For this month’s column on Higher Ed, I headed to Orem to visit with the people of Utah Valley University. The changeover from UVSC to UVU has had a major impact on the art department as well as the rest of the campus. UVU has some fresh new professors, curators and dreams to help cultivate some amazing talent.
When visiting UVU, you have to first make a trip to the University Mall. Tucked away on the second floor next to Nordstrom is the Woodbury Art Museum. This temporary space makes you forget you are in a mall the moment you walk through its front doors. The staff has worked hard to create an exhibition space to showcase pieces from their permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits. The Woodbury will eventually move to a permanent space on the UVU campus, but don’t wait until then to visit; it’s a short drive with a big payoff. Mark your calendars for the opening of Art of Our Century on June 11th, from 6 to 8pm.|0| The exhibit is a juried show of work engaging the aesthetic dialogue of today. Also, look forward to next January when they will host an Urban Arts exhibition. This summer, youth artists will work in collaboration on large-scale graffiti pieces on raw canvas to be shown in the exhibition.
Assistant Curator Melissa Hempel recently came to the Woodbury from northern California, where she was working at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA. At Headlands, she had the opportunity to work and live with a collective of artists from Los Angeles and one tail-less raccoon. Hempel has a BA in the History of Art and Visual Culture and an MA in Museum Studies. She says she loves a challenge, even if that challenge is persuading people that excellent art can be on the second floor of University Mall, or to join the Museum’s Facebook Fan page. She wants to make sure the Woodbury is connected to the rest of Utah’s art scene, and has been writing for 15 Bytes as a way to get to know the larger community. This fall, she is looking forward to teaching Introduction to Museum Studies. It will give her an opportunity to use the Museum’s space and collection to promote the UVU mission of engaged learning.
The current show at Woodbury is a double header with BFA Final Projects and the UVU Student Art Show. The Student Show was juried this year by BYU’s Curator for Contemporary Art, Jeff Lambson. Lambson awarded senior photographer Teagan Alexbest in show for selections from her body of work entitled Confrontations with Death. “As soon as I walked in the gallery I was drawn to her photograph of the dead deer. Its eyes were glazed over in death, but the blue sheen gave it a ghostly life…” says Lambson. He was very impressed with Teagan’s ability to make thoughtful, well-crafted work that also has a strong concept. Teagan’s dog Tyke, who received a terminal diagnosis of skin cancer in the summer of 2009, inspired this body of work. Knowing she had to come to grips with his mortality, she began photographing dead animals. For her final presentation, she created cement frames that complement the images both aesthetically and symbolically.
David Jones, a student with a double major in Painting and Graphic Design, won the director’s choice award in the Student Show for his piece “Stop and Breathe.” Jones, a father of five, says he has felt very fortunate to be a part of the student body during the transition to a university, when there has been a strong move to add programs and classes. The faculty has been very supportive and encouraged Jones to explore both of his majors while balancing a hectic family life. His professor Tawni Shuler pushed him this semester to break down what he knew and analyze his own processes. It was in her class that David started his body of work in which the large-scale piece “Stop and Breathe” was created. An abstract piece made of three panels measuring a total of 12 x 8 feet, it dominates the exhibition space and demands interaction from the audience with its sophisticated use of drips and pours.
Tawni Shuler, Visiting Artist at UVU, came to Orem from a residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, Montana. Her Special Topics class, the one in which Jones changed the direction of his work, centered on the process and experimentation of painting. This class helped students find confidence in their own abilities both conceptually and technically. She hopes the art department will continue this approach as well as collaborate with areas inside and out of the art department.
Shuler recently had a solo show at the Woodbury and will have a couple of pieces in the upcoming Art of Our Century Exhibition. The work in her recent exhibition is an examination of her own life experiences, inspired by memory, specifically those associated with her rural childhood in Wyoming and the life cycles witnessed on her family farm. “By painting layer upon layer, using both opaque paint and transparent washes, my process is similar to the way memory functions. Using these layers, I can recall the way the mind orders specifics by pushing the less important elements to the hazy background and bringing the more important features to the foreground.”
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.