Snow transforms the landscape: it brightens the night, muffles the sounds of the city and creates fascinating sculptural formations out of trees, roofs and hedges. It can also be a pain to drive in. Tonight, though, concentrate on the former not the latter. Because if you’re willing to venture out into the newly transformed landscape, the journey will provide a fruitful context for New Topographies, Altered Landscapes and other Identities, a new exhibit that “explores the topography of the land” through photographs, drawings, paintings, and fabric sculptures by artists Adam Bateman, Steven Larson, Leah Moses, Jared Steffensen, and Mary Toscano.
New Topographies, Altered Landscapes and other Identities is curated by Laura Allred Hurtado, a California native who came to Utah to study at BYU and remained to earn a Master’s degree in Art History from the University of Utah. She spent a lot of time studying Feminist Art, she says, and wrote her thesis on Catherine Opie and Turkish artist Canon Senol, two artists whose “work surrounds the body.” While in grad school she co-curated an exhibition called Cabinets of Curiosities under the direction of Sheila Muller. Since graduating, she has worked as the Acting Curator of Education at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) and recently took up a new job as the Global Art Acquisitions Specialist for the LDS Church.
New Topographies, Altered Landscapes and other Identities is her first curatorial venture since leaving the university. “The idea for the show was inspired, in part, by the work itself,” she says, “namely photographs that I had seen of Jared Steffensen’s when we worked together at UMOCA. Jared had taken these beautiful photographs of basically found minimalist sculpture, for example haystacks that looked like Carl Andre sculptures or Donald Judd configurations. I loved the sort of accidentialness of it and the element of chance, and loved the idea of museum forms existing ever so subversively in the middle of nowhere.”
The works have been selected as explorations of the topographies we see and create in the land, but it is also examines what those topographies mean to us. “It is also about the way landscapes continually become projections of ourselves: our fears, our hopes, our politics,” Hurtado writes in the press release. “And even though we realize that the land is never the blank canvas it was imagined to be, through our alterations, the represented landscapes do reflect our personal scopic visions. They can becomes sites of exhilaration and terror simultaneously, or locations of either freedom or fear.”
“I was raised in LA and love the excitement and busyness of the city,” Hurtado says, “so the open space of Utah and of the west in general has always mystified me, that there are spaces that exist off the map, in the distance, that are forgotten….” This is what drew her to the work of Steven Larson, another artist in the show. “There is abstraction but there is also an effort to map oneself, to draw a line, a very good line, in any and all directions.”
Ultimately what Hurtado finds in the land is the subjective experience, “the way our scopic visions is established by our personal experiences. What we see is, in part, a telling aspect of our identities, of ourselves.”
The recent snow is a perfect example. Some see it as a troubling nuisance. Others view it as an invitation to ski, or to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and read a good book. Some gallery goers will see it as a reason to stay home tonight. The smart ones, however, will view it as a chance to see the world around them in a new way, inside and outside the gallery.
New Topographies, Altered Landscapes and other Identities is being held at Pinnacle Performance, a manual therapy, intelligent movement center with a commitment to the art of healing owned by Amy Broekemeier and located in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City. It opens tonight, 6:30-9 PM as part of the Sugar House Gallery Stroll, and continues through April 5th. After the show comes down, Hurtado says the space will likely continue to show art, though she is not sure under what format. And Hurtado is already busy cooking up a new show, which will appear at the Alice Gallery in June.
Pinnacle Performance is located at 1515 South 1100 East Salt Lake City, Utah 84114 and open M-F from 8-6 pm. For more information, call 801-583-5692.
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.