What is Captivity Return?

Captivity Return is a comeback show based on my original Captivity exhibit, which became a media controversy during the 2012 ArtPrize competition.

Captivity was to appear at the B.O.B. in Grand Rapids, but the venue owner, Greg Gilmore, took down the show and threw my art in the trash. Controversy flew out of control when the media interviewed me and Greg Gilmore, back and forth, to fuel the debate. Of course, it’s tough to win against the rich and powerful, but I thank all my supporters who stood by my side. 

The rich and powerful had the media in their pocket, and the money to buy it all. Though I felt defeated, I still wanted to fight back, so in protest I burnt the entire Captivity exhibit. I did this to be at spiritual peace with myself, or perhaps I was captive to finding closure to six months of hard work and an investment of $100,000 to put up a show that never took place.
Right after I burned Captivity, my creative spirit gave birth to a new idea—Captivity Return—my greatest idea ever. I would redo the show, but it would be one painting that included all of Captivity’s 19 ideas. This would be the most seen, most printed, most exhibited painting ever; it would be the most shared, most famous, and most viral painting on social media, representing the artist’s freedom of expression. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t paint it then as I had no funds with which to accomplish my great vision. But I am ready now, and in fact, Captivity Return is nearly completed.  

What is the Captivity Return painting about?

Captivity Return is a single large-scale painting embedded with a code to a treasure worth 1 million dollars. The original painting will be housed in a gallery or museum, available for the public to see. 
Of course, not everyone can visit the original in the museum, but a print of the original will be available to see. And the print—as well as detailed information about the treasure, the painting’s history, and the painting’s contents—will be found in my latest book, My Experiments with Art: An Artist’s Memoir.
Why I decided to do Captivity Return 
Freedom in art!
Without the freedom to create, my soul would freeze, my imagination would come to a halt, and I would feel as if I didn’t exist. I would feel like a machine that takes instruction from others to produce in mass quantities that which already exists. If I don’t have freedom, I’m not going to invent or discover new ways of doing things, and I’m not going to have any impact on the arts and culture, on the economy, on our health and wellbeing, or on our society and education.

And if that’s the case, I might as well surrender and not ask for artistic freedom. But fortunately, I will always seek and find artistic freedom, one way or another.

ArtPrize is supposedly an art contest in Grand Rapids where “everything goes.” This sounds like complete freedom, yet in my experience, it isn’t true. They banned me for bringing an educational show to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Apparently, they didn’t want my art show Captivity displayed in the contest. Otherwise, the organizers would have intervened to resolved the issue between me and Greg Gilmore, but instead they had another plan cooking in their heads—to ban me. 

I had no choice then but to accept the situation. Now, you and I—meaning we—will turn something negative into a positive. We will make Captivity Return a fun-filled event and keep artistic freedom intact.