Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

TRASA’s Emerging Women

by Linda Peer

trasaextTRASA, the Urban Arts collective, has found a home in a big, handsome, old, brick, factory-looking building on the west side of downtown SLC. The organization, which takes its name from a Sanskrit word describing a moving collective of living beings, is a charitable arts and education program designed to connect area artists in order to share ideas, knowledge and resources.

During July and August TRASA presented “Emerging Women: all media,” a juried show representing the artistic explorations of 41 local artists, ranging from up-and-coming young women to grandmothers with a lifetime of work that has never before been shown. The visual exhibition served as a backdrop for two months of events showcasing female performers in genres ranging from indie rock and drum n’ bass to theater and modern dance.

As is usual with such shows, the concerns of the participants in “Emerging Women: all media” were quite various, as was the quality of the work.

Although many of the works were technically competent, they often lacked cohesion of feeling or thought. Each work seemed to point the viewer in many directions, so that all that was communicated clearly was the decorative quality of the work.

An exception was “Spilled Milk,” a large painting, about 4′ tall by 3′ wide, by Teresa Lane. This painting is both beautiful and creates a clear sensation of mystery through its color and the way the paint was applied. Its most striking device is the use of a piece of linoleum as part of the painting surface. The linoleum is patterned like a Turkish carpet, and the painting includes other references to floors. The artist uses a limited palette of colors, and the painting is generally a glowing, translucent dark red. Near the lower center is a small translucent white image of what appears to be a cake or cheese with a slice removed. Although I did not understand the reference to spilled milk, the painting is gorgeous and somewhat mysterious.


“Earthly Delight” by Kathleen Ferdon

Another successful work was Kathleen Ferdon’s painting “Earthly Delight” — an unpretentious little watercolor confected of colorful dancing rectangles. It is completely nonobjective, and uses a shallow space and juxtaposition of colors and sizes to create a lively and delightful effect.

Other works, though ambitious in design, are less successful in result. “Medusa” by Olivia Glascock is an attractive mixed-media book about 8″ square, with a stiff folder to contain it and a beaded bracelet placed next to it.

The green marbled inside of the folder and the printed end papers of the book are sumptuous, as are the delicate rice paper and gold pages inside. The decorative “S”-shaped snake in brass relief inset into the book cover adds to the book’s opulent appearance. The contents of the book are a few delicate drawings of a pretty female head with snakes for hair. This “Medusa” is shown in several mental and physical states. The drawings look like overexposed photos. Medusa herself looks wan, effete and powerless. Instead of the muscular serpents that usually adorn Medusa’s head, the snakes in these drawings look as innocuous as worms. In Greek mythology Medusa was a powerful Gorgon whose eyes turned anyone who looked into them to stone. Clearly Glascock’s “Medusa” represents a Medusa shorn of her power, and by its opulence the book indicates that this is a precious image. This pretty, sickly Medusa saddens me, and her presentation as something precious is sadder still. Perhaps the beaded bracelet was left by the Greek Medusa to re-empower her eviscerated sister?


“Archaic Torso of Apollo” by Linda Woodruff Bergstrom consists of a large sheet of clear plexiglass divided into two sections. On one half of the plexiglass sheet is a frontal relief of a large male torso, from waist to neck, made or cast in gauzy cloth stiffened with a clear medium. Inside the rough, generalized, translucent torso is a light, and the cloth extends beyond the edges of the torso in vague waves.

On the other side of the plexiglass, printed in gold, is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” in English translation from German, with no translator noted. The poem begins:
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs.

The gauzy relief torso in Bergstrom’s work is indistinct, unexpressive, and certainly not beautiful. It is cut off at the waist, as if to exclude the sexual implications of the description of Apollo’s hips and thighs in the poem. The light within the torso is a literal representation of Rilke’s words, “. His torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside like a lamp.”

This work is a lesson in the difference between art and not art. On the left is the Rilke poem: rich, suggestive, sensual, and definitely a work of art. On the right is a literal representation of a part of the poem, with all of the flavor and wonder of a box of cereal. The torso is dull, and does not attempt to parallel the feeling of the poem. The result is an interesting lesson in the meaning of “art,” but as a work of art in its own right it is too pedagogical for my taste.

A number of the paintings and drawings in this show are signed in very odd ways. For instance, there is a lovely watercolor of a winter landscape composed in horizontal bands. In the front is snow, then winter dark trees, the rolling hills with a bit of color, and above a wet into wet painted winter sky with clouds. Sounds pleasing, does it not? However, the artist has signed the painting twice on the field of snow, in lines thicker than the lines of the trees. This places the signatures in the very foreground, and makes them the most important part of the painting visually!

On the second floor of the TRASA building is graffiti from a previous show. It was there that I saw the most ambitious work displayed. A large L-shaped wall covered with a very abstract expressionist graffiti caught my eye. There is an underpainting of what looks like blocky and pointy word forms in mostly purple, blue and yellow. This layer of painting has a kind of shallow, rectangle based three dimensionality. Over that are painted orange squares, words, and balls and ball-like cartoony heads. The surfaces in the balls and heads are white, with colored lines around the balls and used for the drawing in the heads. The second layer of painting seems to float over the first, once again in a shallow abstract expressionist type space. The work gave me feelings of energy and vertigo. It is like the child of a Jackson Pollack and the comics.

TRASA did the arts community a great service to take a chance and produce an exhibit like “Emerging Women.” Unfortunately, the show was disappointing overall. However, the work of emerging artists is not expected to be completely formed. I hope each artist will continue to clarify her vision and expression, and that we will see work that is more powerful and exciting from these artists in the future.

TRASA is located at 741 S. 400 W SLC (Gallery Hours: Thurs. and Fri. 5-8 PM, Sat. 12-5 PM) at the former Utah Pickle Co. building. Look for the graffiti sign painted on the building to find it.

This article appeared in the September 2002 edition of 15 Bytes.

1 reply »

  1. Dear Editor,

    It was a treat to read the review of the TRASA show “Emerging artists: all media”. As the reviewer, Linda Peer, noted, TRASA has done a good thing for the art community for allowing new artists and new ideas to be showcased. Nothing could be better for Utah’s burgeoning and changing art community than exposure to adulation or critique.

    As one of the artists in the show, I was especially gratified to be highlighted by the reviewer regarding my piece “Archaic Torso of Apollo”. I have long believed that art should be thought provoking and motivating. It was clear from her comments that my work did evoke an emotional response in the reviewer. As an “emerging artist” nothing could be better than to join the ranks of the artists whose new forms of expressions were initially panned by reviewers, only to be later embraced by that same establishment. Interestingly, this reviewer praised another part of the exhibit by comparing it to one of my personal heroes, Jackson Pollock. Should we pull out some of his early reviews?

    I am truly honored to have been included in the show. Many of the women in the exhibit are personal friends and colleagues, with whom I’ve been in more than a few shows. All are tremendously gifted and experienced, with many years of honing their skills behind them. It’s almost a travesty to infer otherwise, much less state that these women need to “clarify their vision”. Most artists abhor the thought of needing to be on a reviewers “hope” list. Our hopes come from a desire to portray individuality, and true creativity based on intense and deeply personal experiences. Furthermore, it is offensive for anyone to try to determine the “meaning of art”. I believe this has been an age-old question since the dawn of time, not likely to be summed up tidily by a reviewer whose credentials were never even mentioned. [AOU: this was our editorial mistake]

    An artist (if Ms. Peer will allow that reference) needs to be prepared to be misunderstood, and I am flattered beyond expression to be taken seriously enough to be critiqued, especially three whole paragraphs worth! However, an “emerging reviewer” can make some obvious mistakes that ought to be corrected where possible.

    First, while the reviewer goes to great lengths to point out that a “literal representation” of a part of the poem’s imagery classifies the torso part of the piece as something other than art (“not art”, I believe she said), she also bemoans the lack of a phallic representation as somehow not being representative enough, which I find highy contradictory. While art can indeed strive for emotional poignancy, journalism ought really to strive for consistency.
    Further, had the reviewer researched the technique required to create the piece (molding the wet fabric directly onto a live model, then drying and removing it) she would have immediately agreed that to represent the part of the poem that mentions Apollo’s loins would have been not onlyunnecessary, but downright unhygienic and plenty painful.

    Second, her rather obtuse reference to a cereal box was neither instructive nor terribly descriptive, but rather came across as mean-spirited and none-too-clever. That is not to say that a critique cannot be harsh, but it ought to at least be thoughtful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been immensely “filled with wonder” due to staring bleary-eyed at a cereal box while chowing down on my Wheaties.

    Her entire paragraph devoted to the signatures on one of the pieces was puzzling at best. Did that help the reader have a better understanding of this exhibit, or was it thrown in only to showcase the reviewers remarkable attention to details?

    Having said all of that, it is best for all artists to remember the maxim — “Say something good about me or say something bad, just say something”. I was thrilled when I got a phone call saying –” Your first bad review — You’re somebody now!” I applaud you for including a review of this important show. Congratulations to all of the remarkable women whose work was exhibited, and a big thank you to TRASA for making it possible. In a world and culture where homogeny is embraced, TRASA is one of many galleries striving to make a difference in our society, and in the lives of artists. Thank you also to Artists of Utah for creating an educated forum for artists. I would hope that as artists, we would have a place in your magazine for letters to the editor, and that you will print this.

    Art can evoke many feelings in the viewer: serenity, angst, hatred, envy, power, arousal, to name a few. But the one thing art must never create is apathy. Thank you, Ms. Peer, quite simply, for feeling something.

    Linda Woodruff Bergstrom

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