Curtis Speer: eleven

Cape Cod Art  /  ART Annual 2021 /

Writer: Christina Galt

Local photographer and CUSP Gallery owner Curtis Speer has been able to take advantage of the last drawn-out months the pandemic brought upon us to curating a collection of fine art photography. 
Cicada • 36″ x 36″ • Pigment on Cotton, 2014

After combing through thousands of photographs he had taken over the course of his career, Speer selected 200 works that he has been able to self-publish with his First Edition coffee table book “eleven”. 

Speer began seriously taking photos in 2010 which is one of the many reasons his new book is called “eleven”. Originally going to school for drawing, Speer didn’t pick up a camera until the early 90s. The birth of Facebook allowed the self-taught photographer to share his amateur work. He says, “The social media platform became a barometer for people to respond to my work and it really encouraged me to keep pursuing it.” Through that platform, Speer managed to make a few sales, still working a fulltime job to keep himself afloat. 

Fast-forward to the creation of Instagram; the visual platform became another way for the budding photographer to share his work. As he began gaining more momentum in the industry, a friend of his encouraged him to sell all his work and move to Provincetown taking pictures for a few months in the winter. He notes, “I had never been to Provincetown, so I told him ‘That sounds highly irresponsible’ but he quickly reminded me that I could do my job from anywhere, so what was irresponsible?”

Long Point Light • 24″ x 36″ • Pigment on Cotton, 2016

After Speer sold everything in his California home, he moved out to the Cape in 2017 planning to only stay and take photos for a few months. “It was a new place and I didn’t know a soul, then a business owner in town happened to see my work online, by my surprise offering me a spot in his building to open a gallery,” he remarks. “I hesitated for a few weeks, and then I called him back and said, ‘Let’s do it.’” After opening CUSP Gallery, Speer’s photography sales went through the roof. 

“Whenever people come into the gallery, the first thing that always happens is people ask, ‘Is this a photograph or a painting?’” says Speer. “I print on cotton, so it’s a pigment process that soaks into this top layer of pressed cotton, creating this really beautiful painterly look and feel. When you experience it firsthand, everything looks like a painting.”

Achille Oysters 691 • 36″ x 36″ • Pigment on Cotton, 2020

With the real-estate in Provincetown being on the smaller side, Speer couldn’t display all of his work, which begs many to ask the question “Do you have a coffee table book?” As an artist financing his own journey, it was difficult to get the momentum and funding for a coffee table book going, “Eventually, I was able to put the funds into the making of this book. I decided to do just a small first edition run of 500. The number 11 represents a plethora of symbolism for the photographer, including his career that has been 11 years in the making, “Philosophically speaking, the number one is a starting point, a point of ignition and the place where flint and steel create a spark. It’s about beginnings, pioneering and driving forward. Double the number and you double its strength, intensity and meaning creating a force that requires mastery to manage effectively,” remarks Speer. “On a personal level, anyone carrying this Master Number is often a visionary—idealistic, charismatic, and deeply philosophical or spiritual. To me, those two one’s that make up the number 11 suggest pillars, with a portal or doorway in between. They offer the idea of a threshold that one may cross over, allowing entry into a different dimension, a new land and a place with the promise of new beginnings.” 

Curating 11 years of work to squeeze into 212-page book, took Speer about a week of eight-hour days combing through his life’s work, “I took a step back and really asked myself ‘What’s my best work and what’s really going to pique the interest of the viewer?’” explains Speer.

Speer’s work is provocative, evocative and showstopping, “I want my work to evoke a stillness in the viewer and makes them ask the question ‘Why?’” 

To purchase “eleven” visit cuspgallery.com. CUSP Gallery is located at 115 Bradford Street in Provincetown, just look for the red door. 

Christina Galt

Christina Galt is the Digital Editor at Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised on the Cape, Christina has always had a love for the ocean and everything "Cape Cod." She found herself the perfect home away from home at the University of Rhode Island and double majored in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies. After graduating, Christina came back to the Cape and started her journey at Cape Cod Life. She spends most of her free time with her family, especially her chocolate lab Sadie, and enjoys spending summers on her family’s boat.