Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Summer in the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery: Two Exhibitions 

2007 Production of The Tempest Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespearean Festival 2007

by Amanda Finlayson

The SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts, in conjunction with the Utah Shakespearean Festival, recently presented the exhibition The Tempest: Anatomy of a Production, at the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery. The exhibition’s purpose was to demonstrate the artistry behind a theatrical production i.e., “how does a play come together?” On display were the costumes, props, and scenery that created the visual essence of the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s 2007 production, The Tempest.

Production sketches for The Tempest Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespearean Festival 2007

Nine month’s prior to the rehearsal process for The Tempest, production director, Kathleen Conlin, had presented her concept to the Festival’s creative team. That concept became the overall impetus for design, research and the production of physical items such as set and props. In viewing the props and set pieces from the production, I was taken by the detail included and easily interpreted these items as pieces of art, designed and constructed by skilled artisans at the Festival’s Properties Department.

In the context of the exhibition, I would qualify the props for this production as primarily found-object sculptures. For example, masks were created for a scene where Ariel leads a dreamlike parade of a harpy and her cohorts. The masks created both a frightening and a whimsical feeling for the viewer, as well as serving as fascinating character pieces.

Masks from the 2007 production of The Tempest Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespearean Festival 2007

The thorough historic research conducted to create the materials for the production primarily focused on Leonardo DaVinci’s diaries. The production’s concept included an interpretation of Prospero, the magical and scholarly patriarch of the play, as a Renaissance man resembling a DaVinci-like persona. The actor who portrayed Prospero wore a draping coat covered with drawings and writings imitating those from DaVinci’s journals. The design of this coat served its purpose well and its construction featured drawings and writings from DaVinci with fine artistry.

Prospero’s Coat Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespearean Festival 2007

Even Ariel, Prospero’s mysterious spirit servant, was given his own renaissance wings, inspired by DaVinci’s many sketches of flying devices. These wings contribute an artistic element to the exhibit as an impressive melding of copper tubing, tissue paper, masking tape, and adhesives.

Ariel’s wings Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespearean Festival 2007

The Braithwaite Fine Art Gallery also featured the Cedar City Art Committee 65th Annual Art Exhibit this month, a juried show featuring two-dimensional works in a variety of mediums from regional and national artists. The exhibit showcased a spectrum of visual art styles, including southern Utah landscapes, portraits, still life, and other representational works.

A few specific pieces appealed to me both aesthetically and technically. One of my favorites was an oil painting by Marina Zavalova entitled “Timeless.” In the painting a rustic country village is brought to life by rich color and texture. Zavalova’s technique was precise in its construction while remaining loose and easy in its brush strokes. “Dance of X,” an abstract acrylic on paper by Sonya Dinsdale conveying colorful, fluid movement, also caught my eye. Andrew Orlemann’s photographs were excellent examples of fine black and white images that resonated a feeling of the West. Finally, Laura Yang’s shadowy memories of things long past in her piece “Postcard,” a digital collage print, appeared to share reminiscences of familial ties and old regrets.

Dance of X by Sonya Dinsdale

The Cedar City Art Committee was founded by a group of mothers who wanted to expose their children to fine art. Originally the artwork was shown in the elementary school hallways and the children participated in selecting a piece to purchase for their school. Those paintings are still in the schools today. Over the years the show has evolved into a national juried exhibit and has been hosted by the Braithwaite Fine Art Gallery for the past few years.

The next time you’re visiting Cedar City, whether for its theatrical or natural treasures or both, don’t forget to visit the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery on the Southern Utah University campus. It may be small, but it has much to offer.

Photograph by Andrew Orelmann

An appealing exhibition coming up at The Braithwaite will be In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits beginning Sept. 11 through November 1, 2008.

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