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Artist Removes Controversial Painting from University Gallery

December 7, 1992

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) _ A Colorado State University student has removed his painting from a display after the producer of ″Sesame Street″ objected to his depiction of Bert and Ernie in a compromising position.

Children’s Television Workshop, which produces the children’s program, protested artist Heath Johnson’s painting ’Sesame’s Treat,″ which showed the Muppet characters in an intimate position and Big Bird watching through a window.

The company threatened CSU with legal action Friday for displaying the painting, which it said infringed on its copyright.

Johnson, 22, said he voluntarily decided to remove the painting from the Lory Student Center.

″The school didn’t tell me to take it down,″ Johnson said. ″They weren’t censoring it. They left it up to me.″

The painting, which went on display last week, made some spectators laugh.

″Well, what do you expect? They’ve lived together for 30 years,″ student Brian Whitney said.

Others were irate. ″It just made me so mad I wanted to spit nails,″ said Pam Hughes, who was concerned about how her 4-year-old daughter would react.

Lee Combs, university legal counsel, said the letter from Children’s Television Workshop demanded that the university destroy the painting.

″Part of our response will be that the university doesn’t own the painting and is not subject to our control,″ he said.

Johnson has plans for the now-empty gallery spot - a blowup of the letter denouncing his painting.

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