A painting by Robin Harris displayed at the local public library has caused a stir in the small town of Trumbull, Connecticut.
The painting in question, part of The Great Minds Collection commissioned by local residents Jane and Dick Resnick, features several well-known women. But what seemed to offend several community members was the appearance of Mother Teresa alongside feminist icons like Gloria Steinem and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
The painting was ordered taken down by a city government official, First Selectman Tim Herbst. But even though the complaints the library received concered seeing the famous Catholic nun alongside Sanger, Herbst claimed that the town received a formal letter contending that the painting infringes copyright in using Mother Teresa's image. Library Director Susan Horton told the Trumbull Times that there was "no proof that the copyright is valid," and that members of the library board disagreed with the decision to remove the painting. But it was removed nonetheless.
The copyright claim appears to be ridiculous on its face, and also defies common sense: If including the image of a public figure in a painting were a copyright violation, it would be impossible to create a critical image of a politician, or even an admiring portrait of a historical figure like Mother Teresa.
So what now? Herbst says he is waiting for an agreement indemnifying the town from possible claims and any potential liability if any of the items in the collection are damaged. "As soon as I get an agreement, which is standard operating procedure for other town buildings, it goes back up," he told the Connecticut Post.
In the meantime the work has been removed. It has effectively been censored.
UPDATE: The Connecticut Post reported on March 6 that the painting is back up at the library. But it's not clear the the controversy is over. Town lawyer Robert Nicola is apparently advising the town to take down all of the paintings in the collection, pending some kind of arrangement between the town and Richard Resnick, the owner of the paintings.
The painting was vandalised on March 11th, during a Library Board of Trustees meeting. The owner of the painting, Richard Resnick, decided not to press charges for the damage; "I am sorry for the person who felt so compelled and will not press charges for property destruction. I believe that those who object have misunderstood the important message that the painting represents."