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Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization    
John Erickson in his Salt Lake Studio, photo by Zoe Rodriguez

Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Exquisite Tension
The Art of John Erickson at Phillips Gallery

“It’s almost like a bug in amber,” says John Erickson, describing his new series of multi-layered, multi-media paintings that will be featured at Phillips Gallery this month. That simile is a good place to start this article because it’s typical of Erickson, who uses simile and metaphor frequently to help his University of Utah Students make sense of the creative process. “Johnisms,” they call them.

Think of a bug in amber and you’ll also begin to visualize the shiny smooth surface of the resin-coated painting trapping the many layers of marker drawing, latex paint, collage, and oil paint that seem to occupy infinite space and incorporate mutliple centuries, from Renaissance realism to post-modern abstraction. Such is the complexity, contradiction, and excitement of Erickson’s new “big head” paintings.

LeConte Stewart: Depression Era Art at UMFA
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Spirit of an Era
LeConte Stewart's Depression Era Paintings

LeConte Stewart: Depression Era Art, now on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, is a wide assemblage of paintings by the Utah master focusing on the years of the Great Depression. Unlike its partner exhibition at the Church History Museum that shows only landscapes, Depression Era Artoffers a wide variety of subjects, related to Stewart’s personal experiences of those years in Utah. Though the museum presents these works as emblems of a dark era -- “Stewart painted the 'raw side of life' in expressions of the West’s vernacular architecture: storefronts, gas stations, and old homes. Stripped to the essential, paintings from this period evoke not only Stewart’s personal history of loss, but that of the entire nation...” -- I would argue that if one is to take a more penetratiing look at the meanings of these works, at the visual clues in individual paintings and also at the group as a whole, one finds a different LeConte Stewart: these paintings evoke a fighting spirit of unity with the common man, of industry and will, and ultimately of God and humanity in the face of oppression.

Exhibition Review: Ogden
Now You See It
Edward Burtynsky's Industrial Sublime at Weber's Shaw Gallery

Upon entering Edward Burtynsky: The Industrial Sublime, visitors are immediately compelled to look through a regional sense of place and a striking visual representation. In "Mines #22, Kennecott Copper Mine, Bingham Valley, Utah, USA, 1983" layer upon layer of rock and ground pull us into Burtynsky’s large-format photograph as our eye rests upon the emerald green water at the base of the mine. Maybe the unnaturally-colored water is the initial visual draw; from there your eye moves up and out, rotating from that nexus past curvilinear layers to the outer edges of land, then sky, then picture frame.

"Mines #22" reveals to Utahns a portion of our landscape we may have never seen: one of the largest copper mines on the planet, shaped by people and excavated by technology to form a hole large enough to “stack two Sears Towers (now known as the Willis Building) on top of each other and still not reach the top of the mine.”* Considering "Mines #22" conjures a feeling of astonishment at the sheer size and magnitude of this created landscape; an element of horror creeps in as we realize the scale of this industrial site has not been positioned by Burtynsky relative to a broader sense of place, but is all encompassing. In this work, and the thirty additional photographs on exhibition, we encounter the themes that have gained Burtynsky international acclaim: he is able to create beautifully-shot, exquisitely-posed compositions which draw us in to landscapes that humans have overpopulated, damaged, scarred, and in some cases, left for ruin. And, although many of his photographs lack a human presence, when included, the artful juxtaposition of people within the land presents us with intensified issues of scale. The much vaster industrial landscape is often poised to consume humans, growing much larger in size and urgency than his human subjects seem able to comprehend. Welcome to the themes of the industrial sublime.

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Mines #22 by Edward Burtynsky, courtesy The Collection of Josh and Catherine Kanter

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