Greedy Mouse show featured on cover of News-Press Gulf Coasting
Greedy Mouse Group Show featured in News-Press
Howl Gallery takes on Mickey Mouse
Story by Charles Runnells
Mickey the stoner. Mickey the black-faced minstrel. Mickey the acid-dripping space alien.
A new Howl Gallery exhibit shows the iconic mouse like you’ve never seen him before.
This isn’t Steamboat Willie. And it’s safe to say: Disney did NOT approve this message.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says renowned rock and tattoo artist Derek Hess. “I can make Mickey Mouse do something that Disney would NEVER let Mickey Mouse do.”
Local and nationally known artists have put Mickey Mouse in all sorts of surprising and sometimes compromising positions.
Tucson painter James Peterson portrays a psychedelic “Rainbow Mickey” with a glowing magic wand in one hand and a dripping ice-cream-cone tower in the other.
Local artist “Mr. Revrac” sculpts Mickey as a feral rat zombie, eyes bugging and tongue lolling.
Fort Lauderdale’s Todd Nolan puts Mickey at the center of the “Minstrel Mouse Club” and plays up ancient black stereotypes, with Goofy playing the banjo and Minnie munching a watermelon.
And Cape Coral artist Stephen Hayford uses action figures to show Mickey as a Jedi knight brandishing a light saber atop a mountain of storm trooper corpses.
“It’s cool seeing the artists’ take on the character,” says exhibit co-curator Andy Howl. “They’ve juxtaposed it with other things that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Mickey Mouse.”
For Hess’ contribution, the Cleveland artist drew Mickey in his signature dark-and-moody style – complete with some of his own blood mixed into the ink. The scrawled mixed-media piece shows a hunched, skeletal Mickey with cadaver-exposed ribs and arms dissolving into what resemble slices of blood-red tomatoes.
Hess calls the piece “Leptospirosis.”
“It’s a disease you get from mice!” he says and laughs.
Meanwhile, Lake Worth artist Michael “Pooch” Pucciarelli pays homage to one of his biggest artistic influences: Macabre Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger and his painting “Necronom IV,” the inspiration for the monster in the sci-fi/horror movie “Alien.”
The idea started with a play on words, Pucciarelli says. He titled the painting “Bio-Mick-Chanic.”
Pucciarelli uses Giger’s famous mix of mechanical and biological elements, including machine-like tubes projecting from Mickey’s eyes and a menacing, phallic prosthesis.
“I added the alien ‘tongue’ (from the movie monster),” he says. “That wasn’t in the original painting.”
Puciarelli means no disrespect to The Mouse. He’s actually a big fan of Disney World and estimates he’s visited the theme park more than 50 times.
“I love Mickey Mouse,” he says. “I love all that old animation tied to Walt Disney, that cartoon style.”
People adore Mickey, Howl says. But they also fear him a bit – especially since he’s the public face of a mega-corporation with tendrils in music, movies, TV and most other media.
That’s what attracted Howl to the exhibit in the first place.
“There’s that mix of distrust and love,” he says. “Mickey is just so iconic and such a well-designed character. Most people respect it.
“But he also represents Disney. And there’s a lot of anti-Disney sentiment out there.
“Subconsciously, he (Mickey) represents what a lot of people are afraid of, that kind of intrusiveness. There’s a Big Brother aspect to it. There’s the feeling that, once a corporation gets too big, how can we trust it anymore?”
Even so, Howl says the “Greedy Mouse” exhibit isn’t meant as an all-out attack on Mickey Mouse and the powerful Disney empire. It’s simply a parody of an icon that’s become synonymous with Florida.
Howl says he isn’t too worried about getting sued by the very litigious Disney – but he admits it’s still in the back of his mind. He could get a cease-and-desist letter any day now.
Still, Mickey is fair game and Howl insists he has every legal right to put the rodent under an artist’s microscope.
“We’re doing this completely as a parody,” he says, “and that’s protected by the Constitution. It’s the same reason why Mad Magazine can exist.”
Hess says he’s impressed that Howl decided to take aim at Disney with “Greedy Mouse.” That takes guts.
“I’ve told people about the show, and they’ve said, “Yeah, right, like that’s going to happen,’” the artist says and laughs. “Everybody thinks Disney would shut it down.”
And if Disney sues?
All the better, he says.
“It’d be great even if Disney did shut it down,” Hess says. “Can you imagine how much press he’d get out of that?”