Casey Gleghorn, co-owner and curator of Converge Gallery [formerly the Grey Art Gallery], has been called many things: outspoken, provocative, profane. Gleghorn says what he thinks; he doesn't sugarcoat or mince words. "I make a lot of enemies that way," Gleghorn said, laughing. "I make a lot of friends at the same time. I love what Judy Olinsky says about me. She calls me 'young and brash.' I love that because most people would just call me an asshole because I say the first thing that comes into my mind. I can be very critical."
Olinsky's label fits Gleghorn to a T. He warns me up-front about the bluntness for which he's become known. "I don't particularly like interviews because I say stupid stuff and there's no taking it back. I don't church my words up very well," Gleghorn said, pausing. "I hope you're going to use swear words in this, because I'm known to curse."
Gleghorn's brashness applies even when he's talking about himself. He doesn't shy away from past mistakes. "I did a lot of messing up early on, doing a lot of things a typical guy in his early-to-mid-20s making decent money would do," Gleghorn said. "But I've embraced the mistakes I've made in the past because it makes me a stronger person and a harder worker. It's really important that you embrace the mistakes and hardships in life. If this shit was easy, anybody could do it and no one would do it well."
PHOTO By THE GRAPHIC HIVE
Gleghorn, who studied graphic design at Penn College, didn't have any kind of formal training in curating and had to educate himself about the craft through various means. "We didn't go to college for this," Gleghorn said "We had to educate ourselves. We learned from other people that have done it before, we learned from the internet and we learned by going to Chelsea and Brooklyn and visiting other galleries."
Because his gallery has only been open a year, Gleghorn admitted that he is still, in many ways, an amateur and that his curating method is often a matter of trial and error. "I call the week in between shows 'hell week,' " Gleghorn said. "When you have one artist, laying out the show isn't so hard, but when you have four artists with four different styles, you have to make everything talk to each other; everything has to flow.
"The show that we have up now has two collage artists, but they're very different. One has very organic, earthy tones and the other is vibrant and chaotic. You have to figure out how to make these two things talk. It all worked out in the end, but I'll tell you, when I was putting that show together, I was cursing and saying 'screw this, I want to give up, I want to sell my gallery.' That pretty much happens every show. Curating, for me, is pain. I have to feel pain to progress in life. If it's easy - if it's easy cheesy - then what's the point? Curating is pain. There's your headline right there."
In terms of his day-to-day responsibilities, Gleghorn is a jack of all trades. "The day-to-day is totally chaotic," Gleghorn said. "It's a lot of emails - emails about the current show to get press for your artists; lots of bookkeeping, lots of inventory. When I go to New York, it's a lot of networking, lots of talking with other gallerists, artists and clients. It's hard because buying art really isn't at the top of people's agendas right now."
The difficulty of the art market means Gleghorn has to be especially extroverted and put himself out there. He's always striving to discover new artists, court new buyers and forge new connections. Gleghorn is hyper-ambitious; he always has his eye on what he calls "the bigger picture."
"I'm always preparing for bigger and better things," Gleghorn said. "Larry Gagosian has 11 galleries across the world. Am I going to say that I don't want 11 galleries all over the world? No way. I DO want 11 galleries. You have to start somewhere and you have to learn somewhere. I have my targets and I have my eyes set on New York."
Next month, Gleghorn will take a step closer to his goal of opening a New York gallery, when Converge Gallery holds a pop-up exhibition in Brooklyn on August 10. "It's going to be a really big step for Converge Gallery and my artists," Gleghorn said. "The next step is a permanent location in Brooklyn."
For those worried that the gallery might pack up and move shop to New York, Gleghorn had this to say: "I'm not going anywhere so don't worry, Williamsport. We're still going to be here making waves, showing nudes and stuff that's really going to push the envelope for Williamsport."
For Gleghorn, a man of many ambitions, "pushing the envelope" is somewhere near the top of his list. "When I first opened the gallery and started doing shows, I wanted to put in pieces that were going to possibly offend people and ruffle some feathers," Gleghorn said. "I wanted people to walk into my gallery and I wanted their heads to explode."
Translation: Gleghorn wanted to start a conversation that had not been taking place in Williamsport before his gallery opened its doors. "There's always a new bar opening up in Williamsport, always a new place to get drunk. But there aren't many places to get cultured around here," Gleghorn said. "It just seems like the gallery is really needed for that reason. It's about providing the opportunity for people in Williamsport to experience this caliber of art. If I wanted to make a killing, I'd sell landscapes and pretty pictures and what's popular around here. But I don't want to do what's popular. I want to create something. I want to change things. I want to take it to the next level."
In a very real sense, Gleghorn has already achieved that. As the only private contemporary art gallery in town, he has exhibited important avant-garde artists from all over the world. When you walk into Gleghorn's gallery, you know you're seeing things you've never seen before - at least, not around here.
Sometimes, the best way to show people something new is to shock them, which Gleghorn isn't afraid of doing. In fact, he seems to relish it. He wants to shake up people's preconceptions about art and culture. "I love it when the mayor's office calls me and tells me that people are complaining about my show. Nothing makes me happier," Gleghorn said. "I want to make you see something you've never seen before. I'm going to bring all the weird stuff to Williamsport. I don't even care if its purchasable. I want sculptures made out of cow shit. You know what I mean? I want conceptual art."
Like it or not, Gleghorn has a vision for the future and he wants Williamsport and its art scene to catch up. "I love Williamsport and I get frustrated sometimes when Williamsport holds itself back on a creative level because we have so many gifts and so many things that I feel are being taken for granted. It really makes me mad to hear people talk down about Williamsport, but at the same time, they have every reason to because it's very slow-moving. I want to move fast."
When asked about the role Converge Gallery has played in the local art scene, Gleghorn chose his words carefully (for once). "I'm not going to take credit for art being alive in this town," Gleghorn said. "I'll take credit for raising the bar. The art thing would still be going on without me here. It's been a decade of consistent development for the local art community and my gallery's only been open a year. I'll take credit for raising the bar for anybody else who wants to do what I'm doing. That's it."
For more information about Converge Gallery, visit www.convergegallery.com.