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Tamarack: Fayette artist's work too similar to Belarusian painter's

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fayette County artist Winter Dawn Marie used blots of dark blue, orange and yellow paint to depict a fluid tropical sunset at night.

When she entered her impressionist painting into the 2012 Best of West Virginia Exhibit, Tamarack officials liked it so much that they made it into a promotional poster for the gallery.

So, Tamarack officials said they were shocked when they discovered Marie's piece was very similar to Belarus-born artist Leonid Afremov's "Tropical Fiesta."

Afremov painted "Tropical Fiesta" in December 2008. It depicts a row of palm trees and streetlamps in Boca Raton, Fla.

Officials said they thought it could have been a coincidence until they realized about 20 of Marie's other pieces also are similar to Afremov works.

One of those pieces had been sold at Tamarack since the exhibition's opening on June 17, said Cindy Whitlock, marketing director. That customer will receive a full refund, she said.

All promotional material featuring Marie's work has been destroyed. Any mention of her work was wiped from the Tamarack website and Facebook profile.

"She was pulled from everything," Whitlock said. "There's nothing of hers from anywhere in the building displayed anywhere."

Cheryl Hartley, Tamarack general manager, would not say how many of the promotional posters were printed when asked Thursday. She was notified of the problem last week and needed time to sit down with Marie to discuss the allegations, she said.

"We haven't talked with the artist about this yet," Harley said. "It's really premature for us to say anything."

Whitlock said by Friday, though, that Marie had been notified that her work had been removed.

Marie was one of 34 artists selected in April to join Tamarack's artisan residency. It's unclear if Marie's residency will remain.

Phone calls to Marie's Fayetteville studio and emails were not returned Friday.

According to Marie's website, she received a master of fine arts degree in art history and studio arts, but does not name the institution. She interned at the Chicago Art Institute in art restoration and was mentored by Ansel Adams, Marc Chagall, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein, she writes on her website.

Afremov said by email Friday that his work is often plagiarized and that he's given up trying to stop those who copy him.

"I tried suing a few, but it's too much effort and I cannot get everyone," Afremov said. "After all, none of them was able to copy my work well. I would personally shake the hand of the artist who can copy my painting so identical that I cannot even see the difference myself."

Sometimes, students will ask Afremov by Facebook or by his website to copy his work for educational purposes. He gives them permission only if they give him credit, he said.

Marie did not ask for permission, he said. Her piece appears to be a fragment copied from his larger "Tropical Fiesta" scene.

Afremov was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, and lived in Israel and Florida. He currently lives in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Whitlock said the situation has been dealt with.Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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