Artist Profile: Kaysville
Gibbs Smith: Speaking with Images
Publisher Gibbs Smith also an artist
The minute I enter the reception area of Gibbs Smith Publisher, among the expected stacks of books I am struck by the large oil painting of southern Utah hanging on the wall. It is by the publisher, who, in addition to running a successful publishing house for over 40 years, is an avid painter. Gibbs Smith has twice moved to Utah from California, most recently in 1973 when he moved with his wife to set up Gibbs Smith Publisher in a converted barn in Kaysville. He ushers me in to his office, a spacious, warmly-furnished room with a window looking out on a landscape of trees and snow – a perfect setting for an environmentalist who for five years was the President of the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club. Paintings, memorabilia and bookshelves line the walls. Among the photos Smith points out a black and white shot of Maynard Dixon in his smock, next to one of his paintings. Dixon, a painter Smith studied when he was younger, is the subject of three books published by Smith, two of which were part of last year's catalogue. Looking through the company’s Spring 2011 catalogue I see two of Smith’s paintings, on the front and back cover. The subjects are two of the many bookstores he has visited all over the country and which appear regularly in his catalogues. His 2009 publication commemorating four decades in the business, The Art of the Bookstore, includes 68 of these.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Power in a Posse
Kent Miles and the Salt Lake Seven
Art as a profession has always come across to me as an extremely individual pursuit. Artists have their time in school to work in a group situation, participating in critiques and honing their vision throughout the course of several classes, but once an artist receives a degree and progresses into the professional world the idea of critique and group learning seems to fade away. The professional artist appears as a lone ranger in pursuit of his or her own expression. So I was intrigued to learn about the Salt Lake Seven (SL7), a group of photographers who meet every month to discuss one another’s work and to give themselves challenges for the coming month. It might be a bit strong to call them “The Magnificent Seven,” but the group’s exhibit this month at Art Access Gallery reveals that when artists ride together their individual visions are given increased firepower.
Exhibition Review: Park City
Beyond the Horizon
Stephen Foss at Julie Nester Gallery
Just as novelists are always searching for signs of character, and poets are fascinated by verbs, so landscape painters pay close attention to the angle of the sun, the way its highlights and shadows give shape to the world, and just how the horizon cuts through and separates below from above. Stephen Foss, an enamel painter from San Francisco, calls his current exhibition, a dozen medium-sized paintings at the Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, Beyond the Horizon. The title is as much autobiography of the artist as it is description of the work.
Few good painters, and certainly not Foss, want viewers to pay primary attention to the mechanics of their work. One should first grasp, and be engaged by, the unity and totality, and maybe then, on closer approach, possibly see how it was done. A review that dwells too closely on the how rather than the what may awaken suspicion that the what is lacking. It’s a conclusion a hasty viewer might draw here regardless, given the literally mundane subjects that obsess Foss. While these panels have in common that they lie closer to abstraction than to representation, even before reading the titles the presence of images is apparent, as is the emphasis on subtle differentiation rather than bold drama. Tilled earth, parallel waves on unbroken water surfaces, blue skies with traces of cloud—these and other inevitably familiar tropes bring to mind neither specific narratives nor scenes of tension. The panels are either square or conventionally rectangular, and often either cut nearly in half between sky and land, or filled completely by a pattern that excludes the sky. Beyond the horizon, indeed. Why do we take that to mean the sky, when it can just as well mean more of the earth? Yet they draw us in to examine them more closely, and few leave the gallery without forming an emotional attachment.