Artist Profile: Sundance
From Mormon Mocha to Spiral Jetty
The Magic and Mystery of Kent Christensen
You could call him the Candy Man. A fine artist who paints appealing confections with many layers of meaning, Kent Christensen sells his work at a gallery in London, at Williams Fine Art in Salt Lake City, and splits his time between a small apartment in New York City and a stunning, light-filled home he built at Sundance five years ago. Not a bad life for someone who does things like the Spiral Jetty in saltwater taffy as a 6-foot oil. He sold that to a client in Chicago but keeps a smaller version in his Utah home (page 3).
To appreciate the irony of that picture you have to make some associations. Christensen is LDS and believes sugar is “Mormon heroin” – a should-be subsidiary to strong drink and tobacco as a vice in the LDS lexicon. And he thinks the concept of vast overconsumption of sweet stuff applies to society at large – not only to Americans supersizing every Coke they order but to the current financial crisis as well. And, he says, “In the art world, when you mention Utah, people immediately think of the Spiral Jetty.” So, there’s saltwater (the “Great” Lake wherein the Jetty sits) and taffy. And “Sweet“ Candy Co. that makes the sticky stuff which is usually sold in “bulk.” It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon – you can go on and on.
Exhibition Review: Salt LakeCity
Doublespeak at the Salt Lake Art Center
You stand in the center of four large screens. Angled to surround you, each screen offers a different perspective of a rocky desert landscape. From a single perspective of rock emerge, one by one, four women dressed in old-west, 19th century-costume: a spirited, blue-clad pioneer, a fierce cowgirl, a menacing female bandit and a sultry and commanding saloon girl. Each takes a stance and stares heavily and coldly at you. They walk around the virtual space and take a position in one of the perspectives and wait, restlessly; you do not know what for, but the mood is uneasy. The women are seemingly unaware of each other, but are alert to one thing … you. Each emerges from her position and assumes a stance front and center, and you feel a veritable moment of panic. Then, suddenly the perspectives begin to revolve, jumping from screen to screen, whirling around your perspective until, finally, the scene settles down and the women have vanished. Was it an illusion? Was it truth? You can’t be sure, but you’re glad it’s over.
Exhibition Review: Provo
Things Put Together
Printmaker Wayne Kimball at the Covey Art Center
Wayne Kimball’s current exhibit at the Covey Center for the Arts, Things Put Together By Hand Without Instructions In A Basement, is a realm of broken and ruined antiquity, birds, timepieces, and fragmented body parts. The viewer, left equally without instruction, is invited to piece it altogether, a task that may require some work, but given the rich nature of these finely executed lithographs and collages, it is work well rewarded.
Kimball, who began his art education in the 1960s, and received his Master of Fine Arts degree and certification as a Tamarind Master Printer in the 1970s, recently retired from Brigham Young University, bringing to conclusion an influential teaching career that took him to the University of Texas, California State University, San Diego State University, University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught multiple courses over the years, but the process which seems to be close to his heart and his art is lithography.
Lithography is a unique printing and art-making form that allows for detailed drawing, like an etching, but is also able to include washes, textures, and smooth transitions of color and gradation. A large plaque on one of the gallery’s wall describes and explains this printmaking process, reinforcing in our minds, as soon as we enter the room, the fact that we are viewing art work –- two-dimensional, flat, rolled and pressed images –- and not anything else. The viewer is given a crash course in technique. Meaning is another matter.