Space for Utah Sculpture
The Face of Utah Sculpture VI at the Cultural Celebration Center
"Those Pretty Arches," a wall-mounted sculpture by Nadra Haffar on view as part of The Face of Utah Sculpture VI, is made of enamel pit-fired onto several long, battered, torn, and twisted strips of galvanized roofing. The use of ‘arches’ in the title tells us that it rises—rather than drapes—from either side before reaching across the space between and joining in the center. The trashed condition of the sheet-metal is quintessential modernism, suggesting the wreckage of human aspirations in the face of inevitable, natural decay. Or it could invoke the human need to destroy what others aspire to build. But wait! It’s really no more blasted, eroded, or weathered than the stone arches that are so iconic of Utah as to serve as its emblem. Seen in that light, it’s comforting to compare—to allegorize—human existence and our works alongside nature’s.
"Those Pretty Arches" is a serious piece of modern sculpture made even more relevant by its use of unconventional-but-familiar materials. Not cute nor sentimental, it cannot be dismissed as art. But it can be diminished by poor display, and that’s exactly what’s happened here. Among works packed so densely that the visual noise makes it hard for any single piece to make itself heard, even a large, relatively powerful voice like Haffar’s is in danger of being drowned out. Instead of allowing the arch to stand for itself, the vital empty space in its center is, one presumes necessarily, preempted to show off three works by Brian Christensen: "Kitchen Dial," "Ute Fire Brick," and "Compass" (see images page 3). While the well-known and much-respected BYU sculpture professor’s works always deserve and reward attention, Christensen, who works in an intimate scale, would probably be the last person to want them placed where they diminish another artist’s work. Haffar’s more pointed "Both Sides of the Story," a fragment of steel wall shot through by bullets that came from both sides, fares even worse: hanging mostly on a wall, but partly in front of a curtained window.
Laying It On
Erik Waterkotte's many-layered printmaking
Perhaps it’s my fascination with layering paint that attracted me to the printmaking work of Erik Waterkotte, a recent printmaker-in-residence at Saltgrass Printmakers. With a lecture at the Salt Lake Art Center, and a class at Saltgrass, as well as an opening reception for his exhibition there, I had multiple opportunities to see and learn about his process. For one who knows almost nothing about printmaking, I needed all this, plus some tutoring by other printmakers on the side, to get ready to write.
Thus, I’m writing as a printmaking novice, from the perspective of a painter, looking at layering as part of an artist’s process to create meaning for the viewer. A true printmaking “how-to” can only be achieved hands-on at Saltgrass.
Waterkotte’s web site gallery is a good introduction to his surreal world view. His various series of works are characterized by dichotomies – destruction and utopia, idealism and depravity, romanticism and disaster. These dichotomies are revealed through his juxtaposition of disparate images, which, even in the flattened view on a computer screen, creates an amazing depth of field -- achieved in part through his process of layering. Waterkotte’s layers are not simply multiple runs through the press, but often prints on different thin Japanese papers, which are sandwiched together, sometimes with the addition of collage in the final layer.