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Law meets art in award-winning local video

Before today, I had never heard of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi nor his fantastic facial hair. It turns out in 1923 he made a bronze scuplture, “Bird in Space,” that he shipped to the United States in 1927. Customs officials levied a $4,000 tax on it upon arrival because it was, in their view, a hunk of metal. Brancusi said it was art, which was not taxed at all. He took his case to court and won in 1928, his money refunded.

I learned all this thanks to the winner of video contest sponsored by Maryland Lawyers for the Arts in honor of the organization’s 25th birthday.

The three local filmmakers–David Sloan, Thea Canlas and Matthew Hickey–swept the $500 grand prize and $250 audience award. You can see the video below – its title, “Left-Brained People Helping Right-Brained People,” is a riff on MLA’s motto. The short also alludes to other, famous artistic legal battles, including the fair use case of Rogers v. Koons.

“We were initially a little worried that our idea would incite the wrath of two groups that tend to take themselves very seriously—artists and lawyers—but it is that very seriousness that makes the piece work as a parody,” Sloan said, according to a press release from MLA.