The sleek font and strictly vocalic content of the marquee above one of Salt Lake’s newest galleries has more than one gallery goer scratching their head. The IAO Gallery(pronounced ahy-oh) opened in June 2007 at the corner of 200 South and 500 West in the Artspace Bridge Project’s space formerly occupied by Palmers Gallery. The name is an old Gnostic word that invokes the creative drive of the gallery’s owners and the artists whose work fills the space. Meaning wisdom and creation, iao is believed to be the word the female emanation of God, Aeon Sophia, pronounced and brought into being the material world. It is also related to the biblical phrase “I am Alpha and Omega . . . ”
Co-owners Shadna and his brother, James Sieger, opened the gallery with the goal of nurturing artists and giving them the opportunity to show their work in a supportive setting. Specifically, the brothers wanted to offer artists “unique and poetic ways in which to express themselves, their ideas, feelings and opinions.”
The road to opening IAO Gallery is long and twisted, beginning in Shadna’s childhood. He was always drawing when he was a kid, he says, and remembers a trip to the library as an eight year old when he discovered Michelangelo’s drawings for the Sistine Chapel. Shadna says he was amazed to discover someone could take a pencil to paper and create something out of nothing. He realized then that an artist really puts him or herself into the art, and that the finished work is truly “an echo of the soul.”
Shadna grew up in a family of, originally, eight, and later, fifteen, when his parents adopted seven additional children. They moved frequently due to his father’s occupation as a computer programmer. Because he grew up in multiple states, Shadna was exposed to a myriad of art that fueled his interest in all types of artists and their work. After attending high school in Bountiful, studying visual arts at Weber State, and quitting an unsatisfying job as a paralegal, five years ago Shadna found himself in the art world, where he thrives and has remained ever since.
Concomitant with his move to the artists’ realm, Shadna experienced a different transition when he changed his name from the one he was given at birth. He felt strongly that his spirituality was growing, and he wanted a name to reflect his new self. He therefore consulted a mystic who, in a trancelike state, “read his Akashic Record,” essentially the universe’s super computer system that is believed to contain the entire history of every soul since the dawn of creation. The mystic proposed the name Shadna as a suitable reflection of his new being. Although there is no particular meaning associated with it, Shadna believed the name felt right and his friends agreed.
In February 2007, Shadna’s brother Eric was killed in Iraq. He left an inheritance to another brother, James, who wanted to financially back Shadna’s dream to open a gallery. Although Shadna is the day-to-day operating partner of the gallery, both brothers share the goal of creating something lasting and finding “the creative spark in artists” that they can share with the public.
The IAO Gallery is filled with eclectic art from a variety of artists that Shadna hopes will appeal to all sectors of the public. Each artist usually shows for three months, but may have work continue on consignment if demand is high. Currently, the work ranges from large sculptures created by Utah State University professor JinMan Jo, to contour face drawings of Julie Danson, to varied landscapes of Darrell Thomas and jewelry made by the owners’ sister, Sabrina Sieger. There is also a section in the front of the gallery dedicated to poetry books and smaller, less expensive pieces of art.
Shadna has a real commitment to doing more than just showing the work of artists. He wants to help them build a national base of support and expand their own artistic creativity. Sydney Bowman is one of the first artists Shadna “collected” because he loves the spiritual nature of her work. Painted in a hyper-realistic style, Bowman usually creates each work in shades of one major color and titles each piece after the different energy chakras. Shadna hopes to broaden Bowman’s exposure to the public by carrying some limited edition giclee prints of her work because he believes that “everyone deserves to own art, not just the wealthy.”
Future plans for the gallery include investigating the possibility of featuring art films (à la Andy Warhol) and hosting a juried show sponsored by the Utah Pride Center as part of their Winter Pride Festival, February 8-17.
For more information on IAO Gallery, please visit IAO-gallery.com.
received her B.A. in Psychology from Lewis and Clark College, and Masters in both Social Services and Law and Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College. She is an award-winning quilt artist and the Executive Director for Art Access.