Exhibition Review: Springville
The Eye of the Beholder
Actual and Alternate Awards at the Spring Salon
I’ve been in conversations where artist friends tried to figure out the best way to get into juried shows. I was surprised to learn it's not simply a matter of what they consider to be their “best” work. Eager to get into prestigious shows, and hopefully win an award they can put on their CV, artists will create a strategy for each exhibit. Some will investigate the jurors, to see what their professional interests are or what work they’ve chosen for past exhibits. Size is another consideration. Should an artist go small, hoping that their work will better squeeze into limited square footage? Or should they go big, to show off their skills and make an impression? At this year’s Spring Salon, going big seems to have been a smart move. At the Springville Museum of Art there are plenty of medium-sized and smaller works, and if your aim was simply to be accepted, minimal might have been a smart strategy. But when it came to awards, works that can be measured by the foot won out.
Since I reviewed last year’s show, it might be helpful to relate this year’s review to it (see the 2011 review here). Interestingly, this year’s exhibit had the same number of works accepted (253) though fewer were entered. Since this year the museum was able to keep everything on the main floor, overall the entries must have been smaller, or the display tighter. The large pieces, sometimes three or four times the average size, certainly stood out. Greg Stock’s award-winning “PM Thundershower,” full of electric blues and vibrant brushstrokes, dominates the first room you can see when entering. As in years past, this gallery is dominated by landscapes. In fact, the format and layout of the Salon hasn’t changed. To the right of the entrance, a room of figure-related works. To the left, as mentioned, landscapes. Abstract and non-objective works are tucked into the back gallery (which makes it easier to simply duck your head in and move on if you don’t get what is going on there). The eclectic central gallery houses some of the most interesting works, and a mix of prize-winners is in what used to be the Museum’s entry gallery. Photography was once again relegated to its own hallway.
With a few exceptions new media, installation, fiber art and other “non-traditional” forms were again absent from the Salon. The two exceptions: Vance Mellen has returned. Again, “The Tornado” includes video, rather than is one. Into a large black and gray abstract surface the artist has embedded a stylized video component of a tornado approaching and then confronting a power line. Bryan Evan Hutchison’s “Final Stop,” which shows the view from within a passing subway car as it arrives, on an endless loop, at the line’s last stop, is a straightforward video piece. But for the most part, the types of artists who get into and win exhibits like the CUAC’s annual Utah Ties exhibit are absent.
Obviously, it’s impossible to tell to what extent an exhibit’s selections are skewed by the artists (who do or don’t submit) or by the jurors. Looking at the award winners, though, it’s evident that the tastes of most of the staff and jurors are solidly Utahan: an appreciation for painterly craftsmanship with a tendency towards realism.
The first place jurors’ award went to Brad Aldridge’s view of Salt Lake City on a winter afternoon.|1| The vantage point is Ensign Peak. The painting takes in most of the valley, and the Capitol and downtown high-rises occupy the foreground while Main Street and State Street take the eye along a traditional perspective line to a hazy, slightly inversion-laden distance. Aldridge’s attention to detail is admirable and his brushwork creates a crunchy atmosphere that mimics wonderfully the frozen white that blankets the city. That his authentic view of the city is one that most would not like to hang above their couch (how many of us like to remember what Salt Lake looks like in January?), adds a certain intrigue to the piece.
Other awards went to longtime Utah favorites: Gary Ernest Smith for a classic cows-and-barn scene with a subtle attention to evening light;|2| Paul Davis for a monochromatic menagerie of literary figures (yes, it sounds like the mural above a Barnes and Noble café, but there is much more wit and better painting here),|3| and Lee Udall Bennion, for a classic evocation of the joys of rural living.|4| Deon Duncan also picked up an award for her detailed sculpture of a triathlete,|5| and Sallie Clinton Poet, who I usually associate with religious art, won for an abstract landscape.|6|
The staff’s tastes, represented by the six awards they gave, don’t diverge greatly (and seem to pre-date 1950). Vern Swanson gave his director’s award to Matt Larson’s “After the Party,” a large horizontal portrait of a woman reclining on a couch.|0| The type of painting Larson is doing is frequently referred to as contemporary classicism, which resembles the informal style of painting that was common at the 19th-century French Salons. Because painting fancy dress and headgear is interesting, a common pitfall for the genre is the tendency to create nostalgic scenes of a bygone era. Larson’s painting indulges the aesthetic tendency without falling into the trap. The title’s reference to a “party” explains the contemporary girl’s poofy black dress, and the blue dash of a headband. Meanwhile the tension in her legs and her pensive look invite the viewer to create their own story of what happened “at” the party.
Jeffrey Pugh, who was the first-place winner last year, was passed over by jurors Mark Magleby and Lila Abersold, but Jessica Weiss, the museum’s Associate Curator of Education, gave his “AFC” her ribbon. Because of the painting’s static, centralized composition, I prefer Pugh’s also-accepted “Barn Storming,” but since the barns and cows of that piece reminds one of the similarity of his style to his father-in-law’s (Gary Ernest Smith), it was probably best not to call attention to it with an award.
Brian Kershisnik’s “Unknown Allegory,” a large work that dominates the central gallery, won an Associate Curator’s Award.|7| It has all the elements you love in a Kershisnik: a pastoral setting, angels, a father, a daughter, a dog; and symbolic objects like a sword, fruit, pitcher, pen and paper. What does it all mean? Maybe the artist doesn’t even know, but he does know that the viewer is curious. To tease them he has placed a doorknob in one of the painting’s four panels, suggesting the answer is just beyond if you dare to open the door. I was tempted to do just that, but the museum’s “Why Don’t We Touch The Art” signs were enough to keep me in check.
Another piece that I had troubles not touching was Edie Roberson’s “An Absurd Board.”|8| She is such a fine trompe l’oeil artist that even close up I couldn’t help myself from touching a part of her painting to see if it were a pasted rather than a painted element.
Though there were many fine pieces in the abstract room, I didn’t find any award-winners. In there, Jann Marie Nielsen’s “Perfect Day Hwy 6” is a good case of why the museum’s attempt to manage the size of their show by categorizing work is problematic. From the blue and white upper portion of the painting, which calls to mind a cloudy day, to the earth-toned strip at the bottom, the painting is obviously a landscape, and could have easily appeared in the other rooms.|9| If by “abstract” art the museum means to suggest work that is “abstracted” then Nielsen’s placement is appropriate enough (though technically all art is ‘abstracted’ and so the term is meaningless), but if they mean non-objective, like Darryl Erdmann’s large “West Valley,” or Helen Snelgrove’s concrete wrapped on a stick, then it doesn’t belong here. What is out of place in this room no matter which definition you assume is Scott Thomas Filipiak’s “Sundance 360,” a nothing-but-realistic photograph hung in the round so that you stand inside of it and spin yourself around to view it. Observe its poor craftsmanship and you might wonder if it belongs in this exhibit at all.
It’s an easy thing to criticize. It’s a completely different matter to jury, as a friend pointed out to me as we went through the show. “Well, what would you choose?” was her response to my grumbling. To appease her I’ve provided a few of suggestions for alternate awards.
David Meikle’s view of a Bryce Canyon or Kodachrome Valley scene (it’s “Color Country” title is unspecific) won the Assistant Director’s Award. For my ribbon I prefer Bob Marshall’s landscape in the same room. After seeing so many water scenes from the former BYU professor it was refreshing to see this dried-out view of the desert. Called “Snow Canyon Dusk,” the colorful canyon actually appears only as a butte in the distance.|10| Whereas the success of Meikle’s piece is in large part because of the grandeur of the fully lit scene (within the eroded formations that fill the canvas there are also two arches), Marshall’s scene is fairly mundane. It is his feathery brushstroke and the orchestration of secondary colors that makes the work worth notice.
I mentioned Edie Roberson’s work and I certainly think she is the best painter in her genre. Also worth mention is Vincent Cobb, whose “Stacked Boxes” won an Award of Merit and got to hang in the room with most of the prize-winners.|11| He’s a young painter, but the size and execution of his work shows he’s ambitious and I think he could have been nudged higher in the awards list. As an alternate to the folksy feel of prize-winning pieces like Kershisnik’s or Bennion’s, take a look at Ryan Buffington’s “The Sail,” where a woman standing in the bed of a tire-less pickup stretches out a blanket in the billowing wind.|12| His large work is hard to miss, but if you’re willing to pay attention to the smaller pieces, Emily McPhie’s “The Two Travelers”|13| and Heather Campbell’s “Enlightenment”|14| shouldn’t be missed. Dan Toone’s non-objective “Austere,” where large and small and flat and round are kept in dynamic balance, should be a contender in the sculpture field. And if you like figurative work, Blue Critchfield’s “It Grows Back”|15| has figures as realistically rendered as any other in the show, but the metaphorical quality of his piece and changes in painting style make it much more interesting.
A shortlist is fine, but in the end a juror must choose a winner, so . . .
Nathan Barnes’ “CNS,” which didn’t even get an Award of Merit, is my choice. I’m not exactly sure what is going on in this painting full of overlapping styles, forms and materials, but it’s definitely worth looking at. And giving the painting that front-and-center, first-place award would make sure you would. It would also nudge the Springville Salon into the 21st-century.
Hints 'n' Tips: Legal
Take It Down
Using a DMCA Takedown Notice for an Online Copyright Infringement
Do you own the copyright to any creative works? If you’re an artist, you do, whether you’ve registered the copyright or not. Anything you create is copyrighted. These days, the place where your copyrighted work is most likely to be used without your permission is on the Internet. Someone sees a photo of your work on your own website, or snaps a photo of your piece in a gallery, or gets a photo from a friend, and suddenly it’s illustrating someone else’s blog post, or incorporated into someone else’s artwork.
It’s copyright infringement, but what can you do?
The first—and usually the best—course of action is to contact them directly. Tell them you own the copyright in the work, you haven’t consented to its use on their website, and they need to remove it immediately. Being polite but direct works best.
If it doesn’t work, and if you’ve registered the copyright in your work, you can sue them in federal court. But that’s a lot of expense and stress—more than it’s worth, in most cases.
Fortunately, the U.S. Copyright Act provides a third method of addressing this situation. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the DMCA) is a part of the U.S. Copyright Act intended to protect copyright owners from online infringement.
The idea of the DMCA is simple: You send a formal notice to the internet service provider (the company that hosts the websites where copyright infringement is taking place). You tell them about the infringement. They have two choices: they can remove access to the item that you claim is infringing your work, or they can leave it up and become jointly liable for copyright infringement (if you later prove that it is infringement). The result is that most hosting companies will immediately take down the infringing content—they will block access to pages or disable entire websites, so that they are not liable for the copyright infringement.
I offer three caveats here:
1. A few internet service providers are less responsible; they will simply ignore a DCMA takedown notice, so you would have to actually sue them in order to accomplish anything. But even with these caveats, a DMCA takedown notice is very often a fast and effective way to get an infringing image (or text) removed from someone else’s website.
2. There are serious penalties if you send a DMCA takedown notice without having a basis to send it. You have to act in good faith.
3. If the other person disagrees, they can send a counter-notification that says, in effect, “I disagree.” If this happens, then the ISP doesn’t have to block access to your work. In this case, you need to negotiate a solution or go to court to prove your case.
Next, prepare your takedown notice. It must have certain information in it, or it will not be legally valid under the DMCA. If it’s not legally valid, the ISP can ignore it.
Your DMCA notice needs six things:
1. A clear description of your work, so they know what copyright is being infringed.
Gather all these up in an email, fax, or letter. Send them to the ISP or hosting company and see what happens. You can have a lawyer prepare and send a DMCA takedown notice for you, but it isn’t necessary. Using DMCA notices can be a fast and effective way to deal with many cases where your work is being used online without authorization.
2. A clear description of what part of the website infringes your copyright. Normally this will be a URL with some explanation, such as “the photo in the upper left corner of this web page: http://___”.
3. Enough contact information to reach you, such as phone number, email, and mailing address.
4. A statement that you “have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” It sounds strange, but you need to match what’s in the Copyright Act.
5. A statement that “the information in the notification is accurate, and, under penalty of perjury, the complaining party [that’s you] is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.” Once again, use this language, which is taken from the Copyright Act.
6. Your signature, as the copyright owner (it can be an electronic signature)
Exhibition Preview: Salt LakeCity
Claudia Sisemore & Friends
Filmmaking and Painting at the Rio
Here at 15 Bytes we've been trying our best to document Utah's vibrant art community on film. And though over the past couple of years we've been able to capture interviews with a number of Utah artists, we have a ways to go before we'll catch up with Claudia Sisemore.
Sisemore, who has graduate degrees in both painting and filmmaking, has taught many things: English, drama, creative writing, painting, skiing and film production. But she is best known for what she has created. For fifteen years she produced educational films for the Utah State Office of Education, and in a three-decade career has filmed over 20 individual artists including LeConte Stewart, Alvin Gittins, Anton Rasmussen, V. Douglas Snow, Lee Deffebach, George Dibble, Connie Borup, Kathryn Stats, Ted Wassmer and Francis Zimbeaux. Her camera has also been focused on Utah's vibrant modern dance community. But Sisemore is not content to simply investigate and document the work of others. She is also an accomplished painter in her own right, creating large colorfield paintings in which the influence of one of her teachers, Lee Deffebach, is apparent.
Utah artist Trent Alvey recalls being Sisemore's student at Hillside Junior High. "I mainly remember sitting on the front row, looking up to Miss Sisemore in her cashmere sweater -- she must have had one for each day of the week -- and then looking down at her stiletto heels. Back then, I'd never had a Miss- teacher and certainly not one in spike heels. She was also very strict and very smart." Alvey is one of the thirty artists that will be featured in the upcoming show Claudia Sisemore and Friends at the Rio Gallery. Other works on exhibit come from Sisemore's peers, mentors and students.
The exhibit will also feature new films by Sisemore on artists like Denis Phillips and Tony Smith. The state of Utah has archived and made available online a number of clips from Sisemore's films. You can view them here.