If the name Eccles sounds familiar, that is likely due to its ubiquitous use on public buildings throughout Utah, and even surrounding states. David Eccles, a Scottish immigrant, came to Utah in the late 1800s. He and his wife Bertha, a Danish immigrant, made Ogden, Utah their home base and in 1896 bought a newly built Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion for their family. In the heart of Ogden, this home was, and remains to this day, a jewel of the city. Congruent with the generosity the family has become known for, at the time of her death in 1935, Bertha Eccles willed the home to the city of Ogden. Her only stipulations were that it be utilized for educational, artistic, or community purposes. The home has found a way to intersect all three wishes into one community art center.
The Eccles Art Center hosts a variety of community events such as exhibitions for both visual, and performance art, writing workshops, and youth courses. This month marks the center’s fifth annual Colors of Pride competition. The competition awards one artist “Best of Show” with a cash prize of five hundred dollars, as well as five “Honorable Mention” with the cash prize of one hundred dollars each. Each piece accepted into the show is available for private purchase as well. Not only does this competition foster financial incentives, but more importantly, it offers local LGBTQIA+ artists a chance to showcase personal work in a welcoming environment.
While the size and medium of the works is as varied as the artists that created them, the theme of the show can be seen in all the individual works. As the rainbow has become synonymous with gay pride it follows that throughout the show rainbows would abound. In 1978, Gilbert Baker, male artist and drag queen, was commissioned by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay U.S. elected official, to create a symbol representative of the queer community. Thus, the rainbow flag was born. As a rainbow shows the color spectrum, it makes an apt representation of a community that aims to celebrate the full spectrum of human identity. A symbol from nature that is representative of many whom have been deemed “unnatural” is just the right reframing.
The rainbow is explored in both literal and abstract ways throughout the Colors of Pride show. Somewhere in the middle of these interpretations lies Tiffany Lannefeild’s “Kaleidoscope” which took home the “Best of Show” prize. This acrylic on canvas work features an illuminated orange koi fish that is in direct contrast to its black background. The koi is prominent in the top third of the canvas. Just below the body of the fish viewers see that the artist has utilized a plethora of light pastel shades to create the near translucent qualities of the fins. While the tail and side fins trail off the canvas, the lower fin explodes into a heavy and textured rainbow. The shape and added texture to this portion of the work gives the fin a wave-mid-crash like quality. The same bright orange of the koi is seen in the rainbow of the fin-turned-wave, reinforcing the idea that everyone can find their place in the rainbow. As the koi hovers above this portion of the work one may interpret the work as underpinning the importance of the many coming together to lift up the individual.
While this competition is held every June, through the Victorian glass windows, and stained-glass throughout the Eccles Art Center visitors are sure to catch a glimpse of a rainbow in all twelve months of the year.
Colors of Pride, Eccles Art Center, Ogden, through June 30
Heather Hopkins recently received her BA in Art History from the University of Utah. She is also an arts writer for Southwest Contemporary. When she isn’t lost in a museum or art gallery, she can be found hiking and camping with her wife and their cat.