An artist whose quirky Space Owl features prominently in Meow Wolf’s
wildly successful interactive art exhibit is suing the company and its
founder for copyright infringement.
Lauren Adele Oliver says in
her lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court that the art collective
convinced her to install a sculpture of Space Owl in its House of
Eternal Return by offering her membership in the group and an “artist
revenue share,” the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
But after the exhibit became a multimillion-dollar enterprise — thanks in part to Space Owl, the lawsuit says.
said the group then backpedaled and offered her a choice between
selling the character outright for pennies on the dollar or removing it
without any additional compensation.
Attorney Jesse A. Boyd said
Oliver is looking to be “compensated fairly” for her contribution to the
success of the House of Eternal Return — which draws hundreds of
thousands of visitors each year. He said Oliver is seeking “more than a
Meow Wolf co-founder Vince Kadlubek, who is
also named a defendant in the lawsuit, referred questions to Meow Wolf
Vice President of Marketing Didi Bethurum. In an email Tuesday, Bethurum
said the company is “disappointed by these baseless allegations.”
Wolf is committed to supporting artists and providing fair treatment to
every person we collaborate with,” Bethurum wrote. “These claims run
completely counter to our culture and we will vigorously defend against
them through the legal process.”
According to her complaint,
Oliver created Space Owl — an owl-like alien — in 2006. In 2012, after
she had created a narrative around it, several digital versions of it
and displayed it in a local art show, Meow Wolf approached her about
incorporating it into House of Eternal Return.
Oliver said she
did not pursue the idea until the collective approached her again in
2015 and asked her to install her climate change-themed art project Ice
Station Quellette featuring Space Owl in the House of Eternal Return.
installation was a filthy, full-time job involving months of late
nights, grueling, dangerous work and the expenditure of Oliver’s own
money,” the lawsuit says. “Oliver put every ounce of love and energy she
had into the installation … with the result being an angelic, 13-foot
tall Space Owl, which observers describe as alive, sentient and real.”