Grant Fuhst had an idea. He and his wife love attending Plan-B Theatre in Salt Lake City, so last year he asked the company’s director, Jerry Rapier, if he would be willing to provide season tickets if Fuhst agreed to design the playbills for the company’s 2014-15 season. As it would happen, the artist Plan-B had planned to work with had moved out of town, so hands were shaken, scripts delivered and pencils started sketching.
Fuhst is a mixed-media artist who has worked in various platforms including comic-books, CD art, film, graphic design, illustration, concept art and several collaborative internet projects. He calls his work “irrational art.” You’ll often find it labeled “fantastic art.” It’s the sort of thing that would be comfortable in a Tim Burton production (which would explain why, when Fuhst was showing his work at Pioneer Theatre Company’s Loge Gallery he was invited to design the playbill for their production of Dracula). So it’s not the sort of thing you would think of first to illustrate Plan-B’s socially engaged theatre.
Truth be told, you won’t find any of Fuhst’s trademark ghouls or goblins on the company’s playbills. “When I do commercial work, it’s not about my own work,” Fuhst says. “I like the challenge of getting things right for the client.”
After reading each of the plays, Fuhst began designing art that would work for each piece. “Everyone is totally different depending on what the play is,” he says. For Julie Jensen’s “Christmas with Misfits,” which opens next week, Fuhst went for a look reminiscent of the 1960s stop-action animations like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. For Melissa Leilani Larson’s play imagining an LDS restoration of polygamy, he used the type of simple icons found on bathroom placards and construction signs. For “Mama,” Carleton Bluford’s celebration of motherhood, he blended images of four women. With Matthew Ivan Bennett’s “A/Version of Events,” a play about grief and loss, Fuhst was able to get closest to his home territory. The image of a stone angel calls to mind a cemetery, but it’s actually a photograph he took of a collection of angels he came across at an inn in Cedar City.
“I love Grant’s style,” says Rapier. “It really collides well and complements our work.” Plan-B has already engaged him to work on next season’s artwork as well, which will be unveiled as part of Love Utah Give Utah on March 26.
Fuhst says he took the work on for the love of the company. Now that he’s read the plays, he’s interested to see what the actual productions will be like (though he’s had to keep mum with his wife, who hates spoilers of any kind).
Though he does commercial illustration on occasion, Fuhst says he wouldn’t want to do it full time. His friends who do are too drained creatively to do their own art. Fuhst is content to work at the Midvale Barnes & Noble during the day, and get a few hours in every night at his Poor Yorick studio. You’ll be able to see his personal artwork, in all its irrationality, at the studio spaces open house in March. Or stop in at Silver Queen Fine Art in Park City, which represents the artist.
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.