Art Access has gone through many changes since its salad days as a must-visit gallery early in the new millennium. Over the intervening years, many of Utah’s best-known artists took turns helping artists of proven merit, but who were prevented by various circumstances from achieving their potential, to hone their skills and acquire the means to exhibit. In an ironic twist, these days it is the exhibitions of Art Access that are seeking assistance of other venues, including the Main Library, the U of U, and most recently, the Underground Gallery at Bountiful Davis Art Center. It’s there that emerging artists Katie Felgar and Sammy Wood, along with established artist Alice Bain Toler, are presenting Kaleidoscope Garden, one of the more elaborate and complete Installation art works to be seen in some time.
Subtitled “Enter Our Whimsical World,” the exhibitions actually begins behind the reception desk on the main floor, where a giant vine wraps around the safety railing and leads the way downstairs into the elaborate foliage below. On close inspection, the vine is seen to be built of garden hoses, while the giant leaves and petals are cut from a variety of recycled packing materials and previously printed paper samples, which create the illusion of familiar lifeforms while at the same time retaining their own, pre-existing identities as industrial castoffs.
A remarkable thing about this installation is how it all blends together, like the work of a skilled gardener who makes disparate plants from a variety of climes and soils merge into a single environment. Yet on closer inspection, the work of each of the three artists can be identified individually. In fact, within the illusionistic framework of the merged garden, conventional gallery labels are concealed in plain sight. Step forward and see which artist made a given plant or scenic element, then take a step back and they once again merge into the botanical illusion. It’s an open question how often a team of artists have so successfully maintained both the individual artists’ identities and the overall unity of the complete work.
Established artist Alice Bain Toler has deep experience with creating environments the viewer can enter and partake of, honed in half a dozen years of Burning Man events, as well as locally in the Illuminate Salt Lake and Dreamscapes festivals. Because she works in large scale and cares about the waste stream she creates, her focus is on use of recycled materials. The sizzling light show of her “Alien Love Spore” brings the Kaleidoscope Garden to life.
Emerging artist Katie Felgar, a denizen of the TURN City Center who has shown widely in the Salt Lake area, finds a meditative, therapeutic element in her mandalas and small, whimsical sculptures. Her pleasure in imagining fairies living in mushroom huts made this project a natural for this legally blind artist.
It wasn’t that long ago that emerging artist Sammy Wood’s self-description, “autistic artist,” would have been thought an oxymoron, but with help from Stan Clawson and inspiration from such diverse sources as Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Lynch, her camera has become “how I connect to my world and use it to unveil the hidden depths of the human psyche, using abstract artistry and a multi-sensory approach to evoke profound emotions.” The distorted forms of her vividly colored images, seen here at BDAC, contrast with the precision of her black and white work.
Some Art Access veterans have gone on to become well-known artists. What may come as more of a surprise is how many of them, when given this opportunity, turn out to have possessed strong talents that only needed a little help to be enabled.
Kaleidoscope World: Enter Our Whimsical Garden, Bountiful Davis Art Center, Bountiful, through Feb. 17