Please note: This short article is released as an archive copy native Philadelphia City Paper. My City paper is no affiliated through Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City record was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The critical edition was published on October 8, 2015.

You are watching: Can you draw on money and still use it


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get MONEY: If kris Estlow were to sell his drawings on U.S. Paper currency, it would certainly be breaking the law. In ~ least, technically.

Imagine the money of a country ruled by heavy metal: The normal dull greens and grays of document bills exploding through vivid colors, heads of state transformed right into decaying zombies and demon skeletons. That’s what kris Estlow’s job-related looks like, drawn and painted on paper bills through Micron pens and also brushes. One hitch: drawing on (or defacing, as the regulation puts it) currency is technically illegal, follow to location 18, section 333 the the United says Code:

“Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or hold together or cements together, or does any type of other point to any kind of bank bill, draft, note, or other proof of debt issued by any kind of national banking association, or commonwealth Reserve bank, or the federal Reserve System, v intent come render such bank bill, draft, note, or other proof of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not much more than six months, or both.” 

The law as it involves currency mutilation is actually more stringent about coins, which are much more expensive come make; the parts involving file currency are mostly invoked in the cases of someone changing a $1 bill to look choose a $20, not someone altering President Lincoln come look choose a zombie. Still, the powers the be don’t specifically smile ~ above it.

“U.S. Currency is published at the expense of the government and is a type of government property,” says Patricia Hartman the the U.S. District Attorney’s office. “Currency destroyed method that much more currency has to be produced the public to usage — also at the public’s expense.”

The bulk of the money Estlow draws on is American bills, however he periodically gets weird denominations or global currencies indigenous his friends and the patrons in ~ the Old City bar whereby he works. On one two dollar bill, thomas Jefferson has been very closely transformed into a blood-dripping, skull-faced native American wielding a tomahawk with tepees in the background and also fiery lava flowing the end of them. On a five-pound keep in mind from good Britain, Queen Elizabeth II has been altered into a skeletal, scaled creature through yellowed demon eyes, a contempt gaudier crown on she head and, to her left, a mini-demon Elizabeth, sans crown.

“American money is boring, foreign money looks cooler and an ext interesting. The most exciting one to be the Indian rupees, since Gandhi currently looks favor a skeleton. However foreign money is more challenging than American dollars because they’re not what we’re offered to seeing.

“I yes, really started drawing them in ~ work since I to be bored,” says Estlow. He placed his very first one increase on his fridge four years ago; in the room of one year, he produced 127 more. Estlow’s aim now is to offer his art, through his first solo exhibition opened this Friday at Fishtown’s black Vulture Gallery. However, there was a little of a difficulty with that.

“Manufacturing counterfeit united States money or altering genuine money to boost its value is a violation of title 18, section 471 the the United states Code and is punishable through a well of approximately $5,000, or 15 year imprisonment, or both,” follow to the U.S. Room of Treasury. The language is obviously expected to be used versus counterfeiters, however catch that “altering genuine currency to boost its value” part? painting demons on a dissension bill and selling it for $20 is just as much rise in value as trying to tamper v a $1 for this reason it can be pass off together a $20. If Estlow were to offer the receipt he paint, etc on for much more than their face value, he’d technically be breaking the regulation — though Hartman says it’s unlikely that anyone would prosecute on it. She can’t recall any comparable cases having been brought before the U.S. Attorney in this district, and in fact sounds a small confused regarding why she is being asked such ridiculous questions. 

Still, Estlow desires no trouble through the law, for this reason he’s discovered a work-around: the holds on to his money. 

“The originals room enlarged to various sizes and also then digitally printed, signed and also serially numbered (50 in a series). Us are reflecting digital images of international money of exaggeration sizes. We space not mirroring or offering defaced actual an international currency,” claims Pattie Meyer, Estlow’s manager.

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“If the federal government came looking for me, i would just tell them that I had actually Photoshopped it all,” shrugs Estlow. But even though his artwork has a hints of questionable legality, he claims that the creative escape he gets from art actually keeps him out of far more trouble than it might ever get him into: “If i didn’t have art, I would be in jail through now.”

Dirty Money series, v September, opened Sept. 6, 6 p.m., black Vulture, 208 E. Girard Ave., 215-423-3666, blackvulturegallery.com.