Exhibition Reviews | In Plain Site | Visual Arts

Collaborative Mural Project Unveiled on Dinwoody Building Celebrates Two Centuries of Utah Women

Look! Waaay up there! That’s an Edie Roberson flying machine perched in a vibrant blue sky on the Dinwoody Building, 37 W. 100 South, in downtown Salt Lake City. Soaring over a wall brimming with portraits of 268 Utah women, it is part of a community-created mural directed by Alex Johnstone and his famed mum, Jann Haworth, who plucked the single-prop contraption from one of the late artist’s paintings. She also has Roberson piloting the craft.

“Edie is overseeing the whole project from whatever spirit cloud she is in,” muses Haworth. “I miss her. She is wearing a scarf that says, ‘But is it Art?’ which cracks me up because we used to say that when we were working in melt-down heat sitting on the scaffold for SLC Pepper [another of Haworth’s and Johnstone’s murals at 250 S. 400 West].

“You’ll know Edie’s paintings of tricycles, tin cars, and tin airplanes in the sky,” adds Haworth, whom you will know as the co-creator (with then-spouse British artist Peter Blake) of The Beatles 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. Born in Hollywood, Calif., Haworth attended UCLA before finishing her studies in London at The Slade School of Fine Art and The Courtauld Institute. She remained in the UK for 30 years; much of her work is allied with the ‘60s Pop Art Movement in Great Britain. Haworth lives and works in Salt Lake City and Sundance but holds dual citizenship.

“I did Edie’s portrait and put her in the flying hat and gloves . . . she has a Minnie Mouse watch,” she says of the brightly hued mural figure (H24). “You know, she was most certainly magic.”

Commissioned by Zions Bank, the 5-story-tall public art piece – a tenth of a football field in size — is most certainly magical, too. It took 178 participants to tell the individual stories in portraiture of these women who have shaped our state: some 30 professional artists created the full figures in the front rows in their own distinct styles; the heads lacking bodies were mostly done by non-artist community members, nearly all of them women, in workshops around the state (held online after the pandemic struck) that lasted three to five hours. Some selected their subject from lists of names provided; many used the image of a woman significant to them personally.

During the workshops, participants cut stencil portraits of their subject using a printed photograph. “As each piece is removed, the face emerges, capturing a likeness in simple shapes,” Haworth explains on a video at http://womensmural.com/ (where you also can learn to make your own). Paint is pushed through the holes and the resulting portrait later transferred onto paper. Each was then digitally collaged onto weatherproof vinyl mesh strips to form the 5,000-square-foot work.

Alex Johnstone oversaw production, graphics, and installation on the mural and also contributed work of his own, a stencil of single mom Eve Jackson (H6), who became a resident at the downtown YWCA after enduring what Haworth only describes as “a terrible experience.” Jackson created Henrietta Lacks on Haworth’s Works in Progress mural.

Mother and son have worked together on numerous projects over the years – they clearly do get along well. “During the workshops I did a bit of helping and filmmaking and documenting but I took over really with the individual portraits — which were done on paper — the photographing of those, cutting them all out digitally and then assembling the crowd of people,” Johnstone explains. “I  put together a kind of interactive app so Jann could take the heads and position them and then I went in and filled in all the gaps: I took the colors and the textures and extended and fixed things and tweaked the positioning – and then did the surrounding graphics [the intricate green latticework, for example]. So, I coordinated the whole printing and installation process . . . and I was kind of behind the scenes assembling things, adjusting them and [handling] logistics and graphics.” An essential role, says Haworth, “in a collaborative world, where you are used to working with people.” After all, she points out, “You can’t undo a leaving.”

Born in England, Johnstone was home educated by his own choice from the age of 9, came to the United States at 12, and attended Alpine Life and Learning in Provo. A graduate of Spy Hop, the artist received a film degree at the University of Utah and went on to earn a master’s there in Electronic Arts and Entertainment (or video game design, as his mother succinctly puts it). Like Haworth, he holds dual citizenship.

The work celebrates two anniversaries, says Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, who conceived of this project based on prior murals by Haworth, in particular “Work in Progress” (all 14 panels of which will be displayed together, for the first time, this fall at SUMA): It commemorates 100 years since ratification of the 19 th amendment and 150 years since Utah’s Seraph Young, a 23-year-old schoolteacher, cast the first ballot by an American woman, under an equal suffrage law.

Anderson, who has been friends with Haworth for years, also immediately remarks on Sgt. Pepper: “It is the most iconic album cover that’s ever been done,” he says.  “As I looked at that I really recognized the remarkable legacy of Utah women in politics, religion, education, government, nonprofits and business, and in the arts. (Not to mention sports: Olympian Logan Tom, for example, is featured prominently (A2) with a volleyball aloft. She played numerous sports during her years at Highland High and still graduated with a 4.0 GPA.)

Anderson asked Haworth “to produce a mural of [hundreds of] women representing everyone from the great achievements of the housewife to what it took to pass the 19th amendment to all the other significant contributions of women today so that smaller children could see the women of the future. Young people can emulate the women in the mural. As Geena Davis says, ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ I wanted artists participating from around the state. And Jann did it,” Anderson states with obvious pride.

The night before the Aug. 26 unveiling, Haworth remarks that what amazes her is that the entire commission was done “simply on a handshake. Just like business in the old days,” she says, clearly puzzled. “People don’t do big projects like this without a contract, signed and sealed. Without lawyers involved. But Scott did.”

Anderson worries that viewers will be more concerned with who was left off the mural than who appears on it and says two faces were left blank because viewers should be able to simply visualize individual women in those spots. He also wants posters made of the mural so that people can fill in those blank faces with sketches or photos “of women who are important to them” and have that displayed at home.

He adds that the vinyl material used for the mural strips will allow it to become “almost a traveling exhibit. I hope to hang it around the state on other buildings so that everyone can participate in [seeing] it. It truly was a community art project.”

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” says artist and workshop consultant Amy Jorgensen about traveling the mural. “Something very real happens when people see the results of their work. It has an impact. It pushes the narrative out of the Wasatch Front. If you can bring it to someplace like Ephraim, that wouldn’t have the funds to do that, it would be hugely important to a person. It would continue the conversation.”

Twenty women and men participated in Jann Haworth’s workshop at The Granary in Ephraim, where Jorgensen is chief curator. Jorgensen admires Haworth’s ability to create “works that celebrate and also ask questions . . . She approached this in an incredibly democratic way. I love that she didn’t dictate the narrative of who should be and not be included. She wanted the participants to come from the women who were included.”

Haworth “loved” Jorgensen’s 2013 film “Red Delicious” “where her eyes snick back and forth as the apple swings before her” so much when she first saw it at BYU that she insisted the performance artist and filmmaker include both the apple and her own image (E41) in the mural for Zions Bank. “I did the stencil and then did the apple,” says Jorgensen.

It was challenging, says Jorgensen. “I felt pressure to get it right to both meet Jann’s vision of what she wanted to get in the mural and deeply honored to be IN the mural. The image of me is not really me; it’s my character in the film, a representation of someone who is an All-American stereotype: a gingham shirt — me having a conversation with an apple. A symbol that roots down into western Christian culture. A riff on the Garden of Eden. That’s the story of women in western culture. A call for everybody to step up and make change.

“Utah is dead last in the states on women’s equality issues for the third year in a row according to a Tribune story on the front page today and I think that is amplified in rural places,” Jorgensen observes (along with many of the other artists we spoke with), and Scott Anderson at Zions concurs. “We have a long way to go in many areas of equality,” he says, but “when Zions Bank opened in 1873, four of the first 15 depositors were women [remarkable given that most banks then would not allow women to open an account without a man being the primary signer].” Today, he points to Gail Miller (E11) and other prominent businesswomen, and the female city and county mayors both past and present as role models. “We have a rich tradition that we can’t forget, and we have to have it inspire us to move forward,” insists the bank president.

Stefanie Dykes of Saltgrass Printmakers also notes the timing of the mural’s unveiling coinciding with the story in The Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah was just placed dead last in the nation for the state’s lack of equal opportunities and fair treatment of women. (Sigh.) Patriarchy is an outdated mode of governance and it’s time for a change,” she says flatly.

“My portrait is of Carolyn Shelton (H2). Over the past few years, I’ve been working on a series of prints about the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. My work focused on bringing awareness to how Trump/Herbert’s act to reduce the GSENM is destructive to our wilderness areas. (Stake Your Claim was exhibited at the 15Bytes show at the Rio Grande Gallery.) Carolyn was someone who had worked to preserve the GSENM from the beginning.”

“I was impressed with how Jann gave each artist the freedom to create their portraits. Mimicking the graffiti artist, Banksy, I used spray paint and a stencil to create Carolyn’s image on the kraft paper,” Dykes explains. “It’s been an honor and privilege to showcase Carolyn Shelton and have her included with the other 250 strong, creative and intelligent women portrayed in Jann Haworth’s mural, Utah Women 2020!”

Artist Trent Call also needed to research his subject, long-track speedskater Brittany Bowe (F1), a two-time Olympian and 13-time world medalist who lives and trains in Salt Lake City. The result is an image Jann Haworth thinks is some of his best work ever. Call recognized Bowe’s name on a short list, chose her and looked her up, he says. The work took him about a day and a half to complete. “It’s always fun working with Jann on projects,” Call says, describing this mural as “super fun” to participate in. “It’s been many years since I’ve made a stencil,” he explains. “So it was refreshing to get back into it.”

Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley chose to do an image of author/writer, filmmaker, screenwriter, journalist, and serious mountain climber Jennifer Jordan (G3). “I’ve known Jennifer for a long time. I think we met through mutual friends,” Bagley says. Used to working on deadline, summing up a character swiftly, Bagley says that while he spent perhaps a few days actually executing the work, “I thought about it for weeks.”

“As for capturing her likeness, there is a look she has that, to my mind anyway, is her signature look. It’s like she knows something and can’t wait to share.” Bagley is “flattered to be involved in this project. 2020 was going to be a year-long celebration of women and I was looking forward to contributing. Stupid COVID.”

Nathan Florence also is honored to be part of the project and also loves Jann Haworth – he worked with her on the “Work in Progress” project. “That was the first time I’d worked with stencil in that way and it was really fun. Jann knows that I have a daughter, Maren, who is a trainee at Ballet West, so she suggested that Virginia Tanner was available. This was also a natural follow-up to the portrait of Isadora Duncan, one of those I did for Work in Progress.

“My sister, Susanna Florence, is an actor and has worked with Jann’s daughter so Maude Adams was another suggestion from the list, which I jumped at. What I didn’t know was that my sister loves her, so a couple of fortunate connections,” says Florence. Susanna told him about the portrait photo of Adams hanging at Pioneer Memorial Theater, and that was his reference for the drawing. “I really combined that photograph with Alfons Mucha’s print of Maude as Joan of Arc. I love the gesture of that piece but the grace and strength of the photo portrait I thought better for the mural, so I just merged them,” the artist explains. “An art mashup.”

“For Virginia Tanner (B1) I actually used the idea of stencil to cut paper, which I glued together to create her. It is mulberry paper printed with gold for the two parts of the body with other paper for face and arms. I used a sort of gold leaf-like paper for the shadows of her features and hands and then used an ink wash for a bit of shadow in the skirt. I’m very pleased with how it turned out and the printing even captured the gold tone better than I expected!

“I love how the overall mural turned out! It’s always a bit of a gamble to contribute to something larger because you never know how your work will be included . . . There’s also that bit of nervousness that I had that maybe they wouldn’t be happy with my pieces — my own insecurity — and they’d have to hide them in the back somewhere! But there they are, front and center, almost literally! And Huge! They look so fantastic. I am so honored,” Florence acknowledges.

Artist and U of U art Professor Al Denyer created three of the figures; Susannah Bransford Emery Holmes Delitch Engalitcheff – Utah’s Silver Queen rendered in unmissable black-and-white elegance (G2); Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D4); and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co. Executive Director/CEO Jenna Woodbury (D48). “The original figures were created during such a difficult time during the COVID lockdown,” the artist recalls.  It was so hard to get hold of art materials, and, luckily, I had just enough paper and paint. Jann had asked me to work on Susannah Bransford, and once I started to research her life, was excited to start work. . . She lived an incredible life, working her way up to be one of the state’s most influential and glamorous women of her day,” says Denyer. “I loved re-creating her, and put silver into her dress, but knew that it would be tricky to reproduce on the mural. You can just about see it on the digital version. I love her confidence!

“The other figures were smaller (as is the majority of the crowd), but I really wanted to make something of Erin’s outfit so made her larger!” Denyer says. “Due to the scale, it took me about a week from start to finish. All of the figures were created life-sized.”

She finds that “the finished work is stunning!  As I drove down 100 South I could see the top of the mural from far away. Having worked on single figures, it was difficult to visualize the scale of this piece, and I was blown away!  With a piece this large, the weight of the material alone is technically difficult. That being said, the materials work incredibly well, and the beauty of this mural is that it can travel, making it more accessible to communities outside of Salt Lake City.”

Artist Kent Christensen (who shows primarily in London) also teaches at the U as well as at UVU – online from his Sundance studio. He created now-former Salt Lake Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce (F4) “who I do know but is not a close friend. I put my blue “black cat” shoes on her [she is said to love Italian footwear], and her pants are made of newsprint,” Christensen reveals.

Christensen was impressed with the outcome of the mural. “It’s scale alone is impressive, and the colors were what surprised me most. They really draw you in,” he observes. “I’m used to drowning in a sea of women, and strong women in particular. My two daughters and many of my friends are strong, bright women, including several former New Yorkers who are close friends [and featured on the mural]: Astrid Tuminez (D12), Neylan McBaine (D7), and her mother Ariel Bybee (A4). It was fun to look over the whole thing (it takes a while!) and recognize lots of faces.

“Of course, I believe in this project and probably in equal parts did it for that reason and because of my connection to Jann,” says the Sundance artist. “I feel like Utah has a lot of ‘living up’ to do. In many ways, women are in worse shape here than they were 100 years ago, with the recent report putting the women of Utah in last place when it comes to women’s rights. Shocking, and sad, especially given our history of being first at granting women the right to vote,” says Christensen.

So, look! Waaay down there at the bottom! Yes, in the circle — that’s Holly Yocom, Salt Lake County Community Services Director and the former Executive Director of the Utah Film Center (E2). With her is daughter Harper (E1), who asked to please contribute a picture of her impactful mother to this mural project. It’s just there – an elegant and telling stick-figure rendering delivered proudly by small hands – that fully answers the question raised on Edie Roberson’s flying scarf: ‘But is it Art?’

6 replies »

  1. Raquel and Chris, Good questions, and I will look into them and post back here what I can find out. It won’t be immediately. I am pretty sure there isn’t a list of what these women have done and, off the top of my head, I could probably only tell you half of their accomplishments. I don’t know much about sports, for instance (smile). Thanks for reading the story.

  2. Chris and Raquel, I just spoke with artist Jann Haworth who says that people in roller derby said Brittany Heise was outstanding in the sport and urged that her image be included; that this selection had nothing to do with who founded roller derby for Utah. Haworth adds they are working on creating biographical information about all the women on the mural that will eventually, emphasis on eventually because it is an enormous project, be posted on the website listed in my story. She says that internet searches will yield information on nearly all women on the mural.

  3. The part about Utah being last on Women’s issues really stings. Maybe our junior senator—the one with the spine—will once again make us proud by voting against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. How about everyone who feels this mural write him a letter and remind him that Utah used to be first for women, and could be again.

  4. It’s been hinted that I took advantage of this splendid, detailed recounting of the making of the Utah Women’s Mural to post a political opinion. I hope my words were in the spirit that illuminates this dazzling, scintillating work of public art.

    IN any event, I need to point out that I strive to read everything that Ann Poore contributes to 15 Bytes, which is a lot . . . in fact, more now than ever before. Ann is never dull, never less than revelatory. As long as she continues to write for 15 Bytes I will continue to have something bold, local, and informative to read.

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