Art or trash? Local artist charged with littering outside Aspen Art Museum

Outspoken artist Lee Mulcahy was charged with littering Monday for allegedly dumping trash in front of the Aspen Art Museum earlier this month, according to a police report.

In a phone interview Monday, however, Mulcahy, 63, said the so-called trash was actually a sculpture he was attempting to donate to the museum, though he admitted that no one at the museum knew about his donation plans because he’s been banned from the building.

“I think it’s very sad the art museum would consider my art trash,” Mulcahy said. “I would like to have a debate with the CEO of the art museum as to what actually constitutes art.”

According to the police report, Mulcahy was caught on surveillance video about 10 p.m. on Oct. 8 “dumping trash from the bed of his pickup truck.” An Aspen police officer who viewed the video recognized Mulcahy and his truck — which has stripes on the side and a yellow flag flying above the driver’s door — and saw him “leave multiple items on the sidewalk,” the report states.

The items included “multiple springs, a large plastic planter, a washer/dryer silver tube and a small bicycle,” according to the report. Mulcahy said Monday the items constituted a sculpture.

Mulcahy — who has been fighting the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s attempts to evict him from his employee housing unit at Burlingame Ranch for not following the rules for nearly two years — also landed at the center of another controversy Sunday.

That incident began with an email he sent to Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor just after 11 a.m. Sunday saying he had met the chief’s wife and son at church that morning and that Pryor’s wife “gave me the nicest hug,” according to the email chain. Mulcahy also complained in the email about a police officer posted outside a recent APCHA meeting, the housing authority’s efforts to evict him and asked for all documents regarding himself and “APCHA/City of Aspen police,” the email states.

Pryor wrote back and told Mulcahy that his wife “felt as though you approached her and using your size gave her an ‘uninvited’ hug to the point that you hurt her,” according to the email.

“We will be contacting you via personal email to provide some boundaries for future interactions,” Pryor wrote in the email.

Mulcahy wrote back that he “meant no disrespect when I offered a hug to Ms. Pryor in church” and that she never expressed any opinion that the hug was offensive.

In a subsequent email Monday, Pryor offered a bit more detail about the encounter.

“My wife asked me to let you know the following,” he wrote in the email. “The interaction felt intrusive and uncomfortable as she was grabbed from behind, hurting her.

“It did not feel like a ‘hug.’”

When reached Monday, Pryor said he and his wife will not discuss the incident further.

Asked for his reaction to that version of the church encounter, Mulcahy was succinct.

“That is a fabrication,” he said. “And that is an outright lie.”

He later wrote in an email that “this is character assassination from the city of Aspen.”