) xox

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  6. I did go but I'm not having any luck finding that artist.

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  7. Wow, I love that red pig! Thanks so much for sharing! The comment you made in your last paragraph about not getting excited about "name" art really resonates with me. There are enough outsider-type shows around here to keep me fired up and my bank account in the red for the rest of my life. Next up: the New Mexico State Fair with four, count 'em FOUR art shows, and the 11th annual recycled art show in Santa Fe. I'm giddy with excitement!

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  8. Ooooh! There is one I'm calling a tree of life in the upper left of the big view of the minivan's display. That one is calling to me. Not sure I could have bought your pottery priest, but enjoy him! I'm always attracted to pottery too. Need to learn to do that ... will put it on my list.

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  9. I love Anthony Pack too! What a great post- thanks!

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  10. Man did I have my martini goggles on in that photo.Did the show 4 times, this was my last.Go to Youtube search Slotin Folk Fest Commercial Folk Art Copy Cats part 1 and 2 for more info.
    It's all just a style, the days of finding an artist in the sticks making crazy work while talking about aliens in his hair are becoming few and far between.Now your it's stenciled on the side of a van with a dot com address.I didn't know what Folk Fest was in 2005 when I was asked to do it, I know what it is now or what it's turned into and it's not for me.
    Thanks for including me in this blog, glad you like my art,
    -Steven GRMP

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  11. shamu: had it been a crab girl you would have surely found her by now!

    boxer: you might have seen his work before -at la luz de jesus in LA. I like his work too, but in all honesty it is so Mark Ryden-ish im a bit bothered. ryden started the whole lowbrow -bad stuffed animals -blood-and guts-cute -horror thing. now theres lots of it.

    yoborobo: i know! you know youve seen something good when you want to leave and go draw!

    shamu: im going to ask betty i think she knows who made those.

    moi: i remember the post you did of the recycled show - i think you might have posted a frida kahlo joint for me? i hope you take and post photos again. i like seeing how its done around the country.

    pam: i liked the tree of life too. the little preacherman -well, its a southern thing. you wouldnt understand. grrrherhahahaha im just kidding. i love him. those teeth!

    run lori run: he is good. he is a victim (in my opinion) of copy cats and they seem to multiply with each show. but he is the best and i would not photograph the others. i would think theyd be embarrassed .... i dont know if it right for me to even think that. this is a very tricky situation - the similarities.

    steven: good to see you. i appreciate your insight into the show. i have to say, and regret that i failed to do so in the post, that you did have one of the most original bodies of work at folk fest. i like the electric buzzz energy that your pieces have and the limited palette as well. Im not surprised to read you arent going back - i cant wait to see your video of the copy cats and glad to see you also found it distressing. i will post your video here with an addition on the original post. i hope you do well with your work. thanks for stopping by.

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  12. We live in a commercialized culture. We have trained our children to believe that it does not take creative thought mixed with talent that makes a society and its art succeed but rather do what you must to sell.

    If you copy a successful (business) model and it sells then you claim it is your original thought. Nothing else matters as long as their is money to be made.

    I know dozens of MFA's, some bent towards paint, others pottery and others literature and it seems to me that they can't or won't look beyond that initialed circle for validation of their output.

    And I know a couple of artists who sell, and sell well now but they never went past high school or a couple of years of college who simply followed their own vision and somehow it caught on with first the neighborhood then the art market. (Think Tyree Guyton)

    No one wants to pay dues anymore and that is a damn shame. It cheapens us all.

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  13. I love, love, love Randy's work! Awesome!

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  14. I know all of these artists are great in their own individual style but like beauty it is in tne eye of the beholder and it is a relative concept...and I'm no judge of good art, I do however know what is pleasing to me.
    I like the larger work by Casey McGlynn and the minivan painters painting of the 'tree with people beneath' to the upper left hand side of the photo...I would choose your art over any of these. :) ♥

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  15. I really regret not buying that Frida-in-her-coffin piece and sending it to you. Sniff. All the art pieces I've loved and never purchased, before. I spent do so spend a good deal of my life, kicking myself in my own behind.

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  16. Love paprika man. Cool.

    So ... seen any angry nekkid school bus drivers lately? Grrrrrrrherherhehe.

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  17. I consider Steve and Amy Slotin of Folk Fest the best out there.
    I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed this blog--It was better than a magazine.
    I would like to add----Steven Chandler goes to Hollywood. Yes,
    yesterday evening I sold a large
    Chandler painting to these great folks from Hollywood! Way to go Steven!
    Art is my life. What is Folk Art? I am still trying to decide--maybe someday! I am old Roff, age 73--been doing this for 35+ years!

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  18. FANTASTIC!

    thanks (again)
    for this inspiration

    ¤ ¤ ¤

    /t.

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  19. walking man: i think your comment on paying dues is a good one and i agree. that time spent forging a personal vision is what "life's work" means. i was dismayed when i watched steven chandlers video last night when i saw how his work had been cribbed to be slapped onto tote bags. short cuts across the board have taken this nation away from self reliance to carpetbagging superficiality.

    dani: it really is just fine cheerful work. and so beautifully put together!

    dianne: i understand. like i was saying about what i see in art in america. its a bunch of who cares half the time for me - yet its bringing in the dough. how much of that is ENC syndrome? (emperors new clothes?) and...thank you. you know betty and i considered going in together on folk fest? but i just dont think it is appropriate for us. i do learn when i go to this show - i tend to overthink my work and it shows. the good stuff flows uninhibited and startles with its universal truth.

    moi: we put our art purchase regrets together and we have an entire show! ggggrherhahaha!

    faery: grrerhahahahaa. no. but a girl on crack was freaking out on the street while i was at a light yesterday...and we made eye contact. she was cussin up a blue storm and i couldnt help my self i started laughing ans she came over and kicked the car. it was pretty nutty. i did see the school bus story. it was funny too. god dont hate me i still have your painting at least it is in a tube. the UPS paperwork to send to canada is a hassle so im gonna mail. i swear eventually you will have your she wolf and stag. love you.

    graves: you are the gallery that reps steven? i am so pleased he made the big sale. i liked him. and i liked talking with him. i agree -im struggling a bit with what is folk. it seemed to be clear back in the day...i remember going up to finsters in the early 80's : that was folk. once it became a family business it ceased to be (for me) when he started photocopying pieces and putting them on plywood my heart sank a little bit. thanks for your kind words and for stopping by.

    /t: you are so very welcome my friend.

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  20. If anything this type of net talk can start is the idea that, festival art is just plain borrring! and if Folk fest keeps going on , i suspect the only people who will show up there are families and their kids, as and art educational event about "what is folk art?" "everybody is an artist! your special!" type of sentiments. the promoters are to blame and they don't care, "show me the Money and your in" the crowds will slowly switch and the "collector" types will be less likely to return. its a numbers game and Steve S. i suspect knows the real stats here whats going on in his event. C.G.

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  21. chicken george, is that you? it is getting boring. last outdoor art fest i went to i worked hard to find something i wanted to buy -at any price! but like ive said: once somebody thinks up something good -here come a bunch more just like it rendering it into walmart blandness and killing the golden goose.

    "everybody is special; were all artists". yes this meme is endemic in the culture of entitlement and universal unquestioning equality . grherhahaha

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  22. I think I like the wire dress. Depends on if it's an actual dress that can be worn. And if it's actually made from wire.

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  23. yea , its me, i think its getting old complaining about these venues, i think a new venue should be invented or art fair that deals with quality, and not obvious markectablity , you folks should check out this doc on utube called Trashville its about the Nashville music scene and the people who want to destroy it,.i don't think populas feelings about country art fair art fit in here, its whats destroying the realism of art to be given over to crackerbarrel halmark cards of folk art.C.G.

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  24. Well, I've recently had the misfortune? to sit in on a exhibit selecting committee for the museum where I work and let me just say AGGHHH! Boy, did this open my eyes to the smuggery, money driven and the shallowing world of the "Art Establishment" Errr! I read this post right before that meeting and already had my dander up and then that....it makes you wonder.

    hilaryblackwood.blogspot.com

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  25. Mercy--what a show.
    Skrips I like --a lot.

    Tobias, his stuff worries me some.

    Me an' Betty likes the wire dress--and the Casey Living Piggy Bank!! Heh. Oh heh heh heh!

    Dawg, ya roams wide an' far. Some of this is canary in the mine stuff, ya know?

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  26. beware the one-eyed preacher-man.

    F.O'C.

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  27. yeap Hillary, you just don't want to know about what goes on behind the scenes, i think that, or at least i take the stance where i don't look up to the idea that what is seen in the local art place , are really a merit of artistic sucess more about effective socializing,. why its there? its a feat to just to show or do an exhibit, but to judge why them? can cause someone to go mad, and any show i see i say to myself, well this is a feat of creative power where it is what they want to show, that's about it, but one can't help but to think why them? how? did this happen...pro and con----CG

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  28. troll: i dont know if it was actual wire or not. i do know that all of a sudden there were lots of "empty dress art" just like a few years ago when there was a rash of "evil toy art"...i didnt like that dress - i didnt hate it either. i didnt care.

    chicken george: trashville is my next exit.. thanks!

    hilary: i worked on a large illustration project where a committee made lots of decisions which resulted in a bride of frankenstein concept -each disparate part attached to please each member. i walked off. finally, the whole thing was then taking over by one person who told the committee to let me do what i wanted - that person was the head of the PR firm that was representing the client in a capital campaign. point: one person with vision wins the day.

    aunty belle: when i look at randy tobias' preacher men i always think of "good country people" grherhahaha know what i mean?

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  29. "I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!"
    ---Manley Pointer in "Good Country People"
    Heh--yep, thas' exactly what I meant too!

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  30. the indispensable ms o'connor. i should paint her with her beloved peacocks next!

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  31. Thank you for your thorough coverage and commentary. I do appreciate it. Now I don't have to go anywhere for at least 10 years and no longer feel guilty letting my subscriptions run out.
    Thank you for that too.
    Seriously, yours is a post worth reading/viewing over and over.

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  32. Just stopping by to say hi, chickory! I'm late in blogging, and fb, and just about everything! :) Hope all is well. xox Pam

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  33. interesting and informative post. outsider art does look easy to copy and there's bound to be plenty of knockoffs. I fell in love with Georges Groz and wound up copying him plenty. Didn't sell that work but copied to understand.
    $900 entry fee? I've got an MFA and I can't afford half that.

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  34. I just found your blog when searching for the online catalog for the next Slotins auction. I've got a catalog at home but forgot to bring it today and I'm too lazy to bookmark the website.

    Interesting take on Folk Fest. I rather enjoy it but did notice a lot of simularities in styles. Still, we love what Steve's doing and continue to support both Folk Fest and the auctions.

    Trout!!! Is he a black-mouth cur? I've got one at the house that looks almost identical! Her name is Ellie Mae.

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  35. Ken Showed on his web sigh the goat he used for his painting and that it was not Chandlers goat. Chandler has accused severial artist of copying his art which is BS. He is insecure as he has copied others ideas for years. Throw back to the primitive artist?
    Please. He is a schooled artist that couldn`t make it in te real art world

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  36. Steven Chandler
    ISSSSSSSS
    THE REAL ART WORLD!

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  37. Not to get involved in mud slinging (for those of you who know me, I rarely, if ever become involved in such nonsense). But I couldn’t help but be struck by “He is a schooled artist that couldn’t make it in the real art world.”

    What constitutes “real art” my friend? Does folk and/or primitive not hang along side “real art” in galleries and museums? Does society not recognize said work as “art.”

    What does schooling have to do with imagery, vision and the insatiable need to create? Art is the last thing one should try to confine in a labeled box.

    Very Sincerely,

    L. Chandler
    Wife of Red Mud

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. Hey Chicory,
    Be careful showing your work on the net! (ebay, blogs, you tube, whatever)
    I had some small paintings bought from me in 2006 on Ebay where I sometimes auction small work. A year later following a show in Chicago I had with 4 other artist, that got a tiny bit of notoriety, the guy that bought the small paintings, saw this notoriety and posted my very small baseball card sized work on Ebay, one at a time, along with his very bad Knock-Offs. He was using my Red Mud name and the look of my art, even tried to style his Ebay listings after mine. He turned into a out-right stalker who has even tried to contact my 12 year old daughter to say horrible things about her Dad. You can email the CEO of Fine Arts Registry and a few other people/galleries who have been following this to learn more about it, just let me know.

    Also, at the same time the American Ruralist Movement Show was happening in Chicago (a group of 4 artist including myself) another person who has since plagiarized my work and other artist as well (see my Youtube videos about that), well, he decided that he was just going to start calling himself the 5th member of the group and this guy is a founding member of a fairly large Folk Art Festival Group. He proudly stated him being in The American Ruralist Movement on his personal webpage and then tried to deny he was responsible for it.
    The American Ruralist name was created in my living room with Artist Dolan Geiman and it consisted of Harry Underwood and George Zupp as well. We just wanted to have a like-minded show and didn’t fit into some of the larger clicky “commercial -art minded” groups that you see around at these festivals. We had a show in downtown Chicago at the Chicago City Arts Gallery, we just wanted to have a dang show….
    Chicory, just beware of sleezeballs. They troll around the net gleaning real artist ideas, and if they see you paying a power bill with your good fortune, they will pounce. I even saw one at or two at Folkfest who wouldn’t give me air in a jug 5 years ago.
    You met me at Folk Fest, I could have talked about art all night long, my history , art history. I have made art ever since I can walk and have only had 5 years now to show it on the net when I got my first computer in ‘05. But I have photos of me going back to the 1970’s when I was a kid, deaf as a bat, and building large airplane sculptures in my backyard. I have always been an artist even before I could read and write-poor-destitute and just getting by. Very good things have happened to me and my art since getting on the net. I have art all over the world now, with some museum people, great art collectors, galleries, even had Raw Vision Magazine come to the house. But I know a thing or two to watch out for.
    Anyone can email me and I will tell you like it is. By the way, there is a gadget you can put on your blog to see the I.P's of anyone that goes on it, Chicory, let me know if you want it. The above negative comment regarding me has the tell-tale signs of someone I am unfortunately very familiar with
    Thanks again for the great article.

    Steven Chandler,
    The Georgia Red Mud Painter

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  40. OMG Steven Red Mud Painter chandler
    accuses other artist of copying his art.He has done this with many artist. He tried it with some old guy who called him out on it and even challenged him to take a polygrapth test and that is when Chandler ran as he knows what he says is BS. Now him or some friend uses fake IDs on youtube and blogger such as TheArtPolice to mention just one To Post his garbage. Try to post a comment on anyone of them and they will block you if you disagree with him. He claims he is the victim but he is the instiagator

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