On Friday, February 4, Ripe, a sharp exhibit of erotic ink drawings curated by artist and musician Mikal Shapiro (reviewed in our February 11 issue), opened at the Keyhole gallery in the Crossroads Arts District. By all accounts, the opening party was well attended and successful. "It was crowded enough that there was a line to get in," says participating artist Mark Inman. "It's sort of an enclosed, narrow space, and a lot of people showed up."
According to press releases and advertisements, the exhibit was to have been available for public viewing on Saturdays through February. But the following Wednesday morning, Shapiro received a Facebook message from gallery manager Jessica Logsdon stating, "I went to the keyhole [sic] to check on everything and all of the drawings were taken down so the show is over." The message's passive phrasing invited more questions than it answered. Shapiro replied with a message requesting the prompt return of the artwork and asking, "If there are any damages, who pays for it? Who took the work down?"
Logsdon's response, provided to The Pitch by Shapiro, fails to address why the show was canceled and who removed the artwork from the gallery walls (questions that remain unanswered). "I feel you are overreacting for absolutely no reason and once again your focus is not where it needs to be," Logsdon wrote. She then offered to bring the work to Shapiro's home and closed with a defensive rejoinder: "BTW: I have handled thousands of works and I would of [sic] let you know if any of them were damaged immediately. Didn't we leave them in a plastic bin on your front porch — how professional is that? Your irrational fears are insulting and make me look bad to the artists."
It's true that Shapiro left a plastic snap-lid storage crate on the front porch of her house in a quiet stretch of a residential Westport neighborhood so that contributing artists could drop off their works in her absence. None of the artists balked at this arrangement, Shapiro says. At a preview of the show, days before it was hung at the Keyhole, all the works were pristine and stored in flat files. What is certain is that 11 pieces by seven artists were not in that condition after the exhibit came down.
Artist Hector Casanova doesn't know the reason for the show's abrupt end. "Obviously, they knew the premise of the show when they approved it," he says. "My only guess is that since there's other businesses in the building, somebody must have been offended. It's the only thing I can guess — that a tenant was sensitive about it."
Inman, similarly confounded, says, "Sure, I had some disgusting drawings in there. Other people had a variety of images. But I didn't see anything that would make anyone freak out enough to take the show down."
Ripe was not Shapiro's first experience at the Keyhole gallery. Shapiro participated in a shadow-puppet performance in the alley behind the building for the Keyhole's November First Friday event and played her own music at the December opening. Shapiro says she met Logsdon through artist Jeff Helkenberg. "We've been friends for a long time," she says.
In the days after the artworks' removal, several publications, including The Pitch, attempted to contact Logsdon by phone and e-mail. Last week, Logsdon sent an e-mail to The Pitch, to art critic Alice Thorson at The Kansas City Star, and to Review editor Tracy Abeln. It read, in part, "On March 11th [sic] in the midnight hours an individual broke into the Keyhole and stole all of the art objects from the Ripe exhibition. The last time I saw the drawings from this exhibition there was no damage done to any of them and they were stored in a flat file downstairs." However, Shapiro had informed Logsdon days before, via e-mail, that she had retrieved the work from the gallery.