Exhibitions | Salt Lake Area Exhibitions

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea at UMFA

Salt Lake City
Feb. 5 – June 11

Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Marcia and John Price Museum Building

410 Campus Center Drive

Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0350

A Broader and More Inclusive View 

Ideas about the American West, both in popular culture and in commonly accepted historical narratives, are often based on a past that never was, and fail to take into account important events that actually occurred. Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea examines the perspectives of dozens of modern and contemporary artists—Black, white, women, men, LGBTQ+, Native American, Asian American and Latinx—who offer a broader and more inclusive view. It presents an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region. In various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the featured artists featured bring a nuanced and multifaceted history into view.  


A Collaborative Curatorial Effort 

The exhibition is organized jointly by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four nationally accredited art museums located in some of the fastest-growing cities and states in the western region of the United States. It is the culmination of a five-year exhibition partnership made possible by the Art Bridges Foundation. Along with the UMFA, the partner museums are the Boise Art Museum in Idaho; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon; and the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. E. Carmen Ramos, former acting chief curator and curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has led the collaborative curatorial effort.  


Many Wests features artwork drawn from the permanent collections of all five collaborating museums and has been or will be presented at all five venues: Boise Art Museum (July 31–Feb. 13, 2022), Whatcom Museum (March 19, 2022–Aug. 21, 2022), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Sept. 26, 2022–Dec. 31, 2022), the UMFA (Feb. 5–June 11, 2023), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. (July 28, 2023Jan. 14, 2024). 


Themes: Caretakers, Memory Makers, and Boundary Breakers 

The exhibition is bilingual with English and Spanish labels, and organized into three sections: “Caretakers,” “Memory Makers” and “Boundary Breakers.” These overarching themes illuminate the different ways artists create countervailing views of life in and the history of the American West.   

“Caretakers” examines how artists can redefine what it means to take care of themselves, their communities and their futures. Featured artists include Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc), Awa Tsireh/Alfonso Roybal (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Patrick Nagatani and Marie Watt (Seneca). Through their work, these artists demonstrate a commitment to the stewardship of land, history, language and culture. They draw upon personal narratives, communal ties and collective experience in the American West to honor the past and shape legacies for generations to come.  

“Memory Makers” explores how artists act as transmitters of cultural memory as they bring forth neglected histories of the West through their work. Featured artists include Jacob Lawrence, Roger Shimomura, Christina Fernandez and others who go beyond the familiar accounts of European settlers and bring to light lived histories and identities that are essential to a truthful history.  

“Boundary Breakers” highlights artists that unsettle common beliefs that inform the popular understanding of the American West. Their representations break away from myths and assert their continued presence despite centuries of omission and erasure by mainstream culture. They question simplified notions of identity, affirm their lived experiences and refute romanticized imagery. Featured artists include Angela Ellsworth, Raphael Montañez Ortiz (Apsáalooke/Crow) and Angel Rodríguez-Díaz.  


Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea Exhibition Preview Party  

Saturday, February 4, 2023 

7–10 pm | Ticketed event 


Many Stories, Many Wests 

Wednesday, March 1 

6–7:30 pm | FREE 

Community conversation, gallery tours, art making, refreshments, and more. Part of the UMFA’s ACME Session series of community engagement events. 


(Virtual) Evening for Educators: Many Voices in Many Wests 

Wednesday, March 8 

5:30-8:30 pm | FREE 


We’ll use the UMFA’s special exhibition, Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, to explore the inclusion of multiple perspectives and voices in the classroom. Register at https://usbe.midaseducation.com/professional-development/courses/course/61148 Search by MIDAS Course No. 61148, Section 16 (Section ID: 106716) 


Third Saturday for Families: Zines!  

Saturday, March 18, 2023 | FREE  

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea explores the variety of people and cultures in the West. Explore your story by making your own zine, a small magazine-like booklet. 


Artist Talk: David Taylor & Marcos RamÍrez ERRE 

Wednesday, April 5 

6:30–8 pm | FREE 

Featuring David Taylor and Marcos Ramírez ERRE, whose collaboration DeLIMITations is featured in Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea. Come hear about their process of creating and documenting the 2,300-mile site-specific intervention that marks the 1821 boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. This event will also be livestreamed. 

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