PUEBLO, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado man won first place in the state fair’s fine art competition, but it turns out his painting was largely created by a computer and it’s stirring up controversy in the art community. Some say Jason Allen loosely deceived judges and should be stripped of his blue ribbon.
Allen entered a composition of painting into the competition and his piece entitled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” came out on top. The piece was created using artificial intelligence and is being talked about nationwide.
It’s opening a new conversation about “what’s considered art” and if the technology is blurring the lines of creativity and pushing out human artists.
Whether it be sculptures, paintings or photography, art has continued to evolve over time. Now, there is an uproar over whether AI is considered art since it uses computers or machines to create.
“I really wanted to share my imagination with the world,” Allen said. “I felt the need that it be seen in a competitive setting. I set out purposely to make a statement in a competitive setting.”
Allen’s paintings sparked the debate after he entered them into the fair’s “digital category,” which involves “technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” Allen’s piece won first place, but criticism is mounting because he created it using AI.
“I’m getting a lot of hate for this, but I’m okay with that,” Allen expressed. “I’m willing to be the punching bag.”
The artist says he wrote the prompt to create the painting using an AI tool called Midjourney. According to the Washington Post, Midjourney has become one of the most popular AI art generators largely because it allows anyone to freely create new images on command. Using the prompt “/imagine,” a user can type in whatever they want to see, and the AI will return four newly created images in 60 seconds.
Allen says he poured more than 80 hours into the piece and made more than 900 versions of it until it was perfect. But, his blue ribbon and $300 cash prize doesn’t sit well with some in the art community who say it is not art.
“This art was put together by a human being. I am the author of the work,” Allen said. “AI is a tool just like a paintbrush is a tool. I was involved. This wouldn’t exist without me. Why are you trying to discredit the person behind the technology?”
The debate over AI has gone viral on Twitter with over 100,000 interactions. Some say the human experience and creativity are stripped with AI and the technology is the demise of artistry, but others like Allen say it’s a new era of art.
“Rather than shooting the messenger or hating the new technology, I think we need to recognize we’re in a new state,” Allen said.
General Manager of the Colorado State Fair Scott Stroller said they’ve been flooded with emails about the controversy and welcome the debate.
“We’re loving this debate because the state fair has been around for 150 years. I can tell you 150 years ago we didn’t have a digital art competition and I bet that was controversial and here we are having a debate about AI,” Stroller said. “We did kind of a shallow dive and on the surface, it doesn’t look like there’s any violation.”
Stroller added the board will decide if a special AI category will be created for future competitions. He goes on to say if anyone thinks the rules were violated, they can file a formal grievance and a thorough investigation will take place. However, officials confirm no formal grievance has been filed.