All the Marbles Remember (2001), Oil & Acrylic/Canvas; 16 x 16 inches

This painting was accepted then censored from the National Northern Juried Art Competition, 2005, Rhinelander, WI.

Read a short article I wrote about this and the other times my art has been censored in "Art Revolutionaries", an online journal of the arts.


July 22, 2005

Email to Katherine Ralph, Nicolet College Gallery Director and exhibition liaison

Dear Ms. Ralph,

On Thursday I received calls from an official from Nicolet College and also from Dori Brown of the Northern Arts Council informing me that an 'expert' reviewing works for the Northern National Art competition felt a painting submitted and accepted by myself seemed to contain an image of Mickey Mouse.

Terrified and alarmed, this person advocated removing my painting from the competition, in case The Walt Disney Company might see this image and sue the exhibition and Nicolet College. Despite the fact that the piece was agreed not to be for sale, the work was not being reproduced and was to be exhibited in an entirely not for profit institutional environment, the Northern Arts Council caved into vague fears of retaliation by the Walt Disney Company and removed my work from the exhibition.

The train of events in cases of possible copyright infringement do not lead to lawsuits, but instead begin, if they even register on the radar screen of any copyright holder, with a cease and desist letter. Only if the actions persist do threats potentially increase, with an eventual possibility of the beginnings of some (very expensive) legal action on the part of the complainer.

Would The Walt Disney Company have even seen this painting, spirited away in the middle of Wisconsin for a month? Would they have cared if they had seen it? Would they have acted, had they cared? Would a cease and desist letter, in the unlikely event they acted be ignored? Would The Walt Disney Company even if a cease and desist letter was ignored sue Nicolet College and the Northern Arts Council?

Each step in the above paragraph is unlikely in the extreme and each succeeding step becomes less likely than the one before. The likelihood of Nicolet College or the Northern Arts Council being sued for infringement is nil. Yet the mere possibility of contemplating such a ridiculously petty and unlikely lawsuit has led these groups to ban this terrible painting from participation in the competition to which it had already won acceptance.

Corporations such as the Walt Disney Company have infected the lives of everyone on the planet and this now includes independent artistic venues who tremble and cringe at the conceptual terrorism waged by huge, faceless, overbearing, ruthless companies such as Disney. They are your masters.

That the image in question, one of the most commonly seen and recognized icons in the world, cannot be treated and examined in a serious artistic way without surrogates of the surrogates of the company quaking in their boots is ironic considering the tasteless, nearly contentless social qualities and values of the image of Mickey Mouse itself.

We can be inundated with the idiotic outpourings of a company whose copyrights, unlike those of real human beings, never dies and never becomes part of the common freehold. We can have our children's brains turned to mush by the right wing anti-educational nature of bad cartoons, but we cannot investigate these images in independent works of art without the terror of a 99.99% unlikelihood of litigation banning and censoring them. I trust you and everyone involved are very proud of this action.

You may post a printout of this email in the space where my painting should have been. Since this is "about" the painting which is "about" the image of Mickey Mouse, I trust there can be no further fears of reprisals by The Walt Disney Company by you exhibiting our correspondence "about" this censorship.

-- John Sheridan


[For an informative thesis on the corporate guarding of and the artistic appropriation of the image of Mickey Mouse, by Holly Crawford, visit this link: Picasso Seizes Donald Duck, Introduction.]