Artist Profile: Logan
Working with Wood
The art of Kathy Puzey
Talk to most artists and you'll find their careers have rarely been planned. It's usually some chance encounter with a certain medium, a specific work of art or a unique teacher, that determines their artistic trajectory. For Kathy Puzey it was a notice for a woodcut workshop in Florence, Italy. At the time, Puzey thought she was going to become a high school volleyball coach and teach art on the side, but in Italy she worked with renowned woodcut artist Karen Kunz, who convinced Puzey to follow her to the University of Nebraska for graduate work.
Puzey has returned to her native Utah and now teaches at Utah State University, just minutes from the canyons she explored as a child and where she developed an early love for nature. She continues to create woodcuts, enjoying, she says, the surprises that come when working with a once-live material. Her passion for wood is also evident in her three-dimensional work, sculptures that comment on the natural materials they are made of.
Puzey was a recipient last year of a Utah Arts & Museum Visual Art Fellowship, and in this video we watch as she works on campus in Logan, talks about her influences and working methods and explains why she makes "suicide prints."
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Nancy Holt at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Each time we focus on a point in the landscape, we are presented with a new view. That tree branch outside the kitchen window, those low storm clouds pressed into the valley, the unwavering distant mountain seen through Sun Tunnels. All views shift imperceptibly from moment to moment, though, presenting us with the illusion of a continual image. Whether we view the landscape while outside, see it through a window or through a concrete tunnel, we actively choose what to look at by employing a framing device - either our mind’s eye, or a physical object - to intensify the view and create focus.
Sun Tunnels (1973-1976), created by the American artist Nancy Holt in Utah’s northwest desert, is one of our internationally celebrated earthworks: it is our regional example of the continuing importance placed on the work of artists such as Holt, who, starting in the 1960s, sought to draw our attention to the natural environment as a venue for art by heightening the focused perception of the viewer. Recently, Holt’s vast oeuvre has been celebrated through exhibitions, monographs, articles, public talks, and conferences as a body of work that consistently and successfully brings our awareness to the act of seeing itself, while at the same time putting us in touch with basic natural elements--earth, sun, water, air, fire--in a variety of ways. The attention on perception itself has been a predominant theme guiding Holt’s work for over forty decades as she has explored the phenomenon of sight through a wide variety of artistic mediums.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Anna Campbell Bliss at The Leonardo
The last bit of pseudo-wisdom I’d expect a Utah artist to bring to mind would be that overworked cliché about life, lemons, and lemonade. Growing up amidst the scenic splendor and natural grandeur that surrounds her, the local artist feels challenged just to live up to it. When life gives you Zion, say thank you and get to work. But Anna Campbell Bliss wasn’t from these parts, and when she arrived during the expansive 1960s, she saw that, culturally speaking, this was no longer an empty land waiting passively for her to fill it with imported ideas. For example, Bliss had always admired, and often employed, that most characteristic product of Renaissance Humanism: the unadorned human figure. But when she found that images of the nude made much of her audience uncomfortable, she faced a choice: cut short her exploration of the theme, or adapt in order to move ahead. She found her solution in a mathematical mapping of anatomy similar to what today’s animators call a ‘wire model.’ The unmistakably human figures that resulted allow her to invoke the heroic empiricism of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and all those who risked excommunication and worse to unlock the forbidden knowledge of anatomy, but without injuring sensitive viewers. Paradoxically, stripping the offending skin from her figures allowed her to look more closely at their physical—rather than spiritual—qualities, and to emphasize the continuity between people and the nature to which they belong, all of which ought to have been far more disturbing to those early critics.
As it happens, the encounter between the human and the natural world could stand as a synecdoche for Bliss’s primary artistic interest. What has always fascinated her about the things she encounters—beings and objects, yes, but also categories and ideas—is what she calls their ‘fringes.’ It makes sense for an artist to interest herself in boundaries and surfaces, in the parts that most substantially identify and distinguish individuals she might portray. But Bliss comes at it from an unusual perspective. She began her career studying to be an architect, where volumes and spaces are seen as much from within as without, and have their own vocabulary: one that is used for everything from non-verbally identifying a room’s purpose to making grand statements about the zeitgeist. Of course in the '60s, when she was rapidly ascending their ranks, aspiring architects were being told to eliminate ornament from their works. It may have been partly such restrictions that led her to change directions, and to create an art that consciously collaborates with the buildings that call for its creation.