Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Seductive Landscape Photography and Cowboy Art in Moab

“Leaf Window” by Patrick Paul Rene

On a recent trip to Moab, I found gallerist Brian Parkin, a British native and soon-to-be American citizen who came to Utah via San Francisco, at the Grand County Library running a slide show/art talk/review with friends and artists of the Moab Abstracts 2007. This annual show, now in its second year, is the potent brainchild of Moab artist Michael (Mick) Kaniecki and this year brought together works from 25 disparate artists from the area (catalog available).This vibrant community meeting introduced me to the cosmopolitan art scene now emerging in Moab, something I’ll be discussing in the pages of 15 Bytes over the next couple of months. For now, I’ll content myself with a peek into two exhibitions going on this month, one about to close and the other about to open.

The morning after the art talk, in his newly established gallery Moab Art Works, Parkin gave me a sneak peek at Sandstone Symphony, a show introducing the photographs of one of the artists he represents, Patrick Paul René, that will open this Friday with an artist’s reception the following day, March 10, from 6-9 p.m. This coincides with the city’s first art walk of the year also from 6-9 pm.

Paul Patrick Rene, photo by Elizabeth Matthews

A Frenchman who found love while vacationing in Moab, René now lives in redrock country, exploring his philter with the camera. Avoiding the over-photographed and well-populated areas, René revels in solitude, searching for rendezvous sites–marking the location with his GPS—so he can return again and again hoping to observe his favorite type of flattened light stroke the land formations. René typically looks for shadow-less scenes, allowing atmospheric conditions to romance the image. Like a chaperone, René watches the low light as it gently massages the unexpected textures and shapes onto his lens, carefully timing each exposure. He declines to use filters and limits himself to only three lenses–choosing to move forward or back to frame the shapes and contours of the rocks—a dangerous risk here because it is Moab after all, known for slick rock with unexpected shifts and cliffs.

René charms the viewer by capturing bewitching depth of field images like Fallen Moon, which lured him away from his typical oeuvre of shallow images in low light. Rainbows in Moab often reek with sentimentality, but René documents a raw rainbow image in Island of Pillars that is worth viewing. |5| The rainbow, strangely enough, looks like the edge of a potent lavender bubble that will surely pop at any moment as it balances on the craggy red death cliffs below. Remember, this image was captured without a filter. The first time I saw this photo I felt like an ogling child holding my breath with the hope that my sacrifice might save the shimmering orb from suffering the expected pop.

“Balanced Egg”

“Fallen Moon”

Island of Pillars

Immaculate Bluffs

The strict limitations René imposes upon himself, in this unrestrained setting, provide a memoir of compelling images. You will not find the typical Moab rock formations shouting at you in this show; Rene’s patient camera records light as it whispers sweet nothings to soften impregnable rock, conceiving memorable editions that you will want to make your own.

If you can make it to Moab a day before René’s exhibit, you’ll be able to catch the work of Western Artist Don Weller before it comes down. The Overlook Gallery, established ten years ago, is located in a building covered with authentic cowboy brands burned into the wood façade that was once the front for a local saloon. In this atmosphere I met gallery owners Tim Morse and Louise Seiler at an opening for Weller’s work coinciding with the Cowboy Poetry festival going on at the MARC (Moab Arts and Recreation Center).|7| I overheard Weller exchange cowboy talk with horse-loving art patrons in the gallery and can confirm that he is the genuine article. It is clear that this man paints what he knows and loves. Weller’s fine mark-making lassoed my interest, drawing me forward to examine his vivid water media (acrylic and water color) images as closely as possible. These are fresh, crisp renderings of western entanglements that run the gamut of buckin’ broncos at a rodeo to the quiet contemplation of drivin’ cattle home on the range. The surprise in his work is the way Weller uses every color in the rainbow to paint his contemporary cow people. The show is hanging through March 9. Bruce Hill will be the next artist featured at The Overlook Gallery And his collection of new paintings from the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and Canyonlands, “Landscapes of the Four Corners,” opens March 10 6-9 p.m. as part of the Moab Art Walk.

Moab Arts and Recreation Center

Moab has many charms to seduce the visitor and with the exciting happenings I witnessed on my trip, their art scene may soon be as enticing as their world-famous vistas, trails and river runs.

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