03/04/2019 Painter Eric Kasper Opens Studio For Art Detour 31
A couple of years after closing and relocating a controversial show in Bisbee, Arizona, painter Eric Kasper continues to produce new works and seems to be growing even braver and more confident in his career.
During this year’s Art Detour, Kasper will open his studio space at 15th Avenue and Pierce to the public for the first time and show completed works and works-in-progress.
“I will probably open the studio every Third Friday,” he says. “First Friday seems kind of unrealistic for me because of the amount of people who are out and who are not necessarily there for the art.”
Kasper grew up in the Valley and took art classes at Centennial High School. He says he took “all of the art,” but never tried painting until his teacher, Chris Buhrmann, challenged him to try it.
What Kasper says really inspired him about Mr. Buhrmann is that he allowed Kasper to explore different subjects without censoring him.
“He pushed me to learn things on my own, explore different things and figure things out,” Kasper says.
As a high school senior, he tried oil painting and discovered a passion for it. “It was super new and different,” he says. “I didn’t understand it. After high school, I knew it was something I really wanted to keep working at.”
Kasper started working and chose not to go to college, but to continue to work on his art independently. He says that he worried college classes would smother his creativity.
“I am not the kind of person who likes to have projects assigned to me. That’s why [Mr. Buhrmann] was such a great teacher.” Kasper says his teacher gave him assignments, but always allowed Kasper to take them in his own direction.
Kasper has been painting for 14 years. When he opens his studio for Art Detour, he will show seven new paintings and one work-in-progress.
“I’m really interested in the decisions people make versus the decisions made for them by higher powers or society,” he says. “I am really into conflicting perspectives.”
He says it has taken him some time to fully emotionally recover and reset after some of his work received criticism at the show in Bisbee. “For about a year I was really making some bad art. I was overthinking everything. I was fighting with my own visual language that I had developed for 10 years prior to showing that in Bisbee,” he says.
His show was originally closed in the fall of 2015 at Windows Gallery in the Copper Queen Plaza after someone complained that one of the images was lewd. Kasper then moved the show to Sam and Poe. But he says he internalized that reaction and it impacted his work for almost the next whole year. He describes the effect as a sort of self-censorship, prohibiting him from exploring the sometimes edgy subjects he likes to paint. He says he felt the extreme criticism was an attack on his own morals. But through that difficult experience, he was able to gain something new.
“Bisbee was the thing that really helped me realize [what] I need to explore,” he says. “There was a negative reaction to a painting. And just two nights before, I witnessed a person who sat down on the floor, crying, tears of joy. And that person thanked me and told me what that painting meant for them.”
“I had to go back and revisit the whole experience. And that’s how I remembered the really positive experience there.”
These conflicting and almost opposite reactions were a puzzle. But Kasper decided that what he likes to do is produce an image that invites contemplation. He does not intend to explain each piece or assign meaning, he wants each viewer to take away whatever they will take from the work.
“Everyone brings their own baggage with them. Whether it’s entering a new relationship or going into a gallery and seeing a painting on the wall,” he says. “I like that so much—the interpretation.”
Kasper recently made the decision to quit his job in order to do art full-time. He jokes that it hasn’t quite paid off, yet. He does not have representation, but says there are a few local galleries he would like to present his work to.
“It’s been a nice few months just being in the studio all day,” he says.
This will be the first time he shows a work in progress. Kasper says he feels a little vulnerable opening his work space to the public, but he says he’s also optimistic.
Kasper’s studio will be open to the public during Art Detour 31, March 14 – 18, 2019, in downtown Phoenix from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
03/01/2019 Original Artworks by Eric Kasper – Art Detour 31
01/06/2016 The show is back on thanks to Meggen and the fine people at Sam•Poe Gallery.
01/06/2016 Another Article by Christine Steele
The censored art exhibit has found a new home.
The art of Eric Kasper, which was deemed offensive and pornographic by the building owner where the exhibit initially opened, will now be showcased at Sam Poe Gallery, in a new opening next month.
“The Appropriate Show,” also called “Project Uncut,” “Project Uncut and Uncensored,” and “The Uncensored Show,” will hold an opening at 6 p.m. on Jan. 9 at Sam Poe Gallery, 24 Main St. in Bisbee.
The exhibit initially opened Nov. 14 under the name “Spirits of the West,” at what was then the Windows Gallery, located in the front of the Convention Center at the Copper Queen Plaza. The exhibit closed after just two days after one of the building’s owners, Scott Ries, said he found several of the paintings offensive, including nudes or partial nudes. Gallery operator Meggen Connolley opted to close the gallery rather than remove seven pieces of art that Ries wanted removed.
In deciding to host the show, artists and gallery owners Poe Dismuke and Sam Wolcott said they wanted to give people a chance to see the art and make their own interpretations.
“Most people didn’t get a chance to see it,” said Dismuke.
Wolcott said she didn’t see the art during its first opening because she and Dismuke had an opening of their own that night.
“But as an artist, I’m very interested in these paintings,” she said. “The best art always pushes a little bit of an edge, and he’s trying to tell a story here or investigate something and this is the language he is using. He is putting it out there for us to look at and how we feel about what we are seeing is an individual challenge. We have a choice to investigate it or walk by it if it doesn’t interest us.”
Connolley said after she took down the exhibit and closed the gallery, she had offers from two other people in Bisbee willing to host the show.
“Sam and Poe approached us and we felt Sam Poe was the best fit of all the venues,” she said. “I feel a renewed sense of appreciation for Bisbee because of the amount of support we have received since that show occurred. Every time we walk around town people come up to us and shake our hands and tell us they are proud of us. I don’t regret my decision to take down the show and close the gallery at all.”
“I’m excited to be a part of the next stage,” said Wolcott.
The show will feature the paintings of Eric Kasper and the photography of Ty McNeely. Both artists will be at the opening to talk about their work.
McNeely, 34, was born on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and moved with his family to southeastern Arizona in 1990. He served an 18-month tour in Afghanistan and returned to Northern Arizona University in fall of 2013 to finish his photography degree with the goal of becoming a combat photographer. When he is on this side of the world, he photographs the desert southwest and the beauty in decay and abandonment. At other times, he works as a photojournalist in some of the more dangerous places. His work has been featured in galleries and in print throughout the state. He has also been featured on NAZ Today and MSNBC for his work in Ukraine during the revolution in 2014.
Kasper, who is just 28, has had no formal art education and his techniques are all self taught. He works predominantly in oils, yet often chooses to leave large sections of a piece only penciled in or under-painted. He completed his first painting a month after graduating from high school, and after his first year of work, was accepted into a respected Phoenix art gallery. Two years later he was featured in a solo Upcoming Artists exhibit at the West Valley Art Museum.
Since then, his work has often been displayed in the Arts District galleries of downtown Phoenix including The MonOrchid Gallery. His paintings have been chosen to be album covers of the bands Boys & Frogs and Emby Alexander. He lives and works in Phoenix. The paintings he showed in Bisbee had been shown at other galleries with no issues, he said previously.
“There is nudity,” Dismuke said of Kasper’s work. “Yes, horse nudity. Clearly naked horses. You can’t censor Mother Nature. She doesn’t care.”
“What I like is that he is kind of sly about the nakedness,” said Wolcott. “You look at the painting and I’m enjoying the beautiful drawing and the texture of the surface and then you do a double take,” she said. “These are very accomplished paintings for a young artist. He is really making you think.”
“Clearly, he has a very wry sense of humor,” said Dismuke.
“He is addressing a kind of identity,” said Wolcott. “That is kind of interesting.”
“To me, Eric’s art is very thought provoking,” said Connolley. “That was the type of art I wanted to show in the gallery, so I’m really pleased that Sam Poe agreed that art should make you think. Good art won’t please everyone. After hearing some community members argue for the removal of Kasper’s art from sight, one has to question whether Bisbee is a hub for artists and an outlet for unabridged creativity or whether it is merely a hub for the commercialism of tourist-driven art.
“It seems to me that the former is more likely to be sustainable and will have more rewards both economically and aesthetically to the town long term. You don’t want art that is whitewashed just for tourism.”
“Or predictably decorative,” said Wolcott.
11/19/2015 The article by Christine Steele from the Sierra Vista Herald
Bisbee art gallery closes amid controversial exhibit
One sees art, another sees pornography
Christine Steele Updated 16 hrs ago 0
art gallery pic1
Mark Levy/Photo illustration
Windows Gallery owners Eric Meyer and wife Meggen Connolly move an Eric Kasper piece from their Bisbee gallery Wednesday. The business owners will be moving out of the Bisbee Convention Center at the end of the month. The Herald/Review shaded the controversial portion of the painting.
BISBEE — One of Bisbee’s newest galleries has closed after one of the owners of the building requested that seven pieces of art he deemed “offensive” be removed from the show. Instead, gallery operators Meggen Connolley and Eric Meyer chose to close their gallery rather than be censored.
The Windows Gallery opened in June in the front room of the Bisbee Convention Center at 2 Copper Queen Plaza in Old Bisbee. Their latest exhibit, “Spirits of West” showing paintings by artist Eric Kasper and photographs by Ty McNeely, opened Saturday, Nov. 14.
Several hundred people turned out for the opening, and the overwhelming response was positive, Meggen said. Their first clue that there was a problem was on Monday when they were notified by text by Michael Page, who was the building liaison to the gallery, that he had received four complaints about the art and wanted to meet to discuss remedies. The second text said:
“This will be a discussion about a replacement or how to cover, We all understand the art side of this,” also from Michael.
Meggen invited building co-owner Scott Ries to the meeting thinking he would be supportive because he was at the opening for the entire evening and spent time talking to artist Eric Kasper.
“He never said anything negative to us when talking about the art,” Eric Meyer said of Ries.
The couple went to the meeting thinking they were going to discuss a single piece of art — a painting by Eric Kasper titled “Photograph.”
During their discussions, Eric Meyer suggested a compromise.
“We were willing to switch that piece, which was front and center, with another piece, and cover that section with a banner so that it was more shielded from the public but still in the show,” Meggen said. “Michael was willing to have that discussion but Scott was not.”
“Then I came up with another suggestion,” Eric said, “of putting up curtains and actually privatizing that part of the show and so that people could choose whether or not to enter that area, and you couldn’t see that art without entering it,” he said. “Michael was excited about that and even made an analogy to other galleries that did just that.”
But Meggen wasn’t crazy about that idea.
“I was concerned about creating an interpretation for the art before the viewer had a chance to interpret it on their own,” she said.
The final suggestion, from Ries, was to put a sheet or a board in front of all of the pieces of art he deemed “offensive” — all seven of them — and then have them replaced as soon as possible with other art that he approved of.
“All of the controversy was nudity,” Eric said. “He said it was pornographic.”
“I said to Scott that was his own interpretation of the art,” said Meggen.
Megan Connolly, owner of both Magnetic Threads and Windows Gallery, begins to move things out of the Magnetic Threads shop. The shop now contains Windows Gallery art which has been removed from the gallery due to complaints about the content of some of the artwork.
Some of the paintings show horse penises. Others are partial nudes that show breasts and a man’s penis.
In the end, the couple decided not to bow down to censorship and opted instead to close the gallery.
“The gallery was a collaboration between us and the building,” Meggen said. “We were the curators/operators. The building owners were really supportive in the beginning and the gallery wouldn’t have looked as great as it did without the graphic design skills of Michael Page. I don’t have any animosity towards them. They offered us the chance to have a really cool gallery, but I’m not going to run a gallery if you are going to come in and tell me what I can put up and not put up,” she said. “There is no point to spending my time and money. I wanted to do a show about how it feels to live on the border. That could be very political.”
Meggen is also closing her original, handmade clothing store, Magnetic Threads, which has been in the Convention Center for the past four years. Her designs have garnered her invitations to participate in NY Fashion Week shows and been included in the Latin Grammy Gift Bags, she says.
“I was really excited about the gallery and that was my motivation and now I don’t have the desire to stay open,” she said of her store.
Ries, who is president of Border City Land Corporation, which owns the building and is a partnership between him and the Page family, said he did not feel the type of art that was in the exhibit was appropriate for the market of the building.
“I really appreciate Meggen and Eric,” Ries said. “They are a great young couple that have done business in our building. I appreciate their efforts to operate a gallery. We simply had an artistic disagreement and then Meggen and Eric then chose to terminate our agreement to operate the gallery. I respect what they want to accomplish but I do not want this form of art in my building. It’s a family building, pure and simple. The paintings were not appropriate for youngsters in particular, and the complaints came from adults.”
At the opening, Ries said he didn’t look that closely at the art, and didn’t until the next — after he got the complaints.
“If you don’t focus on it, you can miss it,” he said. “The one with the children was sexual and pornographic. You almost had to get down on your knees to see it because it was at the bottom of the frame.”
He also said he did not receive any complaints from other tenants in the building, which houses several other businesses, most owned by the Page family, who are also part owners in the building. Michael Page did not return calls requesting a comment. But at least one other tenant in the building is sorry to see the gallery go. Carol Lokey, who owns Bisbee Books and Music with her partner Robert Voss, said she felt the gallery was a great addition to the building.
“It’s a loss to the building,” she said of the gallery’s closing.
And others in the community are just sorry to see the turn of events.
“I think it’s very sad that in 2015 we have outdated puritanical values that censor art,” said Vincent Wicks, who recently opened Vincente’s Fine Art Gallery, on Main St. in Old Bisbee.
“I don’t think censorship has a place in this society and the art world,” said Bisbee resident and former arts professor Charles Bethea. “If the people who own the building gave them the responsibility to curate art for that gallery then it seems to me that they should be supported. I’m disturbed that they weren’t. Let the art show. Let people complain. People complain about art all the time. Remember you are looking at someone else’s vision. Your reaction can be your reaction but that doesn’t mean your reaction is correct.”
Fellow artist in the show, photographer Ty McNeely said he was also disappointed in the outcome.
“I find it saddening that a place like Bisbee that is so open to free thinkers and artistic minds would so quickly condemn artwork,” he said.
The combat veteran said the reason he got into photography was in part to fight censorship.
“Things are not covered the way they should be,” he said. “Everything is glossed over and censored. I find it disconcerting that this show was only up for two days before it was condemned by people. It’s censorship of artwork and that’s surprising for Old Bisbee.”
As for artist Eric Kasper, whose works Ries found offensive, he said those same paintings were exhibited in several other galleries in the Phoenix area without any issues, and that thousands of other famous paintings show more nudity that than some of his.
“I just really want to stress how proud I am to be associated with Meggen and Eric,” he said. “They have this unflinching nerve to choose the progression of society over their own livelihood. I just think that is an incredible thing. We are proud to know them and to know that they are doing this to fight censorship. It speaks a lot to their character.”
And as for the empty space left by the vacated gallery, Ries said he plans to make it an extension of the Bisbee Coffee Company, a Page family business, and create a cyber cafe following the installation of a high speed fiber optic network, which should be installed by the end of the year. And on the walls — their own selected art.
Journalist, writer, storyteller
Journalist, writer, storyteller
10/06/2015 I think I’m one of the two spirits in the “Spirits of the West” art show. Didn’t ask to be sure, but I’m guessing Ty and I are the “Spirits”. Shouldn’t be any specters about.
04/18/2015 Working on a show for 2015 – possible December opening date.
03/15/2015 A few paintings showing at The Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.