The impetus for artistic output can come from the most varied and sometimes the most unforeseen sources. A fleeting image, a chance encounter, an accident; all can be the catalyst for a surge of creative output and even major stylistic changes in an artist’s oeuvre.
Had Pollock not taken notice of his spilled paint, had Derain and Vlaminck not met on an outbound Paris train, each artist’s output (as well as the course of Western art) might have been drastically different. An artist is the one whose eyes are open to possibility and who takes advantage of chance, of opportunity.
Salt Lake City artist Bevan Chipman had no idea he would dedicate nearly a year of his artistic life painting Sudanese women when he stepped into the Art Access Gallery in the Fall of 2002 to visit his friend Ruth Lubbers. Chipman, a watercolorist with a studio in Sugar House, often travels and paints the people and scenes he visits, but he had no particular interest or affiliation with Africa or the war-torn East African country of the Sudan. But when Lubbers showed him a photograph she had taken of Sudanese refugees living in Salt Lake City, Chipman became immediately intrigued.
The women’s colorful attire and noble faces appealed to his artistic eye. So, Chipman asked Lubbers to arrange a meeting where he might take some photos of the women in their traditional attire.
He had no idea where the chance encounter would take him.
Since that first meeting, Chipman has produced more than 30 paintings of the women. In addition, he has been busy preparing for a one-man exhibition of the work at the Forum Gallery, which will feature his new work and will also celebrate the culture of the Sudanese refugees.
The May 21st (Gallery Stroll) opening of “The Women” will feature Chipman’s paintings as well as the stories of the women who have captured the artist’s interest. In addition, music and food of the Sudanese culture will be celebrated. Chipman will be using the opportunity of the exhibition to help raise funds for the Sudanese Education Fund, which strives to help provide vocational training for the refugees here in Salt Lake as well as provide tuition for some of the orphaned children of Sudan, still refugees in eastern Africa.
Salt Lake City’s Sudanese refugees come from Southern Sudan, which has been in a violent conflict with the politically dominant North for close to 20 years. The conflict is driven both by religion, the North is Muslim and the South Christian, and the power of oil. The result has been a bloody destruction of many communities in the South, the scattering of families and the exodus of many refugees.
Though Chipman has done a few pieces showing groups of women, sometimes with their children, most of the works are of a single woman, often a bust view. Chipman portrays each woman in a dignified individuality. His watercolors have a very earthy, grainy quality to them, and he has added pastel to many of the pieces to bring them to life. The colorful dress of the Sudanese is adeptly balanced with their strong, dignified visages.
“The Women” will be at the Forum Gallery from May 21st through June 12th. The gallery is located at 511 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City and is open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m. The opening reception, May 21st, will be from 6 to 9 p.m.
For more information about the Sudanese Education fund contact Dr. Susan Quaal at 363-1228.
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.