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Prestigious Pairing

two Chippewa Valley artists invited to international art shows

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

LET’S SEE! On Aug. 2, artists Eric Lee (above) and Terry Meyer spoke at 200 Main Gallery and Wine Bar about their invitations to international art shows in Venice.
LET’S SEE! On Aug. 2, artists Eric Lee (above) and Terry Meyer spoke at 200 Main Gallery and Wine Bar about their invitations to international art shows in Venice.

What’s better than one Chippewa Valley artist being invited to a prestigious international gallery show in Venice, Italy? Two Chippewa Valley artists! 

In March, the Eau Claire community banded together to raise more than $17,000 to help Eric Lee pay the travel and show costs to participate in “Personal Structures.” This gallery show, hosted by the European Cultural Centre, runs concurrently with the Biennale, a world-renowned art show that takes place in the city. Just a few months later, painter and sculpture artist Terry Meyer received a similar invitation – one to the Cultural Centre’s companion architecture show that takes place in 2020.

“It’s like lightning striking twice,” Lee said. The pair of artists had seldom crossed paths before Lee’s invitation. Now, they meet up to discuss the details of Meyer’s upcoming experience. Both artists were worried their invitation might be a scam at first – attending the event comes with a $12,000-$15,000 price tag, and schemes abound to separate artists from their money or works. Through persistent research, Lee was able to confirm the authenticity of the show he was invited to. When Meyer received his invitation, they were able to check each others notes.

Lee was invited to show a triptych of collage paintings featuring abstract shapes and found materials. It will remain on display in Venice throughout the summer.

He attended the opening of the gallery he was invited to display his work in during the first week of May.

“It wasn’t like a museum where somebody would want to sit down and look at something for 20 minutes,” he said. He didn’t speak the language and he wasn’t wearing a name tag, so people paid him little attention and he observed the event. People were hustling between exhibits, speaking quickly in Italian and other languages. Lee likened the movement of guests and artists to a tornado.

Meyer’s invitation allows him the opportunity to create an entirely new sculpture for the 2020 show, called “Time Space Existence.” He has already created a model based on old sketches of the piece he will bring to the show: a dark metal horse climbing from the earth, steel rods projecting up and outward from the body. It was originally titled “Earth to Sky.”

Depending on the availability and cost of shipping, Meyer may choose to construct the final sculpture in Venice over the course of a month before the opening in May.

“The honor and the sort of goosebumps I got for being invited after all these years of doing artwork is pretty humbling,” Meyer said. Though he is a lifelong artist, his foray into sculpture got serious just a few years ago. He credits Sculpture Tour Eau Claire organizer Julie Pangallo for his recent success. “If there was no sculpture tour, I probably would not have gotten back into sculpture,” he said.

Meyer plans to sell his art over the course of the next several months in order to raise the $15,000 in participation costs.

The shows are attended annually by hundreds of thousands of guests, and feature few United States artists; those who do hail from the States are generally from coastal hubs such as Los Angeles and New York, making Meyer and Lee’s participation especially noteworthy.

“I’m still kind of filtering through (the experience),” Lee said. “I know it’s going to affect what I do moving forward as far as painting goes, but I don’t know what it is yet.” He remembers wondering whether attending the show would be worthwhile; now he knows the answer is a resounding “yes,” and he’s excited to follow Meyer’s story as it unfolds. “I am so happy for Terry,” he said. “It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”