There’s always much to see at the annual Face of Utah Sculpture show, especially since its recovery from pandemic closures. A fair amount of virtual ink has been spent on it over two decades, but it may be that not enough of that has concerned the individual most responsible for this along with other opportunities for local artists to show their work. Artists often spend their spare time starting galleries or curating exhibitions, but sometimes the goal is as much self-promotion as the general welfare. Perhaps because Dan Cummings has never turned the spotlight on himself, his contributions have been nodded at while other artists take home prizes, make sales, and garner recognition. After 20 years, he still brings more new artists than he does his own work to this exhibition, and it’s not impossible that this very successful entrepreneur shows here primarily as a way of supporting an opportunity he no longer needs, but believes in.
“Trust Life” may be the clearest indication yet of Cummings’ positive approach to life. His personal art, which runs the gamut of glass art techniques, isn’t limited to a single philosophical point of view. Instead, he urges viewers to “Trust life” as much with a graceful hand gesture as with words, a promise being made before a golden labyrinth, a web-like network that may well promise that even if success proves elusive, it’s impossible to fall far: the compound warren of life will catch any who venture forth. Rounding out this theme, his other entry, “Leaving the Nest Too Soon,” counters with a warning that it’s wise not to seek adventure prematurely. This one, with it’s hypnotic black-and-white nest, tracks leading away, and at its center, an ambiguous skull, might have been called “Trust Home, Too.”
Among the several student artists Cummings introduced to UCCC, the one who comes closest to this possible theme is Andrew Shaffer, a glass blower whose piece might not have been accepted as sculpture. That said, “Shift” may surprise those who peer into its admittedly shallow, yet deceptive depths. Visitors could make the trip worthwhile by contemplating these three pieces, along with the glass flowers of Lori Scharf, Mitch Bedke’s contemplative faces, and especially Barbara Busche, whose captivating “Fabric of Humanity” returns to Cummings’ opening statement.
The Face of Utah Sculpture is an annual show, but like stepping into a river, it’s never the same twice. This year, the presence of bronze seems stronger than usual. Johnathan Morgan’s “Phoenix” and “Hemeroscopium” (Greek for the place where the sun sets), Dahrl Thomson’s “Undercurrent,” and Jeannine Young’s “Elle,” suggest the range of both medium and local talent.
Suz Larson’s fused glass has been a mainstay of The Face of Utah Sculpture over the years, but in “Fountain of Youth,” wherein she foregrounds the chains rather than the ornaments they usually support, she gives voice to what might be its unspoken theme: “Always strive to see through new eyes.” Here’s the oldest medium in art, taking part in a fresh start.
The Face of Utah Sculpture XIX, Utah Cultural Celebration Center, West Valley City, through Aug. 30