Art and Craft

Art and Craft follows the story of one Mark Landis, a prolific art forger diagnosed as schizophrenic at age 17 while grieving the death of his father. Thinking to please his mother with a gesture in honor of his father, Landis produced a copy of a work by Maynard Dixon and donated it to a California museum. When the museum accepted it as authentic, Landis became obsessed with repeating the feat. Over the next thirty years, he donated hundreds of his copies to small museums and churches around the country, assuming various personas as eccentric philanthropist and Jesuit priest, and holding out the promise of further donations, to convince people of their authenticity.

In 2007, Matthew Leininger, then the registrar for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, cottoned on to Landis and began his own private investigation. Though he was exposed in 2010, Landis has never gone to jail for any of this, as he hasn’t taken any money for his copies and hasn’t technically broken any laws. Leininger and others have tried to steer Landis away from his deceptive practices by arranging for a gallery exhibition of his work in 2012.

The documentary shows that Landis lives independently, with occasional visits from a social worker, in a small apartment cluttered with belongings and art supplies. In the past, his original works have been made available through NARSAD Artworks (National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression), but at the time of this writing only a set of notecards entitled Magnolias is available for sale. (It copies artist Martin Johnson Heade without credit.)

Magnolias note cards, by Mark Landis.

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