That Stolen Jesse Perry Painting Was Returned to Bitter & Twisted

One of several pieces of Jesse Perry art shown at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix.
One of several pieces of Jesse Perry art shown at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix. Ross Simon
A painting by Phoenix artist Jesse Perry that was recently stolen from Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in downtown Phoenix has been returned.

Ross Simon, owner for Bitter & Twisted, announced the news on Facebook late Wednesday night, September 20.

Simon didn't share details about the work's return, but included this information in his post: "After apologies were given and accepted, as promised no further action will be taken on our part."

The theft happened Saturday night, September 16. So Simon spent several days wondering whether it would be returned.

Perry learned about the theft from Simon on Monday, September 18. The artist took to social media, revealing his justified rage in a Facebook post that opened with these words:

"I hope I get to thank these people face to face, for stealing a piece from B&T last. As a local artist, I work extremely hard to have my work on display in downtown Phoenix and contribute to the creative progress of the city."

Perry's murals, which often feature colorful sunbursts or pop art-inspired cactuses, grace several buildings in downtown Phoenix, including Zinnias at Melrose and FilmBar.

The creative has several paintings hanging at Bitter & Twisted, but that didn't make him feel any better about the theft.

He signed off on his Monday night post by writing, "Thanks assholes, enjoy the piece...and choke on the guilt!"

The art was created about four years ago, before Bitter & Twisted opened. Simon did a drink-and-draw-style event, and several artists worked on mixed-media pieces that incorporated photographs capturing bits of Phoenix history.

The piece that was stolen depicts a part of the Grand Canyon, altered to look like a slice of birthday cake. Perry says it measures about 9-by-11 inches.

For Simon, the photographs are an homage to the historical significance of the Luhrs Building, where his bar is located. Built in 1924, the building was one of the city's first skyscrapers. Scenes from Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie Psycho were filmed there, and the site is listed on the Phoenix Register of Historic Properties.

click to enlarge A sampling of artworks on view at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix. - ROSS SIMON
A sampling of artworks on view at Bitter & Twisted in downtown Phoenix.
Ross Simon
Simon created his own Facebook post Monday night, in the form of an open letter that berated the thief for deciding public artwork would "look better in your own home," then ripping it off the wall.

They did more than steal artwork, he says. They also committed an act of vandalism.

Simon also posted images of a man and woman he believed were responsible for the crime. And he issued this plea:

"We ask that if your conscience can't convince you, perhaps someone from your party or someone that might know you could persuade you to do the right thing, and return our lovely piece of art to its rightful home."

Here's the kicker. Simon also revealed that he had credit card information for the suspects. His open letter gave them fair warning: Return the art or that information goes to the police.

"It was just gross and kind of sad, considering the heinous nature of the crime," Simon told Phoenix New Times before the art was returned.

At that point, Simon was thinking about creative ways to make more art for the space. And he was feeling encouraged by all the support shared through social media, and by patrons. "I've been kind of blown away by all the support."

Unfortunately, Saturday's theft is just the latest bad news for Perry.

Perry learned about a week ago that someone had painted a large tag on his Zinnias mural. He's still working on getting the paint he needs to fix it.

But he's also dealing with another theft.

Not long ago, someone broke into his studio, located next to his home in the Roosevelt Row area. It happened during the middle of the night, and thieves got a pretty big haul — including art supplies, tools including airbrushes, and the artist's bike.

At least now, there's something to celebrate.

Simon closed out his Wednesday night post with these words:

"Balance has been returned to the world and faith in humanity for a brief time, restored."

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Ross Simon as Ross Smith.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble