Compiling faculty shows is a balancing act between honoring the artists’ personal styles and still telling a story with an exhibition. An artistic gem in this genre can be found in Sanpete County, in the form of the 2017 Snow College Visual Arts Faculty Biennial Exhibition. It’s a hodgepodge of more than a dozen artists coming together to explore media, faith, fantasy, and urbanization. Snow College may be a small institution located in a small town, but these artists are dealing with some really big themes in their artwork.
Several pieces in the show focus on women and contemporary female conversations, like Kelly Brook’s “Movement Studies/(Un)Done,” which focuses on the “second shift” – women who work outside the home but continue to do housework when they come home. Featuring knitting and abstract drawing to illustrate concepts of “doneness” and “un-doneness,” her contributions also include a videotape of her at home running around the house to take care of lingering household duties. Doneness is not really applicable to housework — there are always dirty laundry, dishes, hungry children, or dirty toilets — and her looped video is an endless stream of her performing these duties over and over again, never quite completing one task because of a multitude of other necessities.
Also interested in contemporary feminism is Amy Jorgensen, with her piece “(from the series) Blood of Women” — a linen napkin stained with wine and blood creating the shape of female genitalia. Recently, a lot of researchers in the psychological field have published papers debunking “period brain,” which is the stereotype that women on their periods are less likely to think clearly, control their emotions, or be able to problem solve. There is no statistically significant difference in problem solving for women who are menstruating versus any other time in their cycle. This research, like Jorgensen’s piece, is a celebration of womanhood and also a normalization of it—there is no need to be afraid of female menstruation.
All of the photographers at the SCVA show deal with location and searching. Christiana Ruth’s “Second Home” is a double-exposed photograph of an alley between two apartment buildings combined with a desert scene — a great evocation of Utah living, where most of us live in urban or semi-urban settings but are drawn to the wilderness areas that surround us The nature photography of Paul A. Gardner features a double rainbow near the western edge of Colorado, a rare and beautiful sight. Most poignant of these pieces may be Haynes Goodsell’s “You Are Not Anonymous (Privacy Should be Default),” which calls out to the integrity of dating app developers and also to their users, who should protect themselves from uncomfortable situations: Arising from an experience of sexual harassment, Goodsell’s photograph depicts a man who exposed himself to Goodsell on the train after finding his location on a dating app.
Artists Dustin Hansen and Robert DeGroff both illustrate areas of fantasy; Hansen with his elaborate, digitally painted catacombs and pull statues; and DeGroff with an intriguing etching that shows an unrooted patch of land floating above the clouds. Also playing with the idea of reality vs. fantasy is Adam Larsen, with his “Lost Worlds,” a relief and screen print of a hand playing video games: with the rise of smartphones and other portable technology, we as a society often have more of a connection with the digitally created world than the physical one.
Ron Richmond and Scott Allred share an interest in the use of religious allusions. Richmond’s “Heaven and Earth” depicts a woman with a pewter halo around her head, possibly Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. The quality of his painting is stunningly realistic but also carries the artist’s particular voice in the textured background and soft edges of her drapery. Her face is vulnerable but determined, both soft and hard. Allred’s “Ode to Leonardo da Vinci (Benois Madonna)” is more directly religious, an obvious Madonna and child scene. Mary wears Renaissance dress, the Christ child is nude, and the setting is a house or castle — which is all standard, but unlike the da Vinci original, Allred’s painting is in sepia tones. The muted color palette feels almost photographic, more realistic, as do the interactions of Christ and Mary. It is a reimagining of what the relationship of Mary and Christ would be if taken out of the rigid, highly symbolic Renaissance tradition.
This riffing on historical sources plays out in other works in the show. Kim Gordon has created a book made completely out of old church programs called “Quiet Codex,” and Zane Anderson includes a detailed and interesting illustration of a pelvis in his “Pelvic Girdle.” In “Raison d’Etre—Reason for Existence,” Kristy Carter has drawn several faces of women from art history using a hierarchal scale, with the more important figures in her artistic development rendered at a larger size. The drawing and composition are not particularly sophisticated, but the importance of the woman in art history is clear in this piece.
For Brad Taggart, time stands still. Or seems to. His mixed-metal sculpture “Suspended Time” compiles several circles and rods in the form of a larger, clock-like portion and a pendulum that has been stopped. While the sculpture has no moving parts, the concentric circles seem to move, constantly rotating even as the pendulum stands still.
Lastly, the featured work of Carl Purcell and Abe Kimball emphasize the skill of Snow College’s drawing and printmaking professors. In “Contemplative,” a pen and ink study of an elderly man and glasses, Purcell highlights the particular quality of this medium by a simple, slightly abstracted representation, keeping the ink light in most places and including more casual scribbles and curves. Kimball is represented by a number of prints, most notable the lithograph of an elderly man and his dog, “Guck and Equerry.” The composition and pose of the male figure is very “American Gothic” with his central placement and single hand out in front holding a rake full of hay. The composition is separated across eight pieces of paper with about an inch of space between them as if the viewer is looking at Guck and Equerry from a window in a house. It is a picturesque view of American farmlands, but also the difficult conditions of this work can be seen in the old farmer’s eyes.
Faculty shows are a great way to see the current skills and interests of visual–arts faculty around the country. The faculty of Snow College may not have as many members as other educational institutions in Utah, but their contributions are important and valid. These pieces spark conversations about work/life balance, environmentalism, media usage, and much more.
“2017 Snow College Visual Arts Faculty Biennial Exhibition,” Snow College Art Gallery, Ephraim, through Dec. 15.
Hannah Sandorf Davis graduated with a degree in art history with a minor in visual arts from Brigham Young University.