His real name is Mark Augustus Landis, and he has spent years on what the Financial Times calls "the longest, strangest forgery spree the American art world has ever known."
The story, by John Gapper, is absolutely fascinating. Briefly, Landis is the well-educated son of a Navy officer, who wants to honor his parents by making donations in their name. He doesn't have the money to buy and then donate genuine works of art, so he fakes them instead. It seems likely that he suffers from some sort of impairment, whether psychological (schizophrenia, BPD) or neurological (Asperger's). And, obviously, he's got nimble fingers and a good eye.
The museum people, and the FBI, are angry about him, and would like him to stop. He's wasting their time and such money as they may choose to lavish on him, after all. The problem, from their perspective, is that the legal definition of fraud seems to require that he try to sell them something, which he doesn't.
We at the Egg feel that the curators and Special Agents are missing the point. Landis is an artist, and of the most exciting kind -- an outsider in the purest sense, a monomaniac possessed by a vision which he will spend his life trying to make real, and from which he cannot possibly be dissuaded. His medium isn't painting, exactly, so much as the place where painting and performance come together. Or memory and imagination, if you like. Even hope and ambition. That his vision has a classical Trickster element to it hardly separates him from other artists -- does anybody remember J. S. Boggs?
Frankly, we'd like to own a few pieces of Landis-art. And if we were a museum curator, and he offered us some, we would take it in a heartbeat, and buy or borrow as much more as we could get from our colleagues elsewhere. Then we'd mount an exhibition, publish a book, and make a name for ourselves. And for Landis. And for his parents. And for Father Scott.
As for our favorite fake priest, well, we'll get to him next.