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Man behind Bevel, scientist among artists

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A small corner shop is edged with large sculptures made from objects that once saw a different life. Local artist Ned Schaper stands back to admire his work. The room is still, until he flips a switch and the pieces of his sculptures hum as they come to life. 

“Everything I do, whether it’s sculpture or the building, is to manipulate it to make the most out of it,” Schaper said.

Schaper is the man behind Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art. His craft, which originated on the streets of New York City, has found a temporary space in Tucson. He uses found objects to build sculptures and creates characters to illustrate his own self-described poetry.

Schaper came to Tucson in 1987 to study lithography and screen-printing at the UA. After spending time studying and drawing, he and his wife packed their things and moved to New York City, where he began street performing. 

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As a street performer, Schaper studied people and their reactions to the things they saw on the street. It set his work in motion the more he learned about what captures people’s attention. 

“A lot of it is basically my scientific research as an artist,” Schaper said. 

Many of his pieces have been modified to fit into his temporary space, after moving them from their previous home at the Tucson Museum of Art. 

In his current space, a fraction of the size he had at the Tucson Museum of Art, he looks to continue to perform.

“This feels like street performing, because [the audience] doesn’t know what’s happening,” he said.

Ned Schaper in one of his creations, "Jester Physics."

He puts on a display like a museum. Guests are welcome to come in and look at the different pieces and how they move and work together, while Schaper comes out into the room and performs as his various characters.

Schaper builds his puppets and sculptures out of found objects. The pieces put themselves together as he builds and works on them until he has just the right piece for it to work. 

“Everything wants to be used,” Schaper said. “That’s like a law of the universe. The fact that everything wants to be used somehow is what I’ve discovered.”

Schaper said this isn’t what he set out to do with his life, but it’s what he’s found his purpose to be. 

On April 1, guests can see Schaper’s work in action. Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art will present Kinetic Saturdays. The event will showcase several of Schaper’s kinetic sculptures, and Schaper will perform as several of his characters.

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The event will take place from 5-8 p.m. at the Mat Bevel Museum of Kinetic Art. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Schaper said he has ideas for what he wants to do with his sculptures in the future. 

He wants to be able to record his characters for videos, citing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as an inspiration of his. 

Ned Schaper displays one of his many characters,Princess Parody Pillow Lips.

As he reflected on his work, he said it’s his purpose to create his sculptures and use them in the way he does. He said he wants the messages of his poems to get across to people, and if at the end of the day guests walk away thinking about the words he said in his performance, that is enough for him.

He calls himself a preacher of a sort because he shares his thoughts with people through his performance. 

Schaper doesn’t consider himself an artist, instead more of a scientist walking among artists.

Mat Bevel's Museum of Kinetic Art is located at 2855 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information, call 520-604-6273 or visit www.matbevelcompany.org.


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