During the month of February, Salt Lake City artist Trent Thursby Alvey explores the relationship between earth and sky at the Kimball Art Center’s Badami Gallery.
After first being approached about the exhibit, Alvey gave her show a working title of “Tibet Series” even though she had never been to Tibet. She had visited nearby Nepal, however, and “assumed some part of my memory cerebral cortex had been stimulated and all of these visual images were pouring forth.”
As the exhibit has come together, however, she has gained a more acute understanding of the influences that have shaped her newest site-specific installation work. She saw the images coming forth as simple icons of unity, like circles, icons of Buddha and prayer flags that grace hr porch in Emigration Canyon.
For a decade, the 2500-year-old practice of compassion known as Tung Lung has become an important part of Alvey’s life. “I believe that this exhibit is the visual manifestation of my practice becoming internalized. I experimented with process and materials, which would give me the illumination that I was seeking. The composition remains simple, while the process takes a life of its own, taking me wherever it wants. I give myself to this work and allow it to speak for itself.”
“Installation art is the work of process. The way to learn something deeply is to experience it. Gathering sticks, seeing images, allowing repetition to occur, finding the object, applying paint or paper – this is my way of manifesting those oblique images and making them visible for the viewer.”
Alvey eventually settled on “Between Earth and Sky” as a title because it reflects her present state of being, a sense of her place on the planet.
The exhibit is in the Badami Gallery, located in the basement of the Kimball. Another artist might shy away from the space, but Alvey, who is no stranger to installation, knows how to use the space to greatest effect.
Two of her assemblages, called “Looking Inward,” feature cots with the vague outlines of a person. As Alvey describes them, they are like “excavated sarcophagus, bearing witness to the physical body that once slept there.”
Alvey has used the sense of the basement as a cave, tomb and a place of hibernation. Her exhibit is about the quiet moments of winter, reflected in the intimate, dimly lit area of the basement gallery.
Two large paintings (6 ft x 7 ft) entitled “Raven in Lamar Valley” and “Buffalo in Lamar Valley,” are paintings about winter and silence. Alvey is still far from the winter of her life, but she is now a mature artist practicing a type of listening that “must be done by examining those illusive, transparent moments that can only occur in Winter’s silence.”
Also included in the exhibit are a number of loose figurative paintings in enamel on thin Korean paper with rows of Korean figures. The earth tones of the paper and the cool black and white of the paint reflect the palette Alvey also uses in her paintings.
Trent Thursby Alvey will be giving a gallery talk at the Kimball Wednesday, Febraury 23 from 6:00 to 7:30pm. The subject will be process as ritual and the artist’s job of bringing forth shadowy images.
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 edition of 15 Bytes.
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.