Visual Arts


by Jill MacAllister/photos courtesy UAC

Issues that haunt all local artist exhibitions have followed some of Utahs foremost artists to the UVSC Woodbury Art Museum in Orem. The Museum currently showcases the Utah Arts Council’s Utah! 2003: Crafts and Photography, featuring eighty-seven pieces from sixty-one Utah artists. These pieces and the process for choosing them might push some artists and viewers to ask, “What is the goal of such a show?” Is the goal to simply celebrate Utah art? Is it to raise the bar on art in Utah? Or is it to invite more people to participate in Utah art?

Most people see the exhibition as a chance to enrich the public while museum visitors celebrate art and Utah all at once. The show is sure to open a few new eyes to art and a few new hearts to Utah.

Utah! 2003 definitely holds pieces that are bound to help viewers celebrate the life and souls of Utah artists. My favorite piece in the exhibition is Tie Scape by Marcee Blackerby. This multi-media delight uses hardened neckties to create buildings in a city skyline. Rumor says Marcee has stopped strangers on the street and offered to buy their ties. Her Tie Scape is a testimony of her unique tie tastes. The meaning of the work is up to the viewer to ponder. While Elizabeth Jacobs, assistant curator of the Woodbury Museum, sees the piece as a tribute to function and utility (what else can we do with a tie?), I see Tie Scape as a social commentary on the white collar worker.

Guests might also search for meaning in the photo series Eve’s Daily Breakdown. The series contains nine small pictures of a woman, seen from the waist down, sitting in a chair. She holds a rosary. She holds an iron. She rubs her own feet. The hand-painted prints have a mystery about them that will leave you thinking.

The photograph of a pensive young man might also stir some thought. In Christo’s Introspection , by Shawn Harris, the photo is covered by a piece of glass with a sketch of coin-operated binoculars. The binoculars line up with the boy’s eyes, and the whole piece is open for interpretations.

Other works to help you celebrate Utah are a salad theme lamp (ask the docent to turn it on for you), a set of alphabet drawings, a photo of poor children heading for school, a comedic wedding portrait, an image of Seattle, and a large dragon made of cardboard and duct tape. Museum guests should also pay attention to the prices of the pieces. Although pieces may appear to be overpriced, some pieces are actually marked at a third of their normal cost. These prices might make it possible to celebrate your favorite piece forever.

But for some critics, celebrating Utah artists is just not good enough for the show, and so we might have to ask if and when we should raise the bar on Utah art. If this is a concern for you, the exhibit may disappoint you. While many of the pieces in Utah! 2003 are breathtaking, there are a few that made me ask, “If this is what the jurors chose, I’d hate to see what they turned away.” Some pieces did not seem to me to be artistically advanced. I will let you discover these pieces for yourself.

Now if you have a more expansive view of art, you may be upset that anyone got turned away at all. After all, art is art, and two jurors just came to Orem and decided that seventy-eight Utah artists and two hundred and seventy one pieces of art are not worthy of your thoughts or admiration. Whose job is it to say that a certain quilt is not art and that a certain skyline made of petrified ties is art? Is there really a way to decide which pieces will touch people in deep and emotional ways?

Shows like this always push me to contemplate if, in statewide exhibitions, we really want to invite the public to come see “The best of the best,” or do we want to invite the public to come see new ways that even they can express themselves. If we are trying to inspire new people to create, how can we turn them away when they submit to the exhibit next year?

It is not just the final product that gives art its value. We should remember to look at the creative process and the interpretive process, and you just cannot judge people with out both of these processes in mind.

Some people feel very strongly that the art world should not place artists on a pedestal.

“I don’t think that art is for the prodigy,” Jacobs said. “It is not some untouchable thing that only the select few great masters can accomplish.” Jacobs explained her opinion comes from her love of the art making process.

“It is something that everyone should be able to do because there is something in us as human beings that has a desire to create,” she said. “So that process of creating is more important than the end results to me because it is that process that helps us communicate with ourselves and helps us communicate with our surroundings. The process is a part of the result.”

Can that result be judged? Does the jury process rob common people of their artistic freedom or does it simply help raise the bar?

Make time to come celebrate Utah art this month at the UVSC Woodbury Gallery in Orem, Utah; the exhibit will run through Nov. 25. But when you stop by don’t forget to ask yourself about your own artistic potential. What can you create? Where would you want it to hang? Are you going to let anyone stop you?

Categories: Visual Arts

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