I had just exited Quiet Storm, Gilmore Scott’s intriguing landscape show at the Chase Home in Liberty Park when, appropriately, a cloudburst broke overhead. “The concept and idea for the Quiet Storm show evolved from a traditional Diné story about storms that came through my mom, who told me about male storms and female storms,” Scott explains.
There are just 10 pieces in the small Chase Home downstairs gallery space, and Scott uses the same effective motif for both male (grayish bulbous patterns) and for female (brightly colored pastel bulbous patterns) storms. (I’m tempted to write something about Timothy Leary-approved colors, or Fauvist hues on acid, but then realize I’m likely the only one old enough to get the joke). Scott acknowledges that the motifs in his paintings are repetitive. “Growing up watching my mom weave rugs, her geometric patterns made their way back into my work: a weaver’s perspective, although I’m not a weaver.”
The artist was raised in Blanding by his mother, Marie Scott, a Diné who moved off the reservation. Her son says she was a silversmith who did a lot of repair work for a trading post and went into rug weaving. “She was always a rug weaver,” says Scott. He married into a family from Montezuma Creek, where he now lives. His wife helps students at the local high school find financial aid and sets up college tours. “People believe that Indians get full scholarships. That isn’t true.” They have two daughters, both valedictorians from Montezuma High, who are now in college.
Scott studied art at the College of Eastern Utah and at USU, took a summer job with the U.S. Forest Service, eventually becoming a wildlands firefighter. He would join the helicopter crews and gain an above-the-landscape perspective for his artwork — and then begin to focus on the shadows which are manifest in his paintings.
Scott says that while he loves what he does, “It takes a lot of work.” And he undoubtedly works hard. The artist had driven for hours the previous night to his home southeast of Bears Ears in Utah, hauling his work from Colorado where a show including it had just closed. Still, he was on the phone before 10 a.m. to speak to this writer.
A basic traditional story is tied to the storms he paints in his Chase Home exhibit. “The male storm is associated with dark cumulus clouds in early spring — February, early March.” As a child, he was taught to go outside during that time of year and stretch, like the awakening flowers and plants. “The female rain shows in cooler colors, cooler formations. The motif behind them falling back to my mother and her rug weaving; the storm pattern in rug weaving.”
The two largest paintings in the exhibition have a traditional storm pattern in them. These are zig-zag lines which represent lightning bolts radiating from the center of the rug towards its four corners. Scott also mentions being influenced by the “eye dazzler” patterns of his people’s weavers. “I was painting big landscapes and I said I was painting ‘landscape dazzlers,’” he says. “Colors, movement in the rugs.” Some, he says, attribute this to the Pop Art movement. “I saw a shift in our weavers from the symmetrical rug designs to the illusion of movement. Quilters will call it a tumbler pattern. I call it the M.C. Escher Movement. (“I didn’t’ create that,” Scott hastens to add.) There are so many different designs called eye dazzlers and I just touch the surface of it.”
In addition to the Chase Home exhibit sponsored by Utah Arts & Museums, Scott’s work can be seen at the U of U Natural History Museum, October 7th and 8th. And the Utah Museum of Fine Arts has Scott’s “The Monsoon Dazzle Over the Bears Ears” on display on their second floor. “As an Indigenous artist, I am looking forward to being part of the bigger art realm that’s out there. Chase Home, the Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, Springville Museum, and St. George are supportive of my art to show that we are fine artists, as well, and not just craftspeople,” says Scott.
Gilmore Scott: Quiet Home, Chase Home Museum, Salt Lake City, through Sep. 29
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She was the 2018 recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award in the Literary Arts.