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Coffee Clash

Graphic photography deemed wrong fit for coffeehouse.

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A few weeks ago, local artist Erin Jennings discovered that the coffee that goes so well with cream and sugar may not be a match for her artwork.

Jennings submitted samples of her work to be displayed at Republic Coffee on Madison through May 6th. Her 90-piece show, "Photo Exhibit A," included four series of landscapes and photography. Problems began when 40 of her graphically realistic crime-scene photos were mounted on the coffeehouse walls.

"I put my work up on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the manager disapproved of it and had half of it pulled down," said Jennings. "On Friday, he called my business partner to come and remove the rest of it."

Republic manager Chris Conner asked Jennings to remove the work from the business he describes as a "family-friendly environment." Republic charges no commission on artists' work but does require a sample portfolio before a complete exhibit is installed. Although Jennings presented six pieces to him for approval, Conner said the images of mutilated bodies, slit throats, and illegal drug use depicted in the remaining photos was never shown to him.

"The main issue is that the pictures she showed us were not even close to what was put on the walls," said Conner. "We're a private facility and not a publicly owned place, so the owner reserves the right to approve or disapprove any work."

According to Jennings, she spent about $1,500 in art supplies and 80 work hours in preparation for the Republic show.

"It may have been the wrong photography for the art space, and that's either my fault or the fault of Republic," said Jennings. "I just wish [Conner] had paid more attention before the show went up than after."

In a similar case, a Memphis College of Art student was allowed to reinstall her work last week after school officials objected to the art and forced her to remove it. Seven other students also participating in the show removed their work in protest.

E-mail: jdavis@memphisflyer.com

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