UPDATE: The exhibit in question was picked up by 2 venues. Liberty and Justice: The Satirical Art of Salley Mavor was at the New England Quilt Museum (Fall of 2018) and  Cotuit Center for the Arts, (Spring of 2019). A portion of the exhibit is included in The Art of Cute at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, ME (May 1 – Aug. 31, 2019)


What do you do when your art is censored? Do you jump up and down and make a stink or do you take a deep breath and think about what it means? I’ve been doing mostly the latter for the past week, but I’m ready for reasoned action now. My solo exhibit, Liberty and Justice: New Artwork by Salley Mavor, which was to open this weekend at a nonprofit cultural center was cut to the point where there weren’t enough pieces left to warrant a display. So, I was forced to withdraw the remaining pieces from the whole exhibit, 10 days before the opening, after a year of coordinated planning. The organization is not named here because I do not want to discourage people from seeing the other engaging exhibits they will present. And I do not want to cast the staff and volunteers in any sort of a negative light.  They are wonderful to work with and were not involved in the discussions about my show. Also, the issue isn’t just about this one venue. It’s about the culture of fear that is growing, creating an atmosphere where questioning and dissent are silenced.

Flat Earth Society

You may ask, how did this happen? Economic concerns, basically. The members of the venue’s board of trustees were afraid that because this show is controversial and asks the viewer to ponder our current political climate, some donors might be offended and donations could fall off. The overall opinion was that my show should be emptied of political content, with no dolls who are recognizable as Trump or Pence, etc. The idea was to remove the polarizing figures so that everything will be fine and no one will be upset. They didn’t want anything political, so it meant no film and satirical cartoons from the Wee Folk Players. No Trump in a Tudor style outfit as President of the Flat Earth Society and no Pence dancing with a trans person dressed in fishnets and high heels. I think that most board members were unaware that their no tolerance position on any political content would result in the show’s cancellation and create an absence that would have to be explained to the visitors who show up to see my work.

My exhibit was to demonstrate how a contemporary artist uses fiber art techniques to make a statement about today’s world. The new direction of my work leaves behind the cute idyllic and safe fairy world and jumps head on into political territory. The dolls are a metaphor for playing house in a controlled environment, one that has been taken over by outside political forces. For me, the work is about stepping away from a safe, sheltered existence and into a very real reality, one where there is possibility for action toward making a difference in the world. You could call this new direction “sweet resistance art”, since it delivers a strong message in a pretty package, one that is not in your face, even though it does have a tough meaning. My new work has been described as witty, ironic, sophisticated and adorable but chilling. It is a thoughtful critique of the current administration in Washington, with every detail chosen for a reason, and all based on actual things said or done. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view, although many find my artwork refreshing and full of comic relief. To remove the political part would be like taking the stuffing out of the dolls, leaving limp characters of very little consequence and nothing important to say.

My husband Rob and I have talked about this a lot and have declared this show a success! These little dolls are powerful – they’ve conjured feelings and sparked discussion about art’s place in the world. Unfortunately, they are being silenced, but that is also part of the reaction and the reality of our society today.  People are fearful and I understand that, but somehow I am not afraid. Sure, I get nervous every time I put out something political, but I feel like I’m learning about what it means to be an artist through and through. Not for a moment do I think that what I’ve created is not valid or meaningful. People have come to expect a certain kind of expression from me, of sweetness and childhood wonder. They’re surprised to find that I can also make art that is strong, funny and dark. It’s so odd to think that I make cute dolls that instill enough fear in people to get them seriously worried. What a crazy time, in a beautiful world!

So, what am I going to do about the situation? This experience makes it clear that my new political art may be threatening to the powers that be, but it communicates something important about the time we are living in and needs to be seen by a lot more people. Friends are helping find other venues for the exhibit, but until then, I am asking for your help spreading this work around the world. There are several ways of doing this:
Share this blog post.
Share this Facebook photo album or this blog page with scenes from the Wee Folk Players (They’re a Stitch).
Share our animated short film Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, which is now on YouTube here.
Please let people know that this work was pulled due to its content, and comment on your beliefs about censorship in the arts. Let your voice be heard, too!

This is but the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of my artistic journey.  As always, thank you for following along. To see posts with individual Wee Folk Players cartoons, plus commentary please visit this page.

81 thoughts on “Censored

  1. Salley, this is so well thought out and well said. I had two fiber art pieces that were censored recently and could not be part of a political group of fiber art. I was angry at first, but then came to feel as you do, that what I had to say as an artist must be important enough to make people uncomfortable.
    I hope you find another venue to show your work. An art gallery that doesn’t veer away from controversy, perhaps. Good luck and I’ll be sharing this blog post on my FB biz page along with my two censored pieces.

  2. I think that stinks! Artists always make statements. This place isn’t representing a lot of them by leaving out political statements for fear of offending someone. You have a valid opinion and it should have been seen in whole! Their kind of thinking is what let’s in the crumbling of democracy! I LOVE your work and A Cautionary Tale is even more important now!! Hugs!

  3. I’m sorry this happened to you and your work. It makes a very sad commentary on the world we live in. Please do not become discouraged or give up. You are part of the voices we desperately need right now!

  4. Salley, So sorry I won’t be able to help you celebrate the scheduled opening of this exhibit on Sunday. Thank you for shedding some light on why the show was cancelled. Hopefully another venue will open up to the validity of addressing these issues in art and allow us all to see your new work.

  5. sorry to hear this and quite surprised …perhaps I should not be , but this culture of fear is more pervasive and debilitating to our freedoms than I thought ..it takes voices like yours to show us all just how far we have fallen

  6. Seriously, censorship is alive and well in the age of Trump. Scary! Sorry to hear this has happened to you. 😕 I love your vignettes.

  7. Hello Salley,

    This makes me sad. I enjoy your work so very much. You are incredibly talented, and it saddens me that you cannot show work that is in response to these current issues. It does seem to be part of a bigger picture of what is wrong in our country. I am sorry for all of us that the venue was not able to let the exhibit stand as it was created. I wanted to share a picture of a quilt that I made from an image from the Women’s March…this was where I put my creative energy following the inauguration of current president.

    Politics, censorship and controversy aside….I have been sewing, quilting, doing all sorts of needlework for almost my entire life, and your work is the most incredible and fascinating and creative that I have ever seen. I study every instagram picture, email, and I love your books. I took some friends to see your exhibit in Falmouth last summer. They are not quilters but they all enjoyed and appreciated the exhibit very much.

    Thank you for what you are doing with your art. May it be shown and enjoyed and appreciated and understood.


    Laurie LaConte Chatham/Boston

  8. Hi Salley,
    I’ve been enjoying your creativity and your voice on your blog for some time. I’m sorry this happened, but I think you’ve handled it quite gracefully! I’m sure people are coming out of the woodwork (or closets) to show your work, but I’m writing to say it would be welcome in my gallery, Long River Gallery in White River Junction VT. Email me if interested.

  9. I am sorry for this. I respect your words, and your choice to not mention the Center. I have no problem with that however and have already told (and shared on my FB page) some friends who were planning to go with me to see the exhibit while we were at a reunion in the area. Censorship is not okay.

  10. I am so very sorry to find that your wonderful work will be missing this weekend. I was bringing friends to see and be amazed at it. We will miss it but will not miss an opportunity to spread the word.
    Keep up the fantastic and timely work!

  11. Done, posted!

    Thank you for not making your art more “palatable”. Honestly, they are playing right into your clever hands. Well done! I admire you and your talent and vision very much.

  12. Isn’t this the very reason why you’ve chosen to speak through your art? To prove the point and this action is unfortunately not unexpected in these day of fear. Fear can, and must, be dispelled only by the truth being put out there. I applaud you Salley!

  13. We look on in amazement, from across the “pond”, at the paranoia that resides in Washington. We have our own problems over here but censoring art ……. well, it shows a level of “scared” beyond belief. I love your work Salley and your explanation is very level headed. Well done – you’re amazing.

  14. Thank you sharing your story. I think you should sent this blog  and pictures to Steven Colbert. Seriously. I will send a copy of the email. Two years ago, I included a satirical piece called Trumped!  It was a woven piece and the person who bought it thought it was a tribute. Whew— I had a hard time with that one. My whole intention was subverted. Art does make a difference: think of how your work struck fear into people’s minds. Those wee folk are powerful! Best of luck, Salley.  Ellen Finan

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  15. Keep fighting the good fight, Salley and Robb! What you have done already is amazing! Something even better will come along! 💜💕💜

  16. This is shocking Salley. How can this be in a DEMOCRACY!! You are just showing dolls.You’re not burning the flag or rioting, or publishing defamatory papers…….I am a bit lost for words Salley. So much to think about!

  17. When I studied Fine Arts in the 70’s and 80’s, we were taught in the 4 different Universities/courses I attended, that ART IS FIRST AND FOREMOST COMMUNICATION, – A NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION OF AN ARTISTS BELIEFS, THOUGHTS & EMOTIONS.
    That communication alone that invoked an emotion from the viewer, was all that was required to create a successful piece of Art, in those days most of us did many pieces on “SOCIAL COMMENTARY” the state of play in the world from our perspective, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID SALLEY, which is exactly what all successful Artists in History have done. . This work is critical, a crucial reminder for the future, how dangerous one person can be for freedom of speech and democracy, and how careful we should consider the power of our vote. America has become enveloped in fear, and even from Australia it is palpable – I believe your movie should be entered into alternative film awards, they particularly favour Social Commentary on issues.

    Do not allow small minded individuals to detract from your life work – your calling, this is too important.
    I will be sharing the heck out of this movie and imagery, and beautiful work by the way – as always Salley.

  18. I am appalled. I was so looking forward to seeing your work gain this weekend as were friends who are coming to see my quilts, especially after newly learning of your fabulous work, and your movie. We’ve never met, but I can not let this lie. With your permission I would like to forward this to saqa members, and other interested friends. I am completely disheartened with the atmosphere in this country, and the pervasive fear that is creeping over our nation. I’ve stopped thinking it can’t get worse when every day brings a new horror. If it wasn’t the staff or volunteers I assume it was their board. Again with your permission I would like to start a letter campaign protesting this decision. Judy

    Judy Gaynes Sebastian

    • Thank you for your intetest in highlighting this issue Judy. I, too was looking forward to meeting quilters and fiberartists like yourself at the opening. And yes, you have my permission to contact saqa members.

  19. Salley, your art is keeping me sane. I have followed your art for decades, made my own dolls with the help of your books, and understand and appreciate the direction you have gone. Thank you for your excellent work and words.

  20. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This horrible man called trump has created a horrible time in America. We are losing our freedom of everything. I will gladly pass this on.

  21. I’m devastated that your work wasn’t included. I’ve shared your blog post on my FB page. Aside from the meticulous detail and my own love of needle arts, I love your biting commentary on current events. Keep fighting the good fight!

  22. Salley, you haven’t lost me, I will still read your posts because you are a talented artist. However I too am sick of people creating such division in our country by displaying their intolerance of trump and especially Vice President Pence. He is a fine man and just because you don’t agree with his beliefs do you really have to degrade him so very much? These are OUR Elected officials and we need to show respect for the office they hold even if we don’t agree with them completely. Please try and remember their are two sides to every issue and we will never always agree but in your art you have totally disrespected, two men and their families in every way possible. Maybe just maybe there is a small part of all of us that could agree to disagree instead of showing such disrespect, distain and hate toward one another.

  23. Why not pile them up and burn them as other fearful, narcissistic leaders and governments have done in the name of what?…a more sane and safe society?!?!?!? Please keep on with your wonderful, meticulous and beautifully considered expressions voiced by articulate wee folks.

  24. Your film was terrific…so happy I could see it. And very sorry that your exhibit was censored and cancelled. My friends and I were looking forward to seeing it during our annual Cape visit in the fall.
    I love your work and entering this new stage of your work is very needed.
    Many thanks for your art.

  25. Sally thank you for sharing your art with me. I love everything and one day this winter I want to create my own Wee folk. I have one of your books. And thanks for making me laugh in this troubled times our country is in xo

  26. Let’s hear it for your dangerous little dolls! I wonder if they’ll reach even more eyes due to the censorship? I hope so! And yay for your pieces at the Cahoon Museum! My sister loves mermaids and I hosted her wedding shower there almost 26 years ago — such a magical old place. Best, Nancy

  27. I think trump (doesn’t merit capitalized name becuz he’s truly a little, wizened up, vengeful child) doesn’t deserve or merit the respect of Americans….he’s un-American and should move to Russia, if they’ll even have him!!!

  28. I shared your Facebook album on my twitter feed where most of my followers are of the same political bent (voting blue!!!). Unfortunately, my Facebook has all my Trumper family members. Hopefully, my share on twitter will get you well-deserved visibility.


  29. Dear Salley…Thank you so much for your heartfull art and this entire project. I am so encouraged by your courageous lead, I’ll follow you anywhere. Now for the future…I am sure that you are familiar with the “Threads of Resistance” project. I cannot speak for them but I am sure that the artists could help counsel on how to find other venues for your project. It seems that they may have encountered some of the same issues, but still the show proceeds. Also, I recall that you have some connections to Portland, Oregon. This may be a more receptive area, even though it’s not at all close to your home area. Again, Thank You and gather courage from all of us with you.

  30. Salley and Rob, I am saddened by this. As I am currently traveling and seeing art in Italy and Malta, I am seeing political art as a glimpse of the times. I do believe that your work is pertinent and a reflection of a time needing this form of art.

  31. This is very sad to me. Art challenges us to think differently. It should provoke, and to censor it in this manner is just another example of the societal climate in which we find ourselves. I’m very sorry to hear that visitors to the exhibit will not be exposed to your art.

  32. Salley, I love your work and especially your wonderful birds but, I too am sick to death of politics rearing it’s ugly head into everything. Although, I support your right to your opinions, I wish your art could have remained whimsical and not political. I will continue to follow your wonderful creations, but as my Mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and the Golden Rule…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Good luck in the future and hopefully we will someday be able to return to civility.

  33. Hi Salley,

    This is appalling. I have sent it on. Your statement is clear and powerful. Where can this exhibit be shown next? I’ll contribute financially if that’s what is needed. I can’t give a lot but I can ask friends to help.



  34. | | | Dear Salley,  Your work is so original, detailed and wonderful!  I have admired your fabric 3-d collages and books for a long time. It is very disturbing to discover that your miniature figures and scenes are getting CENSORED!!!   How ironic that your miniature scenes are raising such a ruckus!   Here’s a few ideas:  Maybe you can place these “politically incorrect” pieces inside a magazine like Mother Jones, to literally illustrate the issue of censorship for readers, or contact the press in other media.  The public libraries might also be a way to offer a forum for the subject of censorship.  After all, many books are still banned from being in libraries in schools.  CBS Sunday morning always has interesting stories.  This  is an important story.   “The New Yorker” might be a market as well.  This work could also be a “politically incorrect” book.   I am a youthful “senior” artist, and want you to know that I admire your spunk in creating 3-D political “cartoons, as well as your little films.   My best wishes for your continued success, prosperity, good health and joy! Respectfully yours, Dianna Diatz P.S.  You Go Girl!

  35. Dear Salley,

    Your work is so original, detailed and wonderful! I have admired your fabric 3-d collages and books for a long time.

    It is very disturbing to discover that your miniature figures and scenes are getting CENSORED!!! How ironic that your miniature scenes are raising such a ruckus!

    Here’s a few ideas: Maybe you can place these “politically incorrect” pieces inside a magazine like Mother Jones, to literally illustrate the issue of censorship for readers, or contact the press in other media. The public libraries might also be a way to offer a forum for the subject of censorship. After all, many books are still banned from being in libraries in schools. CBS Sunday morning always has interesting stories. This is an important story. “The New Yorker” might be a market as well. This work could also be a “politically incorrect” book.

    I am a youthful “senior” artist, and want you to know that I admire your spunk in creating 3-D political “cartoons, as well as your little films.

    My best wishes for your continued success, prosperity, good health and joy!

    Respectfully yours,

    Dianna Diatz

    P.S. You Go Girl!

  36. A few months ago I finally realized how fascism began and the Nazis took over Germany –

    and that it could actually happen in the U.S. We don’t really learn from history and could

    be doomed to repeat the old evils. So many people are cowards in a thousand small ways

    and they don’t understand how easy it would be to lose our democracy. So I say “shame

    on the people at the show who were cowed into removing your artwork.” It takes courage

    to be a true patriot in difficult times. Keep on creating. You are a wonderful artist and I

    admire your courage to move into the political hot spot. Katusha Issaeff Seattle, WA

    > WordPress.com

  37. Sally Mavor–this is indeed very upsetting and I am sure artists around the world can identify with your frustration. I think you should shop these pieces around to museums and gallery venues (like university galleries) that have enough guts and vision to put on a show that sparks controversy and discussion–in fact I am sure there are many that would welcome it. your blog post is the perfect artist statement for the exhibit. don’t take this lightly and go away discouraged–just because one venue is too focused on donations that they can’t recognize the true value of art to provoke conversation, that does not mean all will feel the same. call your exhibition “censored” and make that the centerpiece of the show–that for centuries artists have put a magnifying glass to the society in which they live and invited people to think. I will add that when I first saw that your pieces had been censored I couldn’t imagine how those lovely and beautiful pieces I know of your work could enflame anyone! But good on you, these are wonderful–whimsical but thought-provoking. Hang in there, use it and build on it.

  38. We have sunk to yet another low when art and political humor are censored. Make a book out of this and maybe use some of the profits to benefit democracy. Or not. Submit your film as a short to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for award consideration. I have shared it on facebook.

  39. Sally please send this video and photo’s to Stephen Colbert The Late Show. His head writer is Opus Moreschi. They would love to make noise about political art censorship. I don’t personally know anyone at the show, however if gotten to the writers it would be aired and maybe you would be able to make a public statement to a huge (haha) audience.

  40. Don’t give up your work is essential for this time. Show it I UK. We love political satire/comment/ pulling down political idiots.
    More power to you

  41. Woohoo! Salley you have arrived as the artist voice you and your amazing work were always meant to express. It is wonderful that you create such power within your “cute” dolls and tiny stitches. Please and thank you for keeping your needles working!

  42. So sorry about al this, Salley. We are living in a strange time and your work provided some relief from the stress. Thank you for handling this so well. I’m sure you will find another location for your display. Carry on!

  43. Hi Salley – This reminds me of the time my piece Juarez was banned at the UN HQ in Geneva in the exhibit Light, Hope, Opportunity in 2014. (It was about women who are attacked, raped, killed, walking home from their jobs at American maquilleros in Mexico.) I was angry for about 3 minutes and then I was proud: it did what it was intended to – upset the status quo and draw attention this horrific problem. Once the show moved on to other venues the piece was back in the pack and toured without incident for 3 years. Interestingly, when I’m introduced in a textile group even 4 years later inevitably someone says, “You’re the one whose work was banned.” You will go down in the annals of history joining some VERY famous folks (Ai Wei Wei, James Joyce, etc.)!!

  44. Of course I’ve admired what you produced for this entire series. It’s been very suspicious that when my husband tried to post the link to your “Censored” on his Facebook account (I don’t have the time in my creative life to have an account), there has not been one comment by even one of his friends or relatives. I am certain there would have been a few sympathetic responses but zero acknowledgment. I will therefore at least email the link to this to those specific contacts I have on your coast & ours, and assure you there is support for your imaginative efforts.

  45. Salley, I hope that it is some comfort that the very act of censorship has actually helped your art to travel the world! (Shared your Facebook post.)

  46. I remember when Trump was first elected and you spoke out about your political views then. You got quite a reaction, both from followers who agreed with your opinions, and from those who wanted to keep your blog focused on fairies and children’s lit, without politics. I encouraged you then, and I continue to encourage you, to follow your heart and voice your political views through your art. You follow a long tradition of artists making political statements with their art. I have an annotated book of children’s nursery rhymes which explains their real meanings. Many of the nonsensical rhymes we read to our children have intentionally strong political messages. You’ve managed to keep your work for children clearly separated from your political expressions. You’re not presenting the political satire for children. You clearly have it defined as political satire for adults, just as Halloween costumes are available based on political figures but are not marketed for children but come in adult sizes. I trust there are plenty of venues for your art that would welcome it precisely because it sparks political discussions, and the public will come. I guess you know now that you have to nail this issue down at the start of negotiations. I’m also just remembering debates in the quilting world about whether art quilts should make political statements. I remember seeing a woman in a film condemning such a quilt saying you would never put that in a child’s crib, but quilt makers have long expressed their political opinions in their art. Keep on doing exactly what you’re doing–different art for different audiences.

  47. I just discovered your work, thanks to a SAQA newsletter. I’m amazed by what you’ve created! Adding the red-hot political dimension to your work really speaks to the Nightmare World that I and so many of my friends are experiencing these days.

    What I really appreciate about your post is that you don’t blame the art center employees, but point out that the board was concerned about donors pulling support. This really speaks to the sorry state of the arts in this country. Nonprofit art centers are not rolling in money, and really can’t be blamed for wanting to curry favor with their donor base. However, I think that larger arts institutions have ways of letting donors know that their money doesn’t influence decisions on what works get attention. I’m not sure how a small institution can work with its donors in this way. Perhaps it’s also a matter of finding new sources of funding. Not that I can imagine what these sources might be.

    I live in a very conservative part of the country. I really wish I could see works like yours where I live, but I’m glad for the Internet, and I will share your work there.


  48. Sally John and I are disheartened about what has happened regarding the show. Difficult to grasp that ones art can be censored and asked to be removed leaving only the “good parts” . We feel all the figures as well as the movie need to be seen. Hope you do find another venue and we will also let the one who asked for the show to be limited know our views. Shirley Farrington

  49. Salley,
    Fabulous!!! Incredible work that so deserves to be shared. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to see this.

    It is very sad that your exhibit was canceled out of fear of offending the community. The very nature of art is expression and offering a point of view. We live in very scary times where many of us see our liberties being threatened. Your art is thought provoking and a chance to examine where we are and where we are going as a nation.

    I hope that given time Highfield Hall will understand the mistake they have made and understand their obligation to the community to present works of art without censorship.

    You have amazing talent!

  50. I am so glad to hear that your work will be exhibited at the Cahoon Museum and the Lowell Quilt Museum. Your video was truly awesome. I loved all the special touches that made it truly a statement of the state of America at the present time. Have you considered encouraging the Cotuit Center for the Arts as an organization who could embrace your work and the works of other artists and theater performances around shared and differing positions Beston this topic. I am so glad that you were censored as it has opened up a conversation that needed to happen. Art has often been at the forefront of protest.

    Best wishes to you as you continue your journey into the deeper forest of politics. The impact of climate change, environmental issues, health care, race and gender inequality, and more could be topics for future videos and displays.

  51. I think the censorship is unconscionable on the part of the venue….and I know the venue….I am turned off by their actions, especially since your art has contributed so much to them in the past. The fact that they think you aren’t entitled to express your opinion in your art takes my respect of them WAY down.
    Please keep up your beautiful work…the freedom of this country is imperiled if we cannot express opposing views.

  52. Yes, censorship is sad. However, censorship at universities for any conservative speaker or young republician group is common practice. Hopefully, the outrage over censorship expressed here will apply equally to the censorship of conservation points of view experienced across the country.

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