Mickey Mouse is a potent symbol.
“I’ve seen him crucified and naked, I’ve seen him with weapons. I’ve seen him smoking, drinking. I’m sure Disney wouldn’t approve of that — but I think it’s almost a shorthand way for some artists to sum up the entire lowbrow culture that comes out of America,” post-Pop painter Shag says with a smile.
Maybe so, but Shag himself — who notes he doesn’t think of Mickey as particularly lowbrow — reveres much of the work Walt Disney did, particularly regarding Disneyland. “As I started my career as a commercial artist, I remember being influenced by the ride and attraction posters, most of which were done in the late ’50s and early ’60s,” he says. “They were these big, colorful graphic posters with illustrations of whatever ride they were advertising.”
Shag also says the park bled into his subconscious, estimating that he first visited Disneyland at 6 or 7, and it stayed with him. “I have had dreams about riding the Matterhorn and the car going off track and flying off into space,” he says. “I don’t think Disneyland would ever let me depict that in a painting, but it’s there bottled up.”
Shag’s visual interpretations of Disneyland’s early days will be sold to mark Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.