The late Weber State University professor of art, Doyle Strong |0|, had a powerful impact on generations of Utah artists who came of age during the four decades when he was active as an instructor. Opening this weekend at Ogden's Universe City, Strong's Legacy will exhibit the work of Strong as well as a number of the students who came under his tutelage.
Exhibition Preview: Ogden
A Strong Influence: The Art & Students of Doyle Strong
by Shawn Rossiter
Ogden artist LeRoy Jennings formed Universe City along with his wife Carol and son Benjamin. He met Strong in 1964 at Weber State. He remembers him as "a man ahead of his times." "He was a feminist before we knew the word," Jennings says. "He taught diversity before it was a university mission. He wasn't afraid of what others might think. He was sincerely concerned with finding his own personal truth and encouraged his students to do so, too. He frightened plenty of my contemporaries but he was very stimulating to those who could take it!"
Jennings' work includes waterscapes, landscapes, portraits and still lifes but he has also recently completed a number of abstracts in a very different color palette.|1-2| Showing with Jennings in this exhibition are a number of artists who came under Strong's influence over the years: Peggy Barker, Bruce Carlson, Ellen Chadwick, Scott Geary, Wayne Geary, Larry Ogan, Dayle Record, Richard Sheppard, Clarence Socwell, and Gerald Wickberg (deceased).|3| The exhibit will include sculpture, prints and paintings by Strong |4 -5|, as well as comments by the artists about their experiences with Strong and the times that still mark them today.
Doyle Strong served as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot during the last two years of WWII. He finished a degree in art at Brigham Young University in 1945, a teaching certificate at Weber College in 1946, and an M.F.A. from the University of Utah in 1949. He was also a member of the Art Students League of New York. In the postwar years, he and Farrell Collett were the art faculty at Weber College. Clarence P. Socwell, a poet and playwright, was a student there from 1948-50, and remembers those times. "Since the students and instructors spent so much time together, we became 'one big happy family.' We were all very familiar with each other's talents and knowledge, and the experience was one of enjoyable camaraderie both with the other students and the teachers."
Happy families don't always last, however. By the sixties and early seventies, when most of the artists in this exhibit knew the professor, Strong had experienced some rough personal times and his artwork had also gone through fundamental changes. He had left behind the traditional work of his mentor, Farrell Collett, and explored more modernist and contemporary forms of art. And he encouraged his students to do the same.
Wayne Geary |6|, an artist and instructor who currently lives in Salt Lake City, met Strong when he was a freshman at Weber. "At first I didn't know what to make of him. He'd look at my work and kind of grimace and say cryptic things and I was totally mystified. . . And yet, in some Zen-like fashion, things did start to make sense, and being in Doyle's classes became liberating to the point that I would start to drag in rusty old car doors to class and burn baby dolls and glue them on and smear paint over everything (this was the Vietnam era) . . . He encouraged me to do more and more radical work, until finally Farrell Collett, the department chair, in a fit of outrage took one of my paintings down to the college president's office. That, I think, was the high point of my year at Weber, at least in terms of being a bad boy. Of course poor Doyle got all kinds of trouble for fostering such rebellion."
Almost all of the artists in this exhibit speak of Strong's influence not simply as an art instructor, but as a mentor, a gravitational force they were drawn to who influenced their views on politics, life and art. "Many of us consider him our mentor that shaped our attitudes about how to think about and approach art making," says Larry Ogan, a painter who studied with Strong in the early seventies. "He also became a political radical during the Vietnam era opposing the war. He almost lost his job when he told an art history class that President Richard Nixon is "a f**king liar."
Ogan, unsatisfied with the Utah art scene, moved to Santa Fe where he is now Director of the Santa Fe Council for the Arts. Ogan's wife, Ellen Chadwick, was also one of Strong's students and is now a professional artist. Ogan's work currently concentrates on landscapes that focus on light, mass and form |7| while Chadwick's work are painterly abstracts with strong geometrical elements.|8| Strong's influence was obviously not dictatorial, encouraging his students to find their own form rather than imitating his.
Most of the artists exhibiting in Strong's Legacy went on to become professional artists, either in Utah (Geary, Record, a photographer in Salt Lake, and Sheppard |9|, a painter in Ogden) or elsewhere (Ogan, Chadwick and Scott Geary all live in Santa Fe). Others, like Peggy Barker, who has taught at Ogden's St. Joseph High School for twenty years, became instructors. Socwell devoted his energy to the literary arts (one of his many awards was Utah State Poet in 1977) but has continued to produce art. Bruce Carlson, who retired from the Utah Department of Transportation two years ago, seems to have followed a career the furthest from the arts, but he has continued to paint with watercolor as his principal medium, and has been an active patron of the arts in Utah. He credits Strong with being a "strong" supporter of his eccentric personality as a student and an artist.
Strong retired as Associate Professor in 1982. His early artistic style, social realism, evolved to reflect various abstract and modern styles of the 1960s and 70s. His social concerns continued, however, and were reflected in his politics. A political radical by local standards, he brought to life the contrasting colors of war and peace.
Caril Jennings, cofounder of Universe City and a performing artist by training, remembers being accepted into Strong's orbit. "I came into Doyle's gang by way of a three quarter art history series which I took with LeRoy Jennings, whom I would later marry. I was a theatre major at the time but was welcomed into the 'company of artists' by everyone, as we all were trying to view 'art' in a larger and inclusive context - not just limited to the visual arts. Out of my inclusion in that group, many joint ventures between the visual and performing arts were produced."
Universe City, the Jennings' creation, is one such venture, as is their current exhibit Strong's Legacy. It opens this weekend. To get a glimpse at the effect of one artist's strong influence and the many paths it can engender, stop in at Ogden's Universe City for what will turn into a reunion show for many of these artists.
The opening reception will be Friday, April 7, 5-8 p.m., and the artists' talk and reunion will be April 8, at 6 p.m. The exhibit will run Fridays, April 7, 14, and 21, 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays, April 8, 15, and 22, Noon-8 p.m. Universe City is located at 2556 Washington Blvd.
Exhibition Review: Park City
Arte Latino, the Sequel
Last year, Park City's The Kimball Art Center
introduced its first Arte Latino
, an exhibition and celebration of Latino art and culture. The second installment of this annual event, Arte Latino; A Celebration of Latino Art in Utah
is now on display in all galleries of the Center.
Many of the artists featured in last year's show, such as folk artists Peruvian Ernesto Apomayata |2|
and Chilean Elena Sepulveda, have returned to brighten the snow-laden ski town with the colors and movements of warmer climes. This year's sequel, as is the case with all good sequels, also introduces some new characters, including El Salvadorian painter and printmaker Karen Dreyfus
Dreyfus was born in San Salvador and spent part of her childhood in California before moving back to El Salvador where she completed High School. Following graduation, Dreyfus pursued her art education in New Jersey and, later, finished her BFA with an emphasis in Printmaking at the University of Utah.
Dreyfus' mixed media portraits represent her interpretation of anonymous people's lives from the past. |0-1|
Old sepia and black-and-white photographs are used as the main source of inspiration for the construction of the portrait. Although there might not be much information in the photographs at first glance, small hints about an individual's life are revealed at closer inspection. Costume, facial expressions, and demeanor hint at an individual's identity and spark an idea to their profession, condition or path of life. Dreyfus collects additional paper sources like pieces of old newspaper, magazines, and music sheets. This collection of information becomes the densely collaged surface on which the portrait is painted. Both photographs and other paper sources become a narrative that describes the character and ultimately, births a new identity.
The collage backgrounds of her portraits could almost stand separately, yet her combination of portraits and backgrounds give a deep experience to the person viewing and appreciating her art.
This year's Arte Latino
introduces other Latino artists to the Utah art scene. Anderson J. González, a native of Caracas, Venezuela is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Illustration at Brigham Young University. Araceli Tarras |3|
, a native of Mexico City raised in Spain, is a painter with a realist bent. Georgina Alvarez-Gutiérrez, a first generation American was raised along the border of San Diego and Tijuana. Her parents immigrated in 1971 from Mexico and struggled to raise five children in a Mexicano working-class barrio in Southeast San Diego. Through her camera lens, Alvarez-Gutiérrez explores the culture and lives of people in the countries she visits.
Returning artists (see March 2005
) include photographer Guadalupe Sandoval Rodriguez, stone sculptor Felix Saez |4|
, painters Elena Lazary |5|
and Carlos Matamoros Maldonado, and Michael Trujillo, a painter whose ancestors were some of the first Europeans to settle what is now New Mexico.
includes well-known artists who exhibit frequently in the Utah area. Guillermo Colmenero |6|
, a sculptor who learned the art of storytelling from his grandfather in Bachiniva, Chihuaha. His grandfather told him stories of meeting Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution and shaking his hand. Colmenero’s abuelo (grandfather) took him back to a time when he was a child in front of his family’s house by describing the smell of their clothing, the anguish in their facial expressions and their battle for independence in a handshake.
Pilar Pobil |7|
, a self-taught artist born in Madrid, Spain, works in a variety of media and her work can also be seen currently at Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake, and, beginning April 21st, at both Utah Artist Hands and Michael Berry Gallery in Salt Lake.
And last but not least, there is Ruby Chacón |8|
, a native of Utah, who has received many local national and international awards for her artwork, which appears in prominent collections.
Chacón's work is a constant challenge to existing ideas about identity, citizenship, and history. With her work, she insists that people recognize Latinos' place in the past and in the present. She would like her work to provoke thought and to invite dialogue. She explains, "All the people of Utah reap the benefits of the contributions and struggles of my ancestors and my community, contributions that have long been an unspoken part of this history for centuries. It is my intention to add to their contributions and to affirm the lives of those that have passed before me by making sure their stories are well-documented and acknowledged, and that they will no longer be forgotten in public spaces."
Arte Latino continues through April 21st. For more information visit www.kimball-art.org.