15 Bytes | Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Spring Salon Serves Up Substance and Style

Exhibition Review: Springville

by William C. Seifrit

Rich. Varied. Often exciting. Well presented.

These descriptors come quickly to mind with an initial walk-through of the 2005 Springville Salon. Many familiar names are represented; some old favorites are not. Newer, less well-known artists are also shown, and I find their inclusion encouraging and personally satisfying.

Our editor has given me, of his own volition, carte blanche for this review. (NOTE: I carefully avoided reading anything about the show prior to seeing it; I asked friends not to talk with me about it. Further, I paid no attention to the wall cards for each piece until after I had strolled a couple of times through the entire exhibit. I’ve not spoken to the director; I’ve no idea what guidance, if any, he offered the jurors; I just looked at what was presented.) Here’s what I thought.

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The overall quality of this year’s Salon is excellent. There seems to be a rich mix of accepted works in the four groupings specified in the call for entries.

I was quite favorably taken by images from artists whose work is familiar to me. Many seem to be pushing their talents, technical skills, and media in newer, different directions. Susan Gallacher’s “Day Break” |1| is an example. She’s used a larger format, a different, brighter palette and so offers the viewer a fresh reading of a familiar subject. Kaziah Hancock’s“The Waiter” |2| is another example. The composition, drawing, and brushwork are appealing. What’s changed with this image is that the passion and strength are still there; they are now stated quietly, confidently, rather than shouted. Several works by other artists show similar change and progress.

Pastelists offered some larger, impressive images. Colleen Howe’s “Low Clouds, Sardine Canyon” |3| is quite likely one of the best she’s created in her expanding career. Julie Rogers’ “Music of the Hands” is striking for its vivid color and detail. I had a minor niggle about the physical relationship between musician and instrument. I haven’t seen that many harp soloists or watched them carefully enough in chamber or orchestral ensembles to know for certain.

I was surprised and pleased with the number of images showing carefully considered and realized detail. I mean honest realism, not a romantically sanitized or scrubbed variety, and not the often painstakingly crafted photorealistic images of recent years. D. McGarren Flack’s “A Fading Dream” is one such |4|. Others include Daniel Glen Dolberg’s “Span,” Maura K. Naughton’s “A Good Place to Rest,” and Christopher Shill’s “Railyard at Dusk.” Those all portray, in grittily accurate detail, manmade objects as they now appear after years of hard use or neglect. There is faded, scaled paint; there is physical marring and scarring; there is damage from hard use. These details are so welcome! There is life, and human history, in these objects. Some of these images could well become historical documents. It was a joy to see them!

Other, more traditionally conceived and executed images drew the eye. Valoy Eaton’s “Hitching Up” |5| reveals a master in full command of his skills. Royden Card’s “Sulfur Wash Goblin,” |6| Osral Allred’s “Gas Settling Bulb,” and Frank Huff’s “Pay Phones” |7| reveal dependable artists doing what they do best. It is possible, though, that Card’s red rock formation, in this instance, may have more humanoid musculature than his earlier efforts.

Steve Songer’s larger landscape, “Liberty Sunrise,” |8| deserves comment as well. I was taken by his palette and brushwork. There is an almost studied casualness in his creation of light and shadow. Softly different hues are applied quickly and thinly to form engaging changes in perceived light. Visually and technically it is a striking image.

“The Stork,” by Heidi Daynes Darley, and Peter Livingston Myer’s “The Inventor” are large scale, easily accessible work scenes that will surely have a wide appeal.

Steven Robert Newman’s work is new to me; and I’m not quite certain how I feel about his “Faith in the Harvest.” There is starkness in his drawing, an interesting rhythm in the composition, and his palette is strong (and perhaps a bit dark). Still, his image holds the eye; and I can easily get past what I sense may be a certain self-consciousness. There is a great deal of promise in this effort.

Many of the visionary or fantasy images provoked interest. Aaron Brent Harker’s “Evaporate” |9| is an example of technical skills well combined. The chilly, enamel-like finish encases assembled objects and figures. The viewer is thereby offered an imagined scene that challenges and invites questions. Kent Wing’s “Imitator” is reminiscent of Howell Rosenbaum’s fantasy images. The latter’s seemed angry and violent. Wing’s painting is cooler, carefully crafted and more studiously realized.

A mixed media piece, “Press,” by Bruce D. Robertson |10| drew me back several times. This is more than mere assemblage. A number of other, larger abstract creations deserve more study, and I encourage those artists to pursue what entices them.

Much of the spiritually themed work is familiar in subject and competent in execution. Faith and belief are older than history, and they are as vital as the breath we just inhaled. For spiritual introspection at a near-cellular level one turns to Frank McEntire’s creations. |11| His pieces are not easy to see. They are worth the effort to contemplate. Often!

A number of photographic images were included in this exhibit. Most of them, I found, were certainly competent, some of them superbly so. I could not stop myself from returning several times to Dennis Mecham’s “Gehry #10.” |12| It is simply stunning. And I couldn’t prevent recollections of Man Ray (& others of his time) from crowding into my mind.

One could go on, and I am tempted. This ‘zine needs many voices, and I’ve probably said more than enough. Do yourselves a large favor, please — spend a leisurely afternoon in the SMA. This exhibition runs through June. You deserve to see it.

William C. Seifrit is a well-known scholar of the pioneer period of Utah art. He is co-author of Utah Painting and Sculpture published by Gibbs-Smith.

This article originally appeared in the June 2005 edition of 15 Bytes

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