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March 2007
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Amy Caron . . . continued from page 1

Mirror neurons are a part of the brain that has been getting a lot of attention lately. Indeed, some feel that it is neurobiology's most important discovery in the past decade. These neurons are located in a region of the brain just behind both temples that activates in response to movement. Think of them this way: when I stick out my tongue, part of my brain's circuitry lights up. If I see you stick out your tongue, the same part of my brain lights up again. So, in a sense, a little part of you brain mirrors the actions that you see in another person. Remember the phrase "monkey see, monkey do?" For the brain, there's some truth in that old quip. (Not to mention the fact that mirror neurons were fist discovered in monkeys.) In humans, they have been proposed as a region of the brain that is involved in learning, empathy, and language. Some researchers propose that a lack of these neurons might be linked to autism. Is it any wonder that someone with a dancer's training like Caron would find this fascinating?

Not content to read popular articles on the subject, Caron has truly done her homework. She describes this experience as a rollercoaster. At her low points, she's found it totally overwhelming to try to wrap her head around it all. At the high points, it has been synergistic and eye opening on many levels—creatively, intellectually, and philosophically for her. She describes her particular topic as tricky because it is so inherently invisible and undetectable. At times, she's felt it just slip through her fingers leaving her with nothing to work with and at other times she's found the topic so vast as to be impossible to weed anything out from the "important pile."

With "Waves of Mu," Caron has found it nice to have a very specific subject to focus on, but that's not to say that blending art and science is known territory for her. She's not a math-science person. "Heck," she claims, "I think I've forgotten my multiplication tables completely." Now, all the books and magazines stacked next to her bedside are nothing but science.

Many feel that science and art are opposites. Caron thinks that's a bunch of baloney. She's found scientists and artists to be very similar. "Scientists are obsessive, dedicated, and creative, just like artists. If you think about it, it is essential for a scientist to have a probing mind and the ability to imagine and theorize ideas and concepts before they exist—and artists do this as well. Both scientists and artists are rebellious by nature—breaking the law, shocking the world at times, influencing public perception and this kind of thing can be easily observed in both professions. I think more scientists are astute art appreciators than the other way around, but that is changing."

And Caron would know. She's received support and encouragement from the top researchers in their field, going as far as Italy to meet with them. On the whole, she's found them very interested in her project and very generous with their time and input. It's an ongoing collaborative relationship. Drawing on the work of noted neurobiologists Vittorio Gallese and V.S. Ramachandran, she is creating a work that almost functions as an experiment with these ideas. Amy wants her works to act on multiple levels for her audience. In Waves of Mu they are also participants. In this work, the line between participant and audience becomes fuzzy indeed.

"Of course all of this new information about brains and art just helps me further manipulate my audiences. That statement is not as sinister as it sounds– it is the goal of anything that is publicly presented."

As Caron describes "Waves of Mu," the performance aspect will incorporate a stealthy infusion of performed contagious behavior throughout the evening and theatre under the facade of a lecture demonstration. Audience members will participate in the performance consciously and unconsciously.

Caron brings a dancer's sensibilities to her work. She uses images and movement to create multi-layered stories that lead the viewer from a visceral sense rather than a logical one. As a trained dancer, she's interested in balance but even more interested by the idea of unbalance. One expects this sensibility in painters, but it seems less common in professionally trained dancers who practice to be able to hold perfect balance. For Caron, there is energy in that moment when balance is lost. And she's not afraid for her viewers to experience that unbalance and disorientation too. She wants them to surrender and operate from their gut and body instead of their brain when they experience the work, which requires an investment of patience and trust on their part. She says that she always falls in love with art that she doesn’t understand, and wants her viewers to feel the loveliness of ambiguity on some level through her work. She never sets out to purposely baffle her audience, but doesn't feel any conviction or responsibility to create work that is overly clear in its content or intentions. She likes secrets, mystery, and dots that don’t connect – those are the elements that stimulate and hold her attention.

For Caron, there is honesty in the real, the raw, and the flawed. Energy and attitude are more important to her than refined technique. She is the ultimate enlightened amateur and is fearless when it comes to incorporating elements not usually associated with a dance. She has a love/hate relationship with technology and is attracted to the low-fi, embracing a punk philosophy when creating her work.

If all of this seems very serious, it's important to note that humor has an important place in Caron’s work. (And in her life - her web site has a trivia section that crackles with her wit and humor.) She loves dark comedy and its ability to generate empathy and self-consciousness. She likes it when laughing feels organic and also takes pleasure in the disturbing and evil nature of laughing when it feels out of place.

With an extensive mix of mediums and an ambitions subject, Caron's "Waves of Mu" might seem like a tightrope walk without a net. When asked if she would describe herself as fearless, she replied. "No. I have fears; I’m just practiced at overcoming them." Maybe ski jumping isn't such a bad start for an artist, after all.

You will be able to see some of the elements of Caron's work in progress when the Utah Arts Council has their 2006-2007 Fellowship Exhibition at the Rio Gallery from March 16 – April 28. The full work will have a run in SLC in 2008. Additionally, she will exhibit work at the 337 S 400 E Building project that will open in May, combining performance and sculpture.||
Gallery OneTen . . . continued from page 1

Last year, Michael Horito, whose son had had a positive experience in the Art Front Community workshops, bought the former LDS Seminary building in downtown Provo. Since his industrial design firm only needed half of the building, he invited Smith Callis to use the other half to re-establish her fledgling art gallery.

Joe Ostraff, a BYU professor and a board member of Art Access in Salt Lake, recognized the potential of Art Front Community Space at its inception and encouraged the group to cultivate a relationship with Art Access and seek funding support. That relationship resulted in a grant from Art Access, seed money intended to provide the gallery encouragement during the long process of acquiring non-profit status (their application is still pending). Ruth Lubbers, Executive Director of Art Access/VSA Arts, says they have decided to fund them for a second year, “because they are trying very hard to accomplish what they need to do.”

The Art Access grant requires Gallery OneTen to have 30% of their shows include artists with disabilities. “It is really interesting to even try to define that,” Gallery OneTen’s director Smith Callis says. “Financially disabled and physically disabled, we kind of define that broadly.” The gallery put together an exhibit of disenfranchised art called the Gorilla Art Interactive Inventory that resulted in 250 photographs documenting random creativity such as drawings in the cement or a funny sign observed in a window. An upcoming exhibit will feature art works gathered in South Africa by Leland Rowley and Kim Yeoman. Yeoman happens to use a wheel chair and encouraged blind people in South Africa to take photographs motivated by sound. Gallery OneTen also exhibits group and solo shows by established and emerging artists in the community. The openings are well attended and Smith Callis says that “every time we have an opening we try to make sure that some other cause is highlighted as well. Not only is it good for us to bring in different audiences that those causes touch, it is also important for us to feel like our art is doing some good.”

Gallery OneTen has three exhibition spaces: the Front Gallery, new exhibition boxes in the hallway titled Vice Versa, and the Main Gallery. The entryway Front Gallery space is maintained by building owner Horito, who has the last word on what will be displayed in the front hall in order to maintain traffic flow for his clients and address content concerns. Generally, board members plan to approach artists to show in the Vice Versa boxes, though they will consider applications. Shows in the Main Gallery rotate monthly and submission guidelines are available on the web-site. Smith Callis says “We love installation. Basically we want to do more experimental, challenging art that doesn’t necessarily have another place in this valley right now. We really fill a niche.”

The majority of the work in filling Gallery OneTen's niche falls on director Smith Callis. Because funding from organizations like Art Access does not account for all of the Gallery’s needs, Gallery OneTen depends on a completely volunteer staff, including Smith Callis. Ostraff says, “Gallery One Ten has always been Raquel’s baby. She has always had a passion for underserved artists.” Smith Callis obtained a BFA in painting from BYU. After graduation, she opened Art Front Community Space and then became gallery director for the Provo Art Center. She also volunteered to manage the Provo Store Front galleries; the Downtown Alliance loved her work so much they hired her to do the job for them. This led to her current day job position as public arts program director with the Downtown Alliance. In her free time she volunteers with Gallery OneTen.

Smith Callis’ efforts to create a non-profit gallery in Provo have been closely attended by a supportive board and a safety net of strong community connections. Smith Callis could not have done this alone. “Difficulties for beginning galleries are always the same–issues of funding, visibility and community support," Lubbers says. "Gallery OneTen is no exception." Gallery OneTen has made it through its first year, the time frame in which, Lubbers notes, many galleries go under. Though they still have a lot of work to do, Lubbers is hopeful the organization will succeed. “Raquel is working incredibly hard,” Lubbers comments. “She has a great board and most of all, there is a real need for a community-based gallery in Provo, one that welcomes and fosters diversity. Raquel, however, cannot do all of this alone. Others, who want the same thing, will have to step up."

Smith Callis is determined to see the organization grow. “We are starting out this new Year as Art Front Community Space. We want to sponsor other things that have nothing to do with Gallery OneTen, anything that is artistic or creative. Gallery One Ten speaks of this specific location, but in case we move or for other reasons we are now Art Front Community.”

During this first year, the gallery has had its growing pains. It tried to share the space with community classes, but found that didn’t fit. Sometimes they rent out the space for other events. Because the gallery is manned by volunteers, it is only open nine hours a week, during dinner hours on Monday, Thursday and Friday. They will soon be sharing office space with the Sego Foundation -- which sponsored a huge art festival in Provo last year and have another festival planned for September 2007 --in return for covering some additional gallery hours.

I’m excited because we’re better equipped to handle this coming year than we were last year,” Callis says. “And we feel pretty good about this last year. We had a new show every single month; this year we are more focused on making sure our audience grows.” Ostraff says that the “gallery benefits the community because the events draw an amazing cross section of people. Artists of all different backgrounds find something in common here. Commercial galleries can’t do that. Gallery One Ten also provides an opportunity for ideas to be brought out that may not make money. This type of gallery is another layer of the community, offering the community voice.”

The current show at Gallery OneTen, titled "What Human Beings Need," exhibits the work of the volunteer staff (above, from left to right): Oliver Smith Callis, Sabrina Squires, Raquel Smith Callis, Paige Crosland and Mike Rowley. On opening night the gallery was packed with an estimated 400 people who came to see the art, eat soup and purchase hand made bowls donated by local potters . The funds raised from this event will help to build a homeless shelter in Utah Valley. Smith Callis says “It’s amazing how much this small space with humble resources can do." ||