Cain Motter is an unconventional artist who uses the nontraditional canvas of credit cards to comment on modern financial institutions.
Born and raised on a commune with a retired vaudevillian showman for a father, Motter excelled at art but knew little about financial responsibility.
He was taught to pay for everything in cash, so when he began college at the University of Central Oklahoma he had much to learn about potential financial pitfalls like chargebacks and account fees.
During his first year of college in 1994, Motter became disenchanted with the banking business after he followed his school’s advice and got a credit card to use in case of emergency. He then received a $50 check from the bank, which he interpreted as a gift of goodwill toward a new customer.
However, he was later charged for the $50 “gift” in addition to cash advance fees. Motter confronted the bank but discovered that the bank’s actions, though morally questionable, were in fact legal.
Thus began Motter’s attraction to credit cards as a canvas to criticize banking policy. He began by making pendants out of old cards, but discovered the possibilities of plastic when he tried burning a Discover on one particularly frustrating evening.
To his surprise, the card did not melt as he intended. Rather, it became rubbery and pliable. After multiple stints in the fire the card was morphed into a devilish face.
Motter used this technique as a foundation and found many other ways to alter credit cards to suit his artistic and ideological tastes. Most of Motter’s cards depict themes of death, war, and economic struggle, which are salient topics now but were met with indifference in the prosperous era of the 1990s when he first began his work.
Today, the foresight Motter gained from his interaction with banks in college seems prophetic of the current credit crisis.
In light of the modern debt crisis, Motter’s work resonates with a larger audience. He makes credit card art both for personal satisfaction as well as a means of making money to pay off a large debt accrued as a result of a family emergency.
Motter does accept credit cards to make custom pieces of art. After reading about chargebacks on the Chargebacks911 website, Motter will only accept cards that have been deactivated. He wants to protect his clients and merchants around the world from chargeback fraud—which could happen if an active card used as art fell into the wrong hands.
Motter currently lives in Venice Beach, California where tourists and locals alike flock to appreciate the irony of his work and share their own debt horror stories.
The actual credit cards he artistically alters are not for sale, though prints of his work do fetch a handsome price. He would prefer to keep all of the pieces together to donate to a museum as an entire collection so that future generations will know the effects of irresponsible financial policy.