Mellwood censorship follow-up — artist evicted

"Undone" by Billy Twymon and Devon Turley

“Undone” by Billy Twymon and Devon Turley

The Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center, recently accused of censorship by artist Billy Twymon and his painting partner Devon Turley, has reacted strongly to the charge.

As LEO Weekly reported last week, Twymon and Turley were asked to remove three paintings out of their 10-piece exhibition, “The Really Big Show” (the removed works featured female nudity, sex and religious subject matter).

Scooter Davidson, Mellwood’s director of sales and marketing, said the works were “sacrilegious and pornographic (and) … not family-friendly,” and got several complaints by shopkeepers and studio artists. At that time, Mellwood told Twymon he could show the works in the studio space he’s been renting for the past three years.

However, last Wednesday, Sept. 11, Twymon found a note from management taped to his studio door. “(It) informed me that if I spoke with any other tenants or staff on the premises regarding the said article in LEO, it would be grounds for breach of my lease,” he says. “I then proceeded to go to management to get clarification … The following day, another letter arrived taped on my door (with) accusations of me harassing the owner and management, along with giving me 30 days to vacate.”

When asked for details from Mellwood’s management, Davidson responded: “The property manager and I feel there is so much good art in this town to be reviewed, it is a shame that an artist, or so-called artist, feels the need to exploit one of Louisville’s most prestigious media publications, LEO, to gain publicity on art work that no one else deems valid enough to cover.” —Jo Anne Triplett


  1. John
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    “So-called artist”? “Sacrilegious, pornographic, and not family friendly”? Certainly sounds like censorship to me. I understand the sensitivity of having one’s child turn the corner and come face to face with a depiction of a sex act. But when an artist’s landlord gets this amount of control over the subject of artwork, to the point where an artist may be evicted… or that the landlord can trash the artist and his work in the press…sounds like it’s not really a place that’s conducive to artistic freedom. Maybe the artist would be happier leaving this sanitized artistic Disney World.

  2. Brian
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Billy and Devons work is gorgeous. They would be better served at a real art gallery, like Tim Faulkner.

  3. Bob
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    1) the landlord had zero control over the content of the artist’s work. The landlord had control over the space he owns.

    2) the same freedom that allows the artist to express himself in his work is the same freedom that allows the landlord to ” trash … His work in the press.”

  4. Dr. Yoshev Omed
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    And I have the freedom never to visit the Mellwood Center again.

  5. na
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I am going to remain anonymous because I am a Mellwood tenant. I was here when they were putting the paintings up and the managers were in and out of the area and they knew exactly the content of what was being put up. The exhibit was up for a good three weeks. I really wish Mellwood would get it together bc this place could be something great.

  6. Frank Green
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Remind me to never step foot in MAC again if all this is correct and accurate information.

  7. Chris
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Bob, above, is wrong. The landlord ceded “control” over his/her/its property when it rented it out. Unless the lease specifically gave the landlord the right to designate the type of work to be displayed, then the landlord doesn’t have the right to ask that it be removed. As far as trashing the tenant in the press, not only is it potentially subject to a defamation action, it is a poor business decision. And in exceedingly poor taste.

  8. Jim
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Sacrilegious? I didn’t realize that Mellwood was a religious institution. I’d sue their pants off and, frankly, I’d also contribute to the artists’ legal fund given a chance. I’m not rolling in dough but I’d do my bit. This is unacceptable.

  9. Jason
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Yet another reason that I moved away from the conservative Midwest…

  10. Mike
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen what Mellwood passes for “art” anyhow. These artists are better off with their talent far removed from this farce of an establishment anyhow.

  11. Devon Turley
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Devon Turley and Billy Twymon are are showing at Tim Faulkner Sept 27.

  12. Robert McFarland
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Tomorrow, I will be taping a note to the door of the Melwood Art Center’s managerial office written on the back of this article. That note will explain why I will not be frequenting their complex until there is a change in management.

  13. Devon Turley
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    You can also come and see all the fuss and the original pieces most of this show is based on at regular venue, The UnFair, October 4, 5, and 6th in the backyard of the Mag Bar!!!

  14. Rebecca
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Once again a Louisville institution shoots itself in the foot and gets in the way of Louisville becoming a city to be taken seriously. I’m very sorry to see such a provincial attitude at Mellwood. Words like “sacrilegious” and “pornographic” are used by philistines and have no place among anyone who has an understanding of art. I like art that makes me think and feel and frankly I don’t find enough of that in this city. How much of that is because artists worry about how what they really want to do will be received? Parents should understand that art may contain images their kids aren’t ready for and if they fear that, leave the kids at home. Don’t ask the artists to compromise. Most of us are not children and should be able to experience the world as adults.

  15. Virginia Jolly
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    If the Arts Center required as part of the contract that the art be “Family Friendly” and that they have the right to decide what fits that criterion, then they have a leg to stand on. But they don’t. This is grounds for lawsuit, right here: over censorship, artistic expression, defamation of character, potential blackballing in the art community, and a chilling effect against other artists in their center–the arbitrary designation of sacreligious (who is to say?) and pornographic (you have to prove prurient interest).

    As far as I’m concerned, this picture above is beautiful. It portrays intimacy as loving and serene, not degrading, and not violent.

    There is far too much “art” that degrades people and is violent that way exceeds the bounds that this piece has gone to.

    As for using media like the LEO, that’s what our media is for, isn’t it? To post the news of the day? Isn’t freedom of expression news of the day? Isn’t demanding one’s rights or airing one’s grievances news of the day?

    Self-censorship was never a requirement of our constitution, and prurient interest is a decision of the courts. Let it be so.

    If we want to talk family-friendly, then we can talk about the fact that we in our society still view sex as dirty and obscene, when it is what creates life and fosters love. The subjects in the scene are modestly positioned so that we do not see any genitalia, or even female breasts. How is this different from nude paintings like “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli or Rodin’s “The Kiss”? These and many others are in famous museums, and I’ve never heard them be referred to as pornographic.

    And nobody bats an eye at the nude sculpture of David by Michaelangelo. Which the LEO also covered.

    This is a matter to be brought to the public eye.

  16. Jim
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I do not see anything obscene. I see a woman’s butt. If your child has never seen a butt or your scared a butt will make your child a rapist then you have more issues and need to remove yourself from society.

    This is very modest and as noted, less nudity then most famous works of art. How about anything from the Renaissance period featuring Mary or Jesus.

    I think he needs to sue all involved and then when new owners buy Mellwood maybe they will feature art.

  17. Rob
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t about the city of Louisville people. It’s about the owners of MAC which sucks anyway.

  18. Nancy
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I won’t be going to Melwood or recommending it…ever until there is a change in ownership and management.

  19. Dave
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    The Mellwood management NEVER has been artist friendly. This will be so as long as the present management is there.
    I was there at the beginning and got sick of these people and moved out.

  20. Renea
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I am just glad Mellwood management is finally getting exposed. Management at MAC has threatened artist, tenants and threatened to ruining reserved wedding receptions on a couples wedding day for years. They constantly harass tenants and if you seriously piss off Scooter Davidson, she will have her trusty partner Miguel to change the lock on rental space with your items still inside and refuse to let you inside to get your items therefore, a tenant has to get the police involved.

    Many businesses have broken their lease or kicked out due to their relentless unprofessional tactics and the building isn’t even up to code. A class action suit needs to be filed on MAC ( if only past and current tenants and artist would stick together and speak up).

  21. David Beard
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    My mother’s artwork is defined as “pornographic” and “obscene” yet there is a painting of a naked man with a naked baby in his lap, looking lustfully at the child on display in a common area at Mellwood…..IMO that is MUCH worse than anything that Devon or Billy has displayed.

  22. JT
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m an indie filmmaker and last year I made a feature film in Louisville. I had just come from Los Angeles and I was very impressed by how open and helpful everyone we encountered in Louisville was during the making of our film…except Mellwood Art Center.

    The center is beautiful and we thought it would be great to incorporate it into our film. Because it was an “art” center, we thought they would be like everyone else in town and let us shoot there. We could not have been more wrong. We were shooting an indie film and they wanted $100/an hour. This was way out of our budget and we tried to work out a deal with Scooter, but she refused. In our encounters with them, they were rude and belligerent and could care less about art.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Weird, I’ve seen ten times worse on public display in places like Seattle. This painting is pretty tame in my book. Wonder what all the fuss was about! Amazes me that fellow artists would complain.

  24. Dan Theman
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I was seriously considering renting a studio out there. I even checked it out on Saturday. I’m glad this article was posted because it saved me $550+/month for however long I would’ve leased the space. Shame on you, Mellwood Arts Center.

  25. Jay S
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    As a former tenant in the early days I have seen Mellwood’s owner and management in action. They have been anti-artist, deceitful, threatening legal action at every turn since the day they opened the doors. They have violated codes, rented illegal spaces, and ruined what should have been a jewel in Louisville’s crown. Alas, it is not and never will be with the current owner and management.

  26. Craig Bunting
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Mellwood’s director of subjective moralizing is rubbish and censorship. What rights do artists have when you have a supposedly, creative free institution called, family friendly? What a joke. Nudity and sex have been in grand museums around the world, painted and sculpted for centuries. The director should leave their backward opinions where they belong, in the dustbin.

  27. jen
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The MAC is a joke. The artists they display are mediocre and not worth seeing anyhow. This artist has nice work, display somewhere else. MAC, the Nazi’s of the Louisville art scene.

  28. Devon Turley
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Again, myself and Billy are grateful for all the support. Please come see “The Really Big Show” in its entirety in an exclusive opening September 27, @ The Tim Faulkner Gallery at 943 Franklin St. Opening starts at 6p.m.
    And again, we are very grateful for all the support and are excited about the bringing a light to ART in Louisville, there really are some awesome artists here and we need to broaden the scope of awareness.

  29. wendy
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I also had professonal issues with mellwood .the first of the year i e-mailed them copies of my art work and was told they loved so i set up a date to bring them in for a show.everything seemed fine the first day but when i called the next day to bring in more pieces they said that there was a problem with some of my smaller peices and that they also had over book their space .at first they wanted me to remove my peices but i already had a 30 day contract which forced them to show my art BUT they put it up stairs in a corner where freinds of mine had to ask to find it. come to find out the reson was because the father in law of our lutenent govenor deceided he wanted to show his art .so mine was pushed aside. and yes i’m sure i have freinds in all the right places

  30. Renea
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Wendy. They did the same thing to all the tenants when they heard Bristols was considering opening a cafe. They policed all of the tenants spaces to make sure they were not serving wine on art show openings, trolley hop nor for personal use because they did not want it to interfere with Bristol considering space. They even called KAS Gallery’s caterer (The Catering Company) for the evening and told them they were not allowed on the property nor any other night to serve alcohol. They basically canceled the businesses caterer for the evening without permission. This is even after the A.B.C. faxed Scooter and the catering company a letter approving alcohol could be served or sold. Which hurt KAS for the evening.

  31. kenny
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’m seeing a lot of liberal views on here that I thought I would never see. ” if your kids are not ready for it, leave them at home” really??? And why does it seem like the artist in question has made several post about the up coming show and not answering the questions? He doesn’t seem to be denying a breach of contract in the lease. Why is a liberal paper really that concerned with what they call censorship when they do the same with Yarmuth? I guess if its what you want then its the right thing to fight for. However, until you people see the lease or this “so called artist” defends it, we are all rushing to judgement. It said 3 were removed, I can’t say from the one that the other two were not sacrilegious or not. But this painting, I find to be art work, but can also see a person complaining about it if they had their children with them. You can’t deny a lot of great local artist wouldn’t be where they are today if not for MAC including this artist. This has raised his value 10 fold and you folks are blind to what’s really going on. Guilty until proven innocent. Until it happens to one of you!

  32. Devon Turley
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    To Kenny… the artist posting about the show is not a he. I am a woman. I don’t comment on any questions because none were asked of me. The person that was evicted from the M Word is not me, it was Billy Twymon. I am the artist who’s work was censored, and I called being asked to remove 3 of my pieces of art after being hung in Gallery B for nearly two weeks censorship not the LEO, they just happened to agree with me. Twymon was the artist that had studio space at the M Word and was evicted because we spoke out about the censorship and because the LEO printed a story about said censorship. Then they tried to dictate to Twymon with whom he could talk to within the walls of the M Word about the first article on censorship and threatened that just talking about said article would be grounds for breaching his lease. No lease anywhere states the landlord has the right to tell who you can TALK to because a newspaper prints an article that said landlord doesn’t like. So, that is what exactly is going on here, standing up to censorship then outrageous demands that have nothing to do with any lease. Are they (the M Word) guilty?? YES they are, of being completely ridiculous. They evicted a tenant that had rented space for over three years over another artists’ work and subject matter, an artist that does not rent space from them. Unfair to the tenant?? Again, YES! I, as an artist have not benefited from the M Word, ever. I have benefited from MY VOICE and MY EFFORTS to gain a show at The Tim Faulkner Gallery. I will speak out against censorship whenever it is imposed on me and oppression of the innocent whenever I see it and the M Word is from innocent, yet are extremely guilty of all kinds of oppression and censorship.

  33. mm
    Posted January 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    As a tenant, I am looking forward to a positive experience. Yes, the building is a bit rough. With strong support from the community, this facility could be an amazing place. I have seen several top galleries in the U.S. and outside of our country. I have seen expensive and really superior artwork. If this facility is given strong support, it could be one of the best in Louisville. Then you would be honored to be able to even have one piece hanging. Personally, I want to someday see great work at Mellwood. I think it can happen. Make lemonade out of lemons. Try it. Lemons can leave a wonderful taste when used creatively. Sorry, I like strong art.

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