Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
A Matter of Perspective
In Conversation with Al Denyer
Alison Denyer (call her Al) greets me with a warm smile and an offer to make me a cup of coffee. I already have one so she goes about brewing herself a pot of coffee, which gives me an opportunity to look around her studio/office at the University of Utah. The small but sunny room has cheerful stacks of work piled on counters, and the little bit of clutter gives me the impression this is a place where a person is welcome to put her feet up and feel at home. Denyer invites me to sit and I look to a comfortable chair just across the room. Right above it is a wall length bulletin board where some of her latest work hangs, much of which will be displayed at the Art Barn in mid-June. As I look at the work I’m struck by the black paper she uses and at this distance the varied shades of graphite appear to depict the dark clouds of an incoming storm that could arrive at any minute.
“People will ask me, ‘Why do you use black, are you depressed?’” she laughs. “The answer is no, for me black is more about the absence of color. When choosing a medium you have to think about the end result and what is the best material to get the job done.”
On my way over to the chair this makes sense to me. As I approach the work I’ve been admiring, the pictures in front of me begin to change. Some of the shading reveals itself to be painstakingly drawn intricate lines that are reminiscent of a topographical map. The transformation is subtle but intriguing because, although I’ve been looking at the same pictures, they suddenly offer a new perspective and my impression of them changes from one of familiarity to curiosity.
||Exhibition Spotlight: Midway
The Limness Project
Susette Gertsch's 300 paintings in a year
What happens when you sign a contract – with yourself – to produce an ambitious quantity of work in a year? It’s positively life changing, as Midway artist Susette Gertsch will tell you.
On a meandering painting trip through Europe in 2009, Gertsch stopped in the UK to paint with Jon Hall (a.k.a. “Suncage”), a plein air artist whose work she had admired online. It was he who introduced her to the notion of a “limner contract” and encouraged her to take the challenge.
A “limner,” Gertsch explains, was a skilled illustrator of manuscripts in medieval Europe. Later, in 19th- century America, the term was applied to mostly self-taught painters of portraits and landscapes who traveled from town to town, finding subjects along the way and selling the work to the local populace. Hall’s 21st-century contract idea combines this itinerant tradition with a personal artistic challenge.
After a great deal of thought, and balancing the “possible” with the “challenging,” Gertsch settled on the details of her contract. Starting on September 1, 2009, she would paint 300 plein air paintings in a year and document them in a blog, including photographs of her location, her equipment, and passersby. Now, with only three months left to go in the contract, Gertsch can tell you the benefits, frustrations, and unexpected joys of holding one’s creative self accountable for both process and productivity -- much of which will be on exhibition at Midway Town Hall in June.