Author Bio and Contact Information

Sue Cavanaugh

Link to Facebook: 

155 West Main Street #703, Columbus, Oho 43215


Sue Cavanaugh is an artist living in Columbus, Ohio. Her work has been juried

into national and international exhibits and won her an Individual Artist

Fellowship in 2016 and a Dresden residency in 2012 from the Greater Columbus

Arts Council. Since returning from her Dresden residency, she’s had six solo shows.

Cavanaugh has a B.S. and M.A. from Ohio State where she worked for 30 years.

This is her first book that isn’t an artist catalog. She is represented by Muse Gallery.


Production Information

Title: A Corporation is a Person Like the Emperor’s New Clothes Were Real

Author: Sue Cavanaugh

Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Available at: 

Muse Gallery at Reed Arts, 943 West 3rd Ave, Columbus, Ohio 43212

Ohio Craft Museum, 1665 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43212]



Press Release

Political satire meets corporate personhood in this book of 50 imaginative cartoons. Are corporations people? Let’s see them go to the opera, visit Roswell, NM, and hang glide. Add a yak, a platypus perp, a couple justices and a yodeler, and let the fun begin.

Columbus artist Sue Cavanaugh has been best known for her large installations.  “The Stuff of Dreams” at the Columbus Museum of Art (July 13-November 26, 2017) was 20 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 8 feet deep.  Viewers could walk around and under, sometimes becoming a part of the piece. So this small volume, just 6” by 8.5” and 111 pages is indeed a surprise.

Cavanaugh sees it instead as a natural progression for an idea that began in her April 2016 exhibit at the Cultural Arts Center. “Gathering IV: Once Upon an Idea” dealt with fiction that she thought might be real and reality she thought should be fiction.  The latter addressed money as speech (she gave away tiny bags of shredded cash, calling it “Free Speech,” and corporate personhood.

One artwork had 84 cards printed with one-liner jokes. The format was a person, an animal and a corporation doing an activity. Each had the tag line “A corporation is a person like the emperor’s new clothes were real.”

For her book most of the original jokes were re-written and Cavanaugh illustrated it herself.  “I didn’t know I had a cartoon style, “she says. “But finding out what I’m capable of is part of the fun of being an artist.” She implores citizens to “wake up! The Emperor’s New Clothes “weren’t real, and corporations are not people.”



 On August 11, 2011, I was working on my application for a Dresden residency when a voice on the television intruded on my consciousness. “Corporations are people, my friend,” asserted Mitt Romney. Really?

My friends are people. People go cycling and snorkeling. They go to the opera and visit art museums. Corporations are legal entities. Sure, people work in corporations. People own corporations. But you can say the same thing about fields of rutabagas and no one is confusing a field of rutabagas with a person.

I got that Dresden residency, spent 80 days in Germany and temporarily forgot about corporate personhood. Still, I knew that someday I would need to address this unsettling concept in my art.

It finally happened in 2016 with a solo show at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio. The exhibit was called “Gathering IV: Once Upon an Idea” and addressed fiction that I could see as real and reality that I thought should be fiction. The latter included the notion of corporate personhood.

One artwork had 84 cards printed with one-liner jokes. The format was a person, an animal and a corporation doing an activity. Each had the tag line “A corporation is a person like the emperor’s new clothes were real.”

That was the beginning of this book. I’ve added illustrations and am ready to entertain those who agree with me and razz those who don’t. So Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission be damned. Before some judges or politicians find themselves walking down Main Street in a state of undress, let’s be perfectly clear.

The emperor was naked and corporations are not people.


 Sample cartoon







Possible questions and responses

Question: Where did your idea for this book come from?

First I should give credit to Hans Christian Andersen.  His story about the emperor’s new clothes made a huge impression on me as a kid and has stayed with me through adulthood. It reminds us that most people have a fear of speaking up, of taking a chance on being thought wrong. It’s a reminder to trust our gut. And I should also credit Mitt Romney.  When he was running for president I heard him say, “Corporations are people my friend,” and I thought, “No, they’re not.”

Question: So that was the beginning?

That was the beginning of thinking about it. It took a long time to gel. Then I did a piece at the Cultural Arts Center that had 84 cards, half printed on a silver background and half on a gold background, and arranged so that together it was 12 feet wide and from a distance you saw two dollar signs.  Up close, each was printed with what I saw as a one liner based on the old jokes that started a man and a duck walk into the bar. I added a corporation to the mix. So the joke is corporations can’t do that. And I added the tagline “A corporation is a person like the emperor’s new clothes were real. That exhibit was in April 2016.  It took another year for me to decide to turn the idea into a book.

Question:  Had you done cartooning before?

Not really.  Perhaps little things for a friend’s birthday card, but nothing like this. And at first, I didn’t think I was the best person to do the illustrations.  Most of my artwork over the last five years has been big- large installations. But once I started I realized I needed to do it.

Question:  Why?

Only a couple of the original sayings stayed intact. For one thing the originals had lawyers and accountants and a variety of occupations that aren’t recognizable by what they wear. Also, as I worked on them I would get ideas that I wouldn’t have gotten had I asked someone else to do it. I might suddenly realize that this animal needed to be in a different cartoon.

Question: You say in your notes at the back of the book that many of the cartoons are autobiographical.  Would you care to comment?

Sure. I suppose it’s only natural that ideas come out of experience and if not experience, at least things we’ve heard about. Early on I knew I wanted to include a farmer’s daughter.  When I was a kid there were lots of jokes about farmer’s daughters. Plus my father was a part-time farmer. I also did have a pig as a 4-H project. Putting lipstick on the pig and adding a lipstick manufacturer to the mix and then having them visit the Columbus Museum of Art brought together early and recent history since I had an installation at CMA this year.

Question:  One cartoon has six women and a sheep hitchhiking to Jalapa. Did that really happen?

Yes, that did happen. And four of the six still get together at least once a year, but we’ve given up hitchhiking.


Question: But you couldn’t possibly have gotten a ride, could you?

Oh, we did and quickly. It was 1974 and we had planned a 3-week vacation in Mexico. We started in Mexico City, flew to Oaxaca for a few days and then planned to take a bus to Jalapa, Veracruz. At that time, you didn’t get tickets ahead of time.  When we went to the bus station in Oaxaca we couldn’t get tickets to Jalapa. We had to pick an intermediary city and were told when we got there, we could buy tickets for the rest of the journey. We picked Orizaba, but when we arrived, there weren’t any busses to Jalapa until the next day. So, we walked out of the bus station and as we talked about our next move someone kiddingly suggested we could hitchhike and stuck out a thumb. We were all laughing when almost immediately a tank of a car with two guys from Texas stopped and offered us a ride. It was not the most comfortable ride, I mean there were six of us, two of them and luggage for eight, but it was memorable.

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