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Utah County may not immediately come to mind when looking for great art in this state, but I consistently find art in the area that satisfies. With two major educational institutions, a spattering of galleries, and three distinctly different Art Museums, a smorgasbord of art work is available, something to delight any taste. I sampled some of the current offerings during the first week of February and found the Woodbury Museum’s UVSC Faculty exhibit and Terra Nova’s Still Life is Still Alive delectable.
Woodbury Art Museum
Taking the time to find this art venue upstairs at the University Mall in Orem is well worth the effort. This month’s exhibit of UVSC Art and Visual Communications Department Full Time and Adjunct Faculty, through February 17th, provides an appetizing purview of the talent now instructing at this growing institution.
Nancy Steele-Makasci presents the most significant number of pieces in the show. Steele-Makasci is caught up in the current art trend Modern Painters’ Matthew Collings calls “bits of body discourse.” Ten open black boxes of collaged and carefully hand-colored body parts hang next to three larger framed works that present even more organs spiced up with manipulated botanical images.|2| The addition of expressive black Chinese calligraphy offers just a hint of meaning. Four more of her appropriated body fragments are illuminated on supports finely crafted from recycled book materials. This rich offering of detailed medical and scientific book imagery was enough to satisfy any cannibal. But there was more. In the middle of the room, under cover, are three exquisitely detailed artist books, hand-sewn and hand-colored. |3| Steele-Makasci stirs science and art collage together with invention and craftsmanship.
Jackie Brethren’s mixed media works “Tree Branch I and II” lured me into the next gallery, where layers of paper printed with arboresque markings lie sandwiched between unstretched canvas and acetate printed with more tree images. The transparent acetate allowed me to see all the layers in between. Presentation is a big part of Brethren’s missive; this whole art sandwich is simply nailed to the wall. At first, “Gestures” (another work by Brethren) seems to be a simple collection of five delicious gelatin prints of a shadowy female figure stretching through different yoga-like poses, traditionally matted and framed. Looking closer, I realize the photographs are attached directly to the wall with a small steel nail driven into each corner; there is no matt at all, the heavy black frame stands on metal buck nails imposing a strict limit on the space surrounding the figures. |4| Brethren’s spicy presentation succeeded in enticing me into a more intimate dialogue with her work.
At this point, I had to walk back into the main hallway of the gallery to see if the transparent ortho-litho-film image of a tree hanging front and center was also by Ms. Brethren. It wasn’t. Barbara Frazier is the artist who went out on a limb to offer this tree vestige hanging from the ceiling at the median point of the gallery.|5| At this point I recognized that a number of the UVSC faculty are cultivating trees in their current art works. Photographer Simon Blundell uses tree silhouettes in “Ascension to Blue,” a piece that caused me to re-think my idea of blue describing an emotional state when I am down; his blue is at the top of a set of stairs, a rescue–if you will–from a complex exterior garden of darkness. In “Between Days,” another work by Blundell, speaks of the conflict between models and fashion design, reminding me of something from the movie The Devil Wears Prada or a response to the photographs of Steven Meisel.
Ron Rogers brings me back to the tree as subject with his signature works to repeat the theme I’ve chosen for the show. Tree images typically stand on the horizon in Rogers’ work, flattened against strong colors appearing almost as silhouettes. In the same gallery are expressive figurative works by Donna Corno and one significant piece by Hyunmee Lee.|6| I enjoy the tasty richness of Lee’s calligraphic brush marks that attempt to create boundaries in a deep, limitless space.
Lee Cowan teased me with color in three large pieces that create an effective visual vibration reminding me of the pleasure of exploring color theory problems with Wayne Kimball at BYU.|7|
Marcus Vincent, Woodbury Gallery Director and UVSC faculty member, presents figurative work in the show that is infused with emotion. His largest piece is a painting of a woman lying down with her arms around a man tucked into the fetal position; a child embryo is detached from both figures. Represented realistically, the figures are surrounded by a reverberating red aura, emanating a sense of pain. I have never seen artwork giving a man permission to grieve and find comfort by becoming like a child. The influence of Trevor Southey is apparent in the painting’s style. The subject matter reminded me Brian Kershisnik’s habit of painting painting a man’s experience in a woman’s world. The next two images by Vincent also gave me a peek into a man’s relationship to women. In “Dark Breath,” random marks on paper become a male figure receiving a kiss from the dark figure of a woman, her bad air flowing into his heart. This negative image is resolved in the next painting, “Expellere=Expulsion,” where the man recovers and is renewed by breathing clean air again.
After viewing these emotional images by Vincent I felt drawn to the small, non-objective works on paper by full-time professor Catherine Downy hanging near by.|8| These mixed media pieces appear to grow out of the same habit that drives many of the rest of the faculty, viewing trees and botanical imagery. Like tasting an unexpected dish created by a skilled chef, I want to know more about how she refined these delectable little morsels. Maybe the hunger I felt while touring the Woodbury is common and may have motivated art galleries to offer food at openings.
Terra Nova Gallery
Food of a two-dimensional variety is offered up at Terra Nova’s current show, Still Life is Still Alive, that runs through February 23. I am often surprised by the high-profile artists I run into at this gallery, established by photographer David Hawkinson as an extension of his studio. The treasures Hawkinson displays are equal to the artists he entertains. Brian Kershisnik’s offering for this month’s exhibit, “Still Life With Two Fish,” tickled my funny bone. I’m not really sure why, perhaps because the fish are smiling like they are grateful to be surrounded by such pleasant looking vegetables, or maybe they know how many bones I’ll have to pick out if I eat them. Something about these two curious fish made me want to belly laugh out loud. Kershisnik gets away with leaving his darks unresolved–as scrubbed in ground–only touching the fish and vegetables with enough color to make a suggestion of what he is painting. In the same intimate gallery space, Rebecca Wagstaff presents a still life “Sunflower and Apricots” that is exquisitely rendered down to every finely painted detail. “Adrift,” by Robert Gardner, presents a stone floating in a magenta fabric sea. This image offers many symbols to be explored and also resonated with me because I tried to paint cloth as water once and wasn’t that successful.
No matter what your taste in art you will find something of interest in Utah County this month, from the still lifes at Terra Nova to the book making, mixed media, painting, photography, pottery, printmaking and sculpture at the Woodbury Museum.
Elizabeth Matthews , a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, graduated from Brigham Young University in 2006 with a BFA in Painting and an English minor.