Perspective is everything, or at least it is when viewing Rian Kasner’s 3D art installation titled “See Us” at Utah Pride Center’s Story Garden in Salt Lake City.
The piece reflects portraits of individuals belonging to the LGBTQ community and is meant to illustrate the process of coming out. The piece begins black and white, but as you walk around it, the portraits get brighter in color and happier in composition. Kasner said the piece is meant to reflect the loneliness and isolation one initially feels before moving forward to a place of community and pride.
“This is the journey we face. A shared experience many don’t know we’ve had. The world outside of us doesn’t see what we’ve been through in order to accept ourselves. We want society to change its perspective. We want you to see us,” Kasner, 22, said.
Part of the piece reflects Kasner’s own experience.
“It’s scary when you’re first discovering these things about yourself and not seeing anyone else out there who, it seems like they’re going through the same thing as you, you feel very isolated,” Kasner said. “It is still really hard because everything in society is telling you that this is wrong and that’s why I think it’s so difficult, no matter where you grew up or how you grew up.”
The Story Garden, part of Utah Pride Week, is an interactive outdoor exhibit curated with national and local partners. The exhibit highlights artists in the community, creating a space of representation.
Proclamations and flag raisings were held earlier this week to kick of Pride Week events. An interfaith service was held Wednesday night and a Rainbow March and Rally is scheduled for Sunday starting at the state Capitol and ending at Liberty Park. The annual Pride Parade and accompanying festival is not being held this year because of the pandemic.
Kasner grew up in Puyallup, Washington, and then moved to Utah to attend Southern Utah University. Kasner studied graphic design and “fell into murals” when a coach at SUU requested a mural design for the weight room. In need of volunteer hours, Kasner offered to paint the mural as well. Stumbling through the first mural, Kasner discovered a career pathway.
Now graduated, Kasner is a traveling muralist with the goal to paint one in every state across the nation.
Kasner likes to paint pieces with underlying meaning when receiving a commission and creative freedom. Some of Kasner’s murals feature portraits of people within the LGBTQ community.
“It goes back to that normalization thing that I was discussing earlier. I just want us to be out there and normalized, but also seen at the same time,” Kasner said. “So it’s an interesting dichotomy with how I put my art onto the wall and the underlying meaning, because as you look at it, you’re going to pull your own meaning. But once you kind of read the artist’s statement it has its own meaning. It has secret visibility.”
The Story Garden also features community partnerships through art displays like Caitlyn Barhost’s.
University of Utah Transgender Health Services posted a call to artists to commission a piece to be featured in the Story Garden. Barhorst, 27, a transgender artist, responded to the call.
Barhorst’s piece is a sculpture of butterfly wings out of reclaimed wood.
“The imagery of a butterfly wing represents for the transgender community, that sort of transformation. I immediately thought of trying to use reclaimed, or you know just reusing material and making something brand new, to add to that another layer of transformation.”
Barhorst continued, “It was nice to be creating the symbol of not only my creative side and everything but you know actually being able to create this thing that maybe people can connect with and have their own sort of story to tell.”
Parents helped shape Barhorst’s background growing up in Texas, with mom described as a “crafty” seamstress and dad as an engineer who taught Barhorst how to build things.
Barhorst now works in an architecture firm in Salt Lake City and owns an art business called “Alabaster and Stone.”
Barhorst describes the Salt Lake community as inclusive, pointing to the pride flags and symbols featured in the windows of businesses and houses, something Barhorst said is important.
“It’s important to know we see you. I think that’s another thing … when you know people have rainbows on their backpacks or rainbows on their store it’s like we’re here, and you are too and we see that, and you know that that level of just existing together in this world,” said Barhorst. “Visibility is a big part of what the fight has always been for.”
Pieces from Kasner and Barhorst and others can be seen at Utah Pride Center’s Story Garden at Washington Square from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. through Monday. Funds raised during Utah Pride Center’s Pride Week will go toward funding the center’s programs and services.
For more information regarding the events, tickets or schedule, visit utahpridecenter.org.