Royden Card, though born in Canada, was raised in Utah from age three. He was eight when he was first introduced to the desert at “Dead Horse Point State Park” and “Arches” (then called “National Monument”). This would be the first of many regular family trips to Utah’s deserts. His family resided in Orem, but Card’s father owned a real estate office in Moab, Utah. Summer for Card and his brothers entailed weekly trips to Moab to mow and weed property for a day or two, after which they were given their freedom to roam around the desert hunting arrowheads and exploring the nooks and crannies of the Canyonlands and the red rock desert of southern Utah.
Of his interest in art, Card explains, “By the age of ten, the idea of ‘Being an Artist’ had solidified in my head. I had always drawn. It seemed to satisfy that need which sprang from somewhere deep inside. I drew landscapes, arches, trees, rocks, old sheds, air planes, horses, and the faces of beautiful women and girls. The ‘Artist’ idea seemed intact after all my infatuations with rockets, science, biology, botany, geology and astronomy. Being an artist was where I was headed. I took extra classes in art during high school and summer school. I would ride my bike to Brigham Young University’s newly completed fine arts building and get kicked out of graduate studios trying to watch them paint.”
Getting his driver’s license, for Card, meant weekend camping trips to the desert. The early ‘70s found Card at BYU. He received his B.F.A. in painting in 1976. Followed by, in 1979, his completion of his M.F.A. in both painting and sculpture, as well as a minor in design printmaking.
In 1980, Card began teaching printmaking (woodcut, etching and silkscreen) for BYU and continued through 1986. During this time, he occasionally taught an art history, printmaking or drawing class for Utah Valley State College and the University of Utah. He also participated with the Utah Arts Council in their Artist in Education Residencies Program.
Card explains, “My love of printmaking, especially woodcut and its linear quality, seems to inform and influence my painting. I did woodcuts almost exclusively for ten years before coming back to serious painting in 1989”.
Card’s recent paintings are now on display at the St. George Museum of Art exhibition “Redrock, Badlands, and Sage.” Of the twenty paintings in this exhibition, Royden Card explains, “These new paintings are a continuation of my journey. The long horizontal format is a rather new approach. I have sketched in this format for years, but just recently began painting in this format. I love the ridges, the shadows, the forms, the colors, the skies. Our eyes see the broad expanse. I have been focusing on part of it, the ridges out toward the horizon, the place I am not able to be at the time and the distance I wish to explore. So, I bring it in close and crop the portion I want to see, the part I want others to see- to make the distance accessible without foreground. Maybe it’s like flying or seeing what usually gets overlooked, because we tend to be so focused on the foreground or what is so close to us. Maybe it is because I tend to gaze off into the distance, longing for what I cannot attain; the wish for the time to explore more deeply, thoroughly, what is ‘over there’, far away, mysterious.”
“And then there are the roads and the signs. They seem interesting to me. The sign that warns of the curves, the speed. I always want to drive slowly through the landscape. I would rather walk it. So, many times I pull off the road where I can and walk back to look at the views that get overlooked. Because we are worried for our safety, heeding the warning signs as we pass through, we don’t see the beauty that is ‘There’. And it is ‘There’. It is not always at the destination, the state park, the arch, the ‘view point’ at the end of the trail. I guess it is why I also love those barren badlands between small desert towns that most people are so much in a hurry to get through to somewhere else (where the map and the guide book say is something worthy of looking at or taking a photo of). Sometimes I just like the color of the sign or the foil of the strip of road or its color as it sits in the landscape. Sometimes I eliminate all signs of human intervention. It depends on what it is I want to really see at the time”.
“The desert has always been my escape, my solace, the ‘place I go’. I hike, sketch, shoot photos and occasionally paint on location (usually just ‘starts’ that I finish in the studio. I am not a ‘plein air painter’, just a ‘plein air sketcher’). I draw to remember, to try and make the beauty stay. I draw to understand the landscape. I paint in an attempt to hold time, place, and emotion in some sort of stasis; to say what I cannot say with words. I paint to communicate this incredible ‘thing’, this piece of truth I have found, experienced. I paint to make inert matter sing the way my heart did when standing in the presence of nature”.
“Over the course of my artistic career, I have created still-life, paintings of old adobe and stone churches, but I have always explored landscapes. Desert landscape is ‘primal raw’. It seems to be the dust from which I came”.
St. George Art Museum admission is free. Museum hours are: Mon. 6 p.m.- 8 p.m.; Tu- Thurs. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.; closed Sunday and holidays. For further information, please contact curator at email@example.com.