Southern Circuit Film Series: A review of “Art and Craft”


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“What’s it take to catch a fake?” asks the film “Art and Craft,” directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman. But the film centers itself on asking its subject, the (in)famous art forger Mark Landis, the question everyone asks themselves at some point—“Why do you do what you do?”

Landis recreates small, but notable artworks using “arts and crafts” materials from Hobby Lobby, and then donates these works to museums all across the U.S. Landis notes his impulse to be a “philanthropist” began in the mid 1980s and has continued for decades.

“Art and Craft,” the first Southern Circuit film of the semester, documents three years of Landis’s “philanthropy missions” of donating his art forgeries, as well as his background and his struggle with the ever-persistent Matthew Leininger, former Chief Registrar of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the one who brought Landis’s philanthropy missions to an end by exposing him to the art world and to the public.

The film itself cycled through multiple interviewees, but mainly focused on Landis, Leininger, and Aaron Cowan, the director of DAAP Galleries who asked Landis over phone many of the questions that carried the film along in its story. Cowan would eventually help Leininger with the exhibit featuring many of Landis’s work called “FauxReal: A Forger’s Story.”

While  “Art and Craft” explores the drama of being an exposed art forger with nearly thirty years of forgeries documented, it also shows a careful and tender approach to some of the darker outcomes of one’s actions and motivations.

In the discussion following the film, Grausman discussed how the film began after she and Cullman read an article on Landis. Landis soon cut in with his own version of how the film began, speaking in a soft, slightly shaking voice: “I got into trouble, and was wondering what to do now when this glamorous young filmmaker came and said, ‘Here’s your life!’”

The scoring for the film was done by Stephen Ulrich, a jazz guitarist who used Landis’s love for ‘40s Big Band music and older television shows and movies in conjunction with ‘20s and ‘30s jazz to make the scoring flow with the actions and characters of the film.

Landis, even before the film began when students were arriving to take their seats, expressed a deep thankfulness for the support. He greeted everyone he could by saying, “Thanks for coming!” in his quiet but cheerful voice. While Landis does not continue to donate forged artworks to museums, he does have a website,, where he takes commissions from people who send in their photographs to be recreated by him.

Art and Craft won a Top Five Documentaries award from the USA National Board of Review in 2014 and an Unforgettables award from Cinema Eye Honors in 2015. The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture in the documentary category at the Satellite Awards in 2014 and was shown at PC through the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. The next Southern Circuit film to be shown at PC is “Embers” on March 17, which focuses on a future world where memory itself is lost.