Visual Arts

Higher Ed: Plugging in and Getting Out Art developments on the University of Utah campus

Invisible Logic at the Gittens Gallery

Why a column on higher education? Because I think very often there is a wide gap between the art community at large and the art communities of our colleges and universities. There are so many resources available to artists through these institutions and so many resources available to students in the art community that it seems a shame they don’t mix more. When I first came to the University of Utah I remember how exciting it was to see current exhibits on gallery strolls and hear art talks at the Salt Lake Art Center. I also remember seeing the same small group of people at these things and wondering why so few folks took advantage of these free opportunities. On the flip side, whenever a guest lecturer spoke at the U, very few artists not in the University system came to take it in. I know to some degree that certain people will get out and do things no matter what they are (football game, art show, concert, etc.), and some people just won’t. But just in case there is some lingering feeling that you want to go check something out on a campus but are not sure you will be welcome or there’s anything to interest you, I want to clear some things up.

For my inaugural column I’ll start with the University of Utah, which has had an exciting start to their spring semester. The first student show of the season, Invisible Logic, was a collaboration of Engineering and Art (in idea, faculty and students). The mix bag of students was all a part of a class taught by art professor Paul Stout and computer science professor Erik Brunvand. All of the art pieces were kinetic sculptures with embedded systems. For two weeks in the middle of January the Gittins Gallery came alive, with both the humming of computers and the music some of the sculptures made. Two small cars carrying markers whizzed over a white board interpreting rss feeds into lines; a patch of illuminated flowers shook and closed in reaction to the viewers’ proximity; a typewriter clicked away alone as if a ghost were writing a final novel. All of these works created an amazing energy that the audience enjoyed and interacted with.

Mid-month, the UMFA and college of Fine Arts screened “Who Does She Think She Is?”, a documentary by Pamela Tanner Boll on women artists and their need to create art even after they have become mothers and wives (not to mention daughters and sisters). A very enlightening experience, the film should probably be mandatory for anyone that lives with or supports a woman artist. BYU grad Janis Wunderlich stole the show with her amazing ceramic sculptures and Superwoman ability to balance five children, a husband and a very successful art career. I immediately wanted to show the film to a half dozen people — which I’ll soon be able to do since Boll announced the film will soon be on sale at Amazon. The almost hour-long Q and A was interesting, but what was more interesting was seeing so many young women artists like me who have recently started a family. We all shared a similar look. Boll’s film gives no advice or answers on how to juggle, but leads through the example of the women featured. If nothing else is learned, know it can be done.

Work by Ed Bateman

And speaking of balance, newly appointed photography professor Ed Bateman has managed not only to build amazing curriculums for his new classes but also publish a beautiful book through Nazraeli PressMechanical Brides of the Uncanny is a 16-page art book based Ed’s Cartes de Visites. If you are lucky enough to know Ed, you may have one of these on your fridge, from the days when he passed them out like candy. They are stunning digital montages of 19th century imagery and robots (automatons, if you’re steampunk). Copies of the book, each of which contains an original Carte de Visite, are still available through Nazraeli, but they are almost sold out of the first run. I plan on carrying mine around until I “run into” Ed and get a personalized autograph.

The Photo Department at the U has gone through some important changes, especially for non-art majors. Students have asked for years why it wasn’t possible to continue their photo classes or get an art minor, and it sounds like the school is starting to listen. They have begun offering advanced digital classes for non-art majors. The class was designed and is being taught by U grad and local artist and photographer, Zuzanna Audette. It is a full immersion Adobe Photoshop class that everyone is excited about.

Shaking things up at the U seems to be a theme this semester, as evidenced by the very first Warnock Artist in Residence, Ernesto Pujol. An internationally acclaimed performance artist, Pujol has had a very esteemed career and brings his ideas about art and the body and citizenship to students at the U. He took the stage at the end of the month in a well-attended art talk open to the greater community. His talk and Q and A showed him to be an extremely thoughtful speaker, and wondered if it translated to the classroom. After a short conversation with some of his students, my musings were confirmed. Even though I am not a performance artist, I am a little jealous I won’t have a chance to sit in on his class. You’ll be able to read Monty Paret’s interview with Pujol in the April edition of 15 bytes, a primer for Pujol’s final collaboration with University students somewhere in the city in April. His presence at the U says great things about the future of the Warnock Artist in Residence program.

Ernesto Pujol at the Salt Flats

Also mark your calendars for the U’s distinguished alumni celebration, March 31 at Kingsbury Hall. Artist Mario Naves will be honored.

If any readers have any information on art in the colleges and universities they would like to pass on please feel free to email me.

Categories: Visual Arts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *