SANTA FE, N.M. — A whole lot of people think Anne Taintor, an artist who lived in northern New Mexico for more than a decade, is seriously funny.
The Harvard grad in visual and environmental studies uses vintage found images, often from what appear to be 1950s magazine ads, and superimposes edgy captions to poke fun at stereotypes. The products include refrigerator magnets, notecards, calendars, bags, scarves, books, cups and more.
“You’re never too old … to try something stupid,” says one.
“I dreamed my whole house was clean,” says another.
“I love not camping,” reads one of a woman lying back on a pillow in bed – a woman profiled on Taintor’s website as a “Taintorette” whose photo became a classic Anne Taintor image.
But Veronica Vigil, a Santa Fe County resident, is in no laughing mood.
She claims in a lawsuit now in federal court in Albuquerque that Taintor, her company and Doodlet’s, the iconic Santa Fe store that is one of Taintor’s licensed retailers, have invaded her privacy, defamed her and violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, among other alleged harms.
Sometime before 2010, the lawsuit alleges, Taintor obtained Vigil’s high school graduation photo and used it without permission.
According to the lawsuit, the photo was altered but retained “the undeniable likeness of plaintiff,” along with the “derogatory statement that she was ‘going to be the most popular girl in rehab.’ ”
To Vigil, that implies that she has a problem with drugs or alcohol when in fact Vigil says she doesn’t drink or use drugs and is an active member of her church.
“Given the seriousness of the issues of substance abuse in the community in which (Vigil) resides, she has held herself out by reputation for her children and her community to refrain from abuse or even use of alcohol and illicit drugs,” the lawsuit says.
The problem is not one that should be taken lightly, the suit says.
In an affidavit attached as an exhibit, Taintor says she did not personally sell to Doodlet’s any product with Vigil’s graduation photo and the offending phrase. In a separate affidavit, a Doodlet’s owner says a search of its records found no product bearing Vigil’s image has been sold by the store since it began selling Taintor items.
Taintor Inc. has sold thousands of products with the allegedly derogatory image, Vigil claims, and has profited substantially from the “unauthorized and defamatory use” of Vigil’s image.
Vigil contends the image was “willfully misappropriated … for financial gain” and that the consuming public has been enticed into purchasing degrading materials.
It asks a court to find Taintor intentionally harmed Vigil by failing to seek authorization to use her image, held her up to the public in a false light and violated her right to privacy and seeks compensatory and punitive damages in a jury trial.
According to Taintor’s website, Taintor lived in Rio Arriba County for a dozen years until 2011, when she and her husband relocated to Maine.