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Erika Kaiser

Erika Kaiser loved Frankfort, even making it the background of her artwork at the Church of the Ascension that features Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus and their flight into Egypt.

Kaiser, 94, a neo-primitive artist, died Thursday at her home in Frankfort.

“I imagine myself to be a bird and look down on the landscape,” Kaiser said in an interview with KET in 2002. “Therefore I can see very far away. I can see the foreground, the middle ground as well as the background, and this is the advantage of that style.”

Kaiser, who was born in Austria, moved to Quebec, Canada, with her husband, Franz, in 1953. The Kaisers later settled in New England before moving to Frankfort in 1973.

“I knew her pretty well through her art,” said Frankfort artist Sallie Clay Lanham. “She was involved in art, the Paul Sawyier Art Club and exhibits. She was outgoing and friendly. She entertained us at her house. She lived right on the river.”

Kaiser studied at the Academy of Applied Art of Vienna.

“Her artwork is so amazing,” Lanham said. “She painted scenes of Frankfort, full of people, buildings, animals. There is so much detail and life and color.”

Ann Wingrove, owner of Completely Kentucky, attended church with Kaiser at the Church of the Ascension.

“It made me so sad to hear of her passing,” Wingrove said. “She was one of our first artists. What she did is not what we do so much. We don’t sell a lot of two-dimensional art.”

But one of Kaiser’s works, entitled “Frankfort Yesteryears,” did sell well at Completely Kentucky.

“We had one of her paintings that she had done into prints, and we sold them for years and years, until there weren’t any more prints,” Wingrove said. “I loved her passion.”

That, combined with tenacity and a purpose, fueled Kaiser.

“Oil painting is for me to tell a story, like the story of Kentucky,” Kaiser told KET. “What is Kentucky all about? The hills, the craftspeople, the tobacco.

“No matter how much talent you have, the most important ingredient is perseverance, just good old-fashioned elbow grease.”

Services for Kaiser will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Frankfort Cemetery. Among her survivors are her son and daughter-in-law, Edward and Dew Kaiser, of State College, Pennsylvania, and her daughter and son-in-law, Gloria and William Hale of Nicholasville. Kaiser’s husband died 12 years ago.

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