One of my favorite discoveries this year was Heather Campbell, a Logan artist who uses mundane objects to create finely-crafted marvels that call to mind gilded Old-World fabrications, but that never let you forget they are made of marbles, jacks, spoons, and crafted polymer.|0|
Another discovery is Suzanne Conine, whose massive metal and clay piece looks as if it might tear the wall down. Hung like a normal 2-D object, "Red River" is a series of thick ceramic slabs, finished in a variety of glazes.|1| They call forth the red mud and lustrous surfaces that take so many to southern Utah. The work has such presence that I couldn't help wishing it had more room to breath so that its physicality could be displayed to full effect.
If size is a strength for the Salon it is also its weakness. To have so many works in one place doesn't help if in the end you can't actually see the pieces. In the same room as Conine's piece, John Helton's "Symphony of Flight" is hemmed in by wood benches.|2| I'm always happy to find a place to sit and look at works for more than a few seconds, but in this case the benches so surround the sculpture that you aren't able to look at the piece in the round, nor feel the impact of its fused shards of copper-clad wood.
Making sense of the macro is as hard as the micro in an exhibit like this. To solve this Springville has had the habit of dividing works into categories: traditional, impressionistic, visionary and abstract.
The last two categories are apparent in the two galleries devoted to this work. Visionary is always the most eclectic and the most fun, as it tends to be a catchall for what doesn't fit in the other categories. Where else would you put Julie Jentzsch's "Portable," which from afar looks like a straightforward sculpture of the Eiffel Tower but which on closer inspection is a "portable" yarn sculpture that "stands" because it is suspended from the ceiling. With the snip of the supporting string the piece would collapse and easily fit into a large handbag.
The ordering of the other galleries is not as apparent. Photography has been hung all together, in an easily-missed side gallery, rather than in the normal categories. In the Dumke gallery three figurative works, by John Erickson, Adrian Waggoner, and Stephanie Deer stand out amongst landscapes and still lifes. In the same gallery you might almost miss Shirley Tegan's "Grounded," a wood sculpture, encased in plexiglass that shows a cactus below and above ground, but you shouldn't.|3| In places one gets the sense that some effort was made to curate the hanging of the show so that certain pieces speak with others. This can be jarring, to see a three-toned, minimalist Buffalo next to an intricate oil painting of Dead Horse Point, but it helps avoids the lethargy that can ensue when entering a room full of like works.
The most intriguing of rooms is just off the entrance, where three large figurative works stand out amongst works that otherwise seem to have no relationship. The figurative pieces are similar enough in concept -- each is a large painting of another artist -- that one might think they were sought after by a curator rather than happened on by a juror. Randall Lake's full length portrait of fellow painter David Estes as a musketeer feels a little odd; Ryan Brown's studio-size ode to plein-air painting too grandiose; but Zachary Proctor's portrait of a cigar-smoking David Dornan in his studio, which won a Curator's Award, felt just right. The hazy glow of its finish brings out the aura of a Utah icon and teacher whose presence looms over many Utah artists.|4| That Proctor pulls off "a Dornan" within his portrait of Dornan reveals the type of cheek that gives one hope the student will be able to get beyond the teacher.
This year the exhibit spills on to the museum's second floor. Climbing up the stairs small signs tell you to turn left, where a large alpine scene by John Hughes pulls you across one gallery to a series of small rooms, painted a dark cranberry color. Hughes work, which I have seen reproduced in his 15 Bytes columns, doesn't disappoint in person. Exactly how these rooms are organized is not entirely clear. A minimalist orange painting by David Jones hangs next to a narrative work by Matt J. Larsen that feels like it came out of a novel by Zola. The two works, and others in these galleries, have no discernible relationship, making the area feel like the Salon's annex. To make matters worse, a couple of the rooms, painted in the same color, are not even devoted to the Salon. This only became apparent when I noticed that a number of the paintings were by deceased artists.
On the same floor one finds two galleries devoted to the museum's collection of early Utah art, always a delight to see, though these first-rate works don't make the living artists who are still working in the same vein look good by comparison. Also upstairs is a large room devoted to Soviet era impressionist painters, an exhibit that in one form or another has been in the museum every time I have visited. I couldn't help but think how much better the 253 accepted works in the Salon could have been displayed if they had been allowed to nudge aside these large paintings from the other side of the world.
Precisely because the Salon is so big and does include so much art, one is always struck by what does not appear. Looking through the galleries I was happy to find a number of my favorite names; at the same time I could come up with a long list of artists, all well-established, that I didn't see here. One can never know if this is simply because they were not selected by the jurors, or if, as I have heard a number of prominent artists mention, they simply stay away from the show.
What does seem to be lacking in the Salon is new media. Except for one small, easily-missed component on a piece by Vance Mellen, there are no video or digital works. The one "installation" piece is more of a allegorical sculpture. The Salon is already crowded, so what would happen if they began choosing non-traditional works?
The Salon has its own unique method of selecting works. For the sake of partiality some statewides get out-of-state jurors, but the Salon usually chooses people from the community. This year Phillip Malzl, a PhD and art instructor, and the Salt Lake Art Center's Adam Price, selected the works. Or at least most of them. Springville has something they call "Utah's Most Honored," a list of 100 artists first introduced during the 2002 Olympics. These are automatically given a spot on the wall, which can either ensure quality or redundancy (I've always wondered how this list is created. Is an algorithm used to determine the value of one honor over another, coming up with an artist's "Honored" score; or is it simply a matter of the Museum choosing its favorite artists?) In addition I have seen past calls that indicate the director reserves the right to jury in works of his own selection.
Like most juried exhibitions, awards are also a notoriously sticky subject. The Salon sprinkles "Awards of Merit" liberally enough to make them meaningless. A handful of Director and Curator awards are given and one first-place, two second-place and three third-place prizes are awarded. The latter seem spread out enough to satisfy the Museum's categorical approach: Taylor's award for Abstract, Travis Tanner's immaculately constructed assemblage box for the Visionary,|5| and Sandy Freckleton Gagon's "She Remembered She Could Fly" for the traditional or figurative category. I was pleased to see Shea Guevara's "Back Alley," a study of color and form whose cityscape subject is a welcome change from the ubiquitous landscape, get a second place award.|6| Jeff Pugh's "Skyscrapers & Cowpies" was the Salon's big winner, and while there is nothing objectionable in the slightly angular depiction of cows in a central Utah scenery, one wonders what about it made Malzl and Price think it superlative.|7|
But that is the nature of statewide annuals: disappointed artists who didn't get in and perplexed patrons who second guess the jurors. As the biggest of them, the Salon must be used to it by now. They are also used to getting bigger each year, as they continue to tell the media. But bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Sometimes it just means more crammed or more confusing. It can be hard on the patron to see the works and to make any sense of them. The Arts Council's statewide spreads itself over three years, focusing on a specific set of media each year. The Eccles Art Center in Ogden does something similar, choosing alternating years for its Black and White show to give space to photography and other monochromatic media that might get lost along more colorful counterparts. This may not be the solution for Springville, but since their yearly exhibit already seems too big to handle how will they deal with the future -- when the younger generation of artists, working in new and challenging media, must be accommodated lest the Salon become irrelevant?
Event Features Be Part of the Crowd Utah's 2011 Arts Festivals and Plein Air Competitions
If we were betting people we'd be willing to stake our fundraiser funds that attendance records at Utah's art festivals will be broken this year. With the longest, coldest, and wettest winter and spring in recent memory finally over, we can only imagine how eager everyone is to flock outside. Sweeten the deal with art and you'll see droves.
The first opportunity to get in the sun and see some art happens in Ogden, June 10th and 11th. The Ogden Arts Festival has been getting bigger and better every year since its inception in 2003. And for those whose pocketbooks are a little light from paying for all that extra heat this winter, the Ogden Arts festival offers a can't-be-beat ticket price: $0. Works by
artists anchor the festival, which includes live music, a high school art competition, professional plein air competition and auction, great food from the restaurants on Historic 25th Street and screenings by the
Institute. New this year, the Festival has partnered with Weber State's art department to bring in several artists will provide a wide array of demonstrations including painting, facial casting and leather working similar to works featured in movies like Lord of the Rings and Sleepy Hollow. Movie buffs will also have a chance to watch the outdoor adventure film One Revolution in the Browning Theatre.
With 150+ visual artists, 100+ performing artists, and 18+ culinary artists Utah's biggest multi-media event is the Utah Arts Festival. Recently ranked the 14th best art festival in the country, UAF will celebrate its 35th anniversary June 23-26 at Salt Lake's Library Square.
The Gallery at Library Square, the city library's premier, fourth-floor gallery, organizes a special exhibit every year to coincide with the festival. Generally the featured artist is one of Utah's best-known. Last year Edie Roberson unveiled a new body of work, and past years have seen exhibits by V. Douglas Snow and Jann Haworth. This year, however, the exhibit will feature work by emerging artists. Artists of Utah's own Shawn Rossiter has curated a show by six young artists entitled 35. "Lisa Sewell, the Festival director, wanted to celebrate the youth and energy of the festival, and also give a chance for emerging artists to be exposed to the large crowds the festival brings in," Rossiter explains. The artists -- Ashley Knudsen Baker, Namon Bills, Michael Handley, Rosi Hayes, Jared Latimer and Chadwick Tolley -- were all born at the same time as the festival; they will be exhibiting works in a variety of media, including video, sound, printmaking, mixed media and painting. "At the festival you spend a lot of time ducking into booths to look at small works that will fit in the trunk of your car," Rossiter says. "I think the library exhibit - where most of the works are measured in feet rather than inches - will be a welcome change and show the public what Utah artists are capable of when they are given venues." The gallery's outer walls will include an exhibit tracing the history of the festival, curated by the Marriott Library.
In this video, shot in the fall of 2009 Chad Tolley, one of the artists in 35, discusses his work.
The UAF's only competition as far as size and crowds is Park City's annual arts festival, held in August (5-7). What the Sundance Film Festival does for Park City in the winter, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival does for it in the summer, bringing in 40,000 visitors to the resort town as Park City's Main Street fills with artists, artisans, vendors and musicians.
Thinking of Utah's art festivals it would be a mistake to only consider the big-name festivals. Almost every town of some size in Utah has a festival with an art component. The Ogden area also hosts the North Ogden Arts Festival and the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival. Salt Lake gets festive throughout the summer, with the Sugarhouse Arts Festival in July and Avenues Street Fair in September. Bountiful hosts Summerfest International and Utah County celebrates the Fourth of July with Freedom Festival.
You'll also find art festivals in rural Utah. These smaller towns don't have the capacity to put on the extravaganzas the Wasatch Front sees, but they have a different resource that's equally valuable: their scenery. You'll find some of the best (and most lucrative) plein air competitions in towns barely big enough to justify a stop light. Midway's combination of beautiful scenery and easy access to Utah's metropolitan areas has made its Wasatch Plein Air Paradise one of the more sought after competitions. With its variety of artist workshops,
Carbon County's Helper has been attracting artists for years, and in August its festival and plein air competition adds patrons to the mix. In September
Spring City hosts its own festival and plein air competition -- which with Heritage Days in May serves as a frame to the perfect artful summer. You'll find festivals even further afield, like Everett Ruess Days in Escalante. And in northern Utah if you're willing to skirt the state line a bit the Minerva Teichert Art Show in Cokeville, Wyoming gives you an intimate look into the life of one unique artist and a plein air competition with artists from the entire region.
Utah's many outdoor splendors already provide ample excuse to get in your car and drive. Its festivals are good reason for organizing the timing of the trips.