Varese Layzer

In April of 2011, I was invited by Ritual, San Francisco, to present a solo show of my photography.

After asking which works the venue was interested in and being told I could choose any I wished, I selected the series Making Room. I also asked whether I could include an artist's statement and whether that statement could be printed large. The curator told me, "Go for it. Whatever you'd like to do, please do."

I printed the work large and framed it to professional gallery standards. I printed the statement and presented it as part of the show. I consulted with an interior designer friend on the arrangement of the show so that it would complement Ritual's design and architecture. I treated this occasion, in short, as a proper gallery show and did this because I wanted the work to be seen at its best by Ritual's thousands of customers and because the work is very important to me. On June 21st, I signed a contract with Ritual stating that the work would "hang for at least six weeks or longer as determined by the curator and artist." On June 21st and 22nd I hung the work, including the statement, over five hours, working with the interior designer. (You can see how it looked here and here.)

On June 26th I stopped by Ritual and found the statement was gone. I phoned the curator; he didn't know what had happened. On June 27th, I received an email from the owner of Ritual – my only contact from her so far – saying she had taken down the statement and telling me to remove the show immediately. She said the show was wholly inappropriate for the venue. She said she fired the curator. She offered me $300 for my trouble, which I did not accept. I offered to remove the statement from the show; she still did not reply. The show came down that day. I told my mailing list that there was no longer a show to visit; I left the postcards I had designed at the printer.

The people on my mailing list were angry and told their friends and acquaintances. The news soon spread to the neighborhood, the city and then internationally. The screenshot I made of the email has been viewed by more than 4,000 people. The news showed up all over Facebook and dozens of articles – each attracting many comments and likes – were written about it between June 27th and July 22nd, 2011.

As a result of this coverage, I received many, many supportive emails. I am very grateful to everyone who made this event important to them, everyone who posted something online in my defense and to everyone who wrote to me. This outpouring of support made me feel the whole thing was worth it.

The event also ultimately attracted the attention of a gallery owner. Making Room was shown at Krowswork Gallery, Oakland, March 30th to May 5th, 2012.