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April 2013
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
Page 9   

Exhibition Spotlight: Orem
Why Not.
Inez Harwood and the world's largest tie-dye

Eight years after suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI) while in a car accident with her family, Inez Harwood continues to manage her life as a TBI survivor. Since her brain does not always send the correct signals when she’s standing, she uses a cane to stabilize herself; and since she has difficulty remembering in detail anything that happened more than two weeks before, she keeps detailed and copious journals.

Despite all this, Harwood considers herself lucky, because unlike many TBI survivors who end up clinically depressed, she says she ended up “sunny side up.” “I’m clinically happy,” is her cheerful quip about her condition.

Most people, she says, won’t notice the effects of her TBI unless they work with her for a long time. And her habit of writing everything down and continuously consulting her notes means she often remembers things other people don’t. “Most people don’t remember what they did two weeks ago or the names of people they’ve just met,” she says. “To be honest, [TBI] is a huge advantage for me because I don’t take that for granted.”

There are other positive sides. Difficult personalities, for instance, cause few problems for her. “If you make me mad, I’ll forget about you making me mad and I’ll forgive you and in two weeks it will be like it never happened.”

It has also taught her and her family to live like every day is your last. She’s learned to say, “Why not, why not me, why not now,” and to view the world as “abundant with opportunities.”

Of course, everything isn’t easy. Try getting a college degree when your short-term memory buffers out after a fortnight. But Harwood has done just that. She’ll be graduating this spring with a BFA from Utah Valley University, and her Senior Thesis exhibit is up right now at the University’s Woodbury Museum.

Harwood is a textile artist, creating tie-dye and stained-fabric works. With her husband Jerel Harwood, who is pursuing an MFA at Brigham Young University, she wants to pursue large-scale architectural sculpture — think Christo and Jean-Claude, the artistic duo famous for wrapping important buildings and activating the landscape with saffron colored fabrics.

She heard Christo remark once that the sooner you could get a $100,000 project under your belt, “the sooner you could break through a sort of glass ceiling in the field.” So, when her eleven-year old son dared her to create the world’s longest tie-dye, she said “Why not.”

Getting the Guinness World Record for the longest tie-dye, which Harwood did in March, was the fun part; but the work leading up to 3000 feet of vibrant color was full of its own set of complications — and also wonderful moments of insight.

Exhibition Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Searching for Gods
David Habben at Kayo Gallery

It's not exactly the Bloods and the Crips; it's not even the Jets vs. the Sharks; but hang around a university's art department or the local gallery scene long enough and you'll notice the tension — that unstated battle between the "artists" and the "illustrators." The latter are simply hacks for hire with no vision of their own, while the former are con-men (or women) who couldn't draw their way out of a bag. David Habben has felt the tension. He pays his bills by doing freelance illustration work, but he also exhibits regularly at Salt Lake galleries.

Is there a difference between drawing with a stylus on a graphics tablet and applying ink to paper with a brush? Does one necessarily make art and the other not? Habben does both, and for him either method can create a work of art.

For his personal work, Habben has been exploring a series of drawings created by working with an arbitrary, "automatic" contour line. Within this general shape, he creates works that can be as simple as a solitary figure playing the guitar, and as complicated as embedded narratives exploring international conflicts and the individual search for transcendence (a few examples are on exhibit at Finch Lane Gallery as part of Artists of Utah 35x35 exhibit). After a successful exhibit of small works at Kayo Gallery last year, Habben has wanted to create larger, similarly structured works. For the March Gallery Stroll he created a 9' x 8' drawing at The Leonardo in collaboration with Shawn Rossiter; and he's currently working on a suite of thematically related works that will go on exhibit at Kayo Gallery beginning April 19th. In this video interview, recorded at The Leonardo in conjunction with our 35 x 35 exhibit, Habben discusses the tension between "art" and "illustration," his evolving artwork, and man's search for meaning.

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Taking Action
Shawn Rossiter at The Leonardo

German painter Gerard Richter has dominated world painting for half a century, from his beginnings in Pop to riveting-if-fuzzy images drawn from daily newspaper photos, then large abstracts shaped primarily with squeegees, and on to more radical experiments. Though we may not know its actual source, we all have at least one Richter painting lodged in memory. So there was more than a little excitement recently when he agreed to allow a documentary filmmaker to record the daily goings-on in his studio, including not just his interactions with his staff of assistants, far-flung galleries, and the press, but the actual process by which he creates his works of art. The film that resulted is fascinating, but its climax is dampened by Richter's discovery, after struggling with one large panel in particular, that he can't actually work in the presence of a neutral witness like a camera. Sometimes all it takes is courage to dispel a myth; at other times, no amount of bold determination can conceal that the myth is true. Unlike, say, actors and musicians, painters give up companionship while working in hopes of trading for fame. It's still a lonely trade.

Thoughts like these kept pushing to the front of my mind as I stood in the lab of the wonderful Leonardo, watching 15 Bytes' founder and editor Shawn Rossiter work on the latest generation of his continuing exploration of architecturally-scaled drawings. (I was also speculating on what kind of arm-twisting it would take to get him to put my thoughts up here, in the magazine of record for Utah arts.) Rossiter is gregarious and accessible in person and clearly enjoys the challenge of making art in front of an audience, which he's done twice since the Leonardo opened last year, and before that at the Art Barn. It must be his personal modesty that prevents him from pointing out that, while bestride a 12-foot step ladder in the soaring space of this refurbished building — a gift to the citizens of Utah in a time when budgetary constraints hobble most hopes of developing extravagant new public spaces — he is also on the forefront of contemporary art, in a relatively uncommon genre of performance called an 'action.' In an action, an artist brings some mundane activity into the gallery for contemplation by an audience. San Francisco's Tom Marioni was perhaps the first to close the circle with “Studio,” an action in which he, like Rossiter last week, brought his materials to the gallery and let everyone witness the actual creation of his art.

Of course, for every audience member intrigued by this new art form there will be several more interested in the art-within-the-art: by Shawn Rossiter’s gigantic drawings. Rossiter has always worked across the boundary between representation and abstraction, creating a shallow-but-convincing illusion of depth on the order of a bas-relief, while suggesting massive animal and human figures engaged in titanic, epoch-making struggles, seemingly as much with the forces of gravity and spatial collapse as with each other. Here they invoke another boundary: that between heroic, living deeds and their monuments.

At the Leo, Rossiter refers to other nearby works as well as the cubical space and alternation of narrow walls and windows that characterize the modern building. Not content with referencing and reinterpreting the space around him, Rossiter plans his drawings as reinterpretations of themselves. He covers a fraction of his very large paper support with a smaller piece of paper, this to be removed after the drawing feels complete, and the blank space left filled in with a different drawing extending the same surrounding elements. This recalls the Surrealist mechanism known as an Exquisite Corpse, in which folded paper is drawn on by several artists who do not see each other’s work, the final drawing being revealed only when the paper is unfolded. Something else that feels related are those children’s books with pages subdivided, so the separate, illustrated parts can be turned individually. Putting Spiderman’s head on the Green Lantern is more subversive than may at first appear. In effect, what Rossiter creates could be seen as an artistic relation to his job as writer and editor: a drawing that allows him to repent his first effort and produce a second draft. It’s a fascinating idea, one that may deliver something artists have dreamed of for centuries, while at the same time realizing a more modern dream — extending an artwork into hyperspace, four dimensions, or the viewer’s memory and imagination.

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