Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
All That Beautiful Imperfection
Colour Maisch, Art and Life“Have you ever seen the side of a milkweed pod opening up?” Colour Maisch asks. She reaches under a table in her studio in the ceramics wing of the art department at the University of Utah and digs into a large box filled with milkweed pods. She rummages until she finds a good one. It is a long dry paisley of a thing bearing a little crack with white fluff peeking out.
“It just makes me…” she trails off as she pulls open the pod with both hands. It makes quiet cracking sounds as it opens. Inside, there is the packed fluff, but the pod keeps opening, and opens further, and radiates wide and then the fluff is like a nimbus of big dandelion seeds. “I almost get weepy,” she says.
“I’m finding this relationship with materials. I know that it doesn’t have a brain, and it’s not an animate object, but there’s something in the milkweed’s ability . . . how it just floats where it wants to float, and does what it wants to do. Sometimes it lands in a good spot and goes on to become another plant, sometimes it doesn’t, and lands in somebody’s oil spot in their driveway.”
While she speaks seeds are lifting up out of the pod, and floating slowly down. Some land on a pile of porcelain grass husks, some rest upon one of the works of art spread throughout the space: a coiled Band-Aid-colored industrial rubber hose with cast latex funnels at the ends like tubas made of cartilage. Some seeds make it to the floor. Colour leaves all of them where they land.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Being A Mark That Can Be Erased
To Be Unnamed, drawings by John Sproul and poems by Lynn Kilpatrick
Art doesn’t ask questions: people do. So when Salt Lake Community College professor Lynn Kipatrick first saw the ‘blind’ drawings by John Sproul that form the visual half of their joint show at the City Library, questions came to mind as part of her response. Fortunately, Kilpatrick is among the more original writers on the literary scene today, so her questions, and the stories that emerged with them from her imagination, eventually became a remarkable collaboration of art and prose poetry. Those who come and stand before To Be Unnamed will almost certainly ask questions of their own. For instance, we know that when the words come first, the pictures are illustrations. When the images come first, the words that follow are captions. Neither of these terms seem to fit here, so what are we looking at?
For those who haven’t seen it yet, there are two structural devices in To Be Unnamed. The works come in pairs, each containing one elaborate drawing and one prose poem inspired by the drawing. The poems are also related to each other, united in their own thematic structure. Called a crown of sonnets, the series calls for the last line of one sonnet to become the first line of the next, and so on around the entire ‘crown.’ Since nothing literal connects each pair, it falls to the poet’s intuition to forge a metaphorical unity, which she has done. Unfortunately, as noted elsewhere, Sproul’s and Kilpatrick’s combined visions exceeded the space available in the Library. The complete work had to be hung out of the intended order, so the effect is imperfectly realized here. Nevertheless, while author and artist invite us to look back and forth, seeking connections, we can and should also view the parts of each pair separately, as well as seeing each together with the others of its kind.
Exhibition Review: Provo
Work To Do
Art, Feminism & BYU
In 1975, British feminist artist Mary Kelly, along with Margaret Harrison and Kay Hunt, completed a comprehensive conceptual art project called Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry. Part sociological study, part conceptual art, the book and documentation indexed the lives and daily schedules of the nearly 150 female employees at a metal box factory in Bermondsey.
Like so many of Kelly’s futures practices, what Women and Work reveals through near obsessive note taking are the everyday duties and monotonous tasks that make up the lived experiences of women’s lives: clocking in, clocking out, cooking, cleaning, getting up, going to bed. Such documentation, as a collective picture, not only communicates basic sociological information about gendered labor division found in the 1970s England or what Mierle Laderman Ukeles calls “the back half of life,” but also reflects the way these daily tasks amount to what becomes much of our living, of ourselves.
For Kelly, a feminist artist, the work to do was not just an artistic gesture, but also a political one, to make evident the daily labor of the British working class woman and through that visibility, to validate and to evaluate the lived experience of that community. And to enact real social change in the landscape of sexual politics, or at the very least, to comment on it.
Similarly, women and work is the topic of BYUMOA’s newest exhibition. Titled Work to Do: Trent Alvey, Pam Bowman, Jann Haworth and Amy Jorgensen, the exhibition provides a venue to four prominent female artists working in Utah today. Curator Jeff Lambson says the exhibit ”explores narratives such as domesticity, environment, cinema, motherhood, ritual, and body. Investigating questions and issues linked to the notions of ‘women’s work,’ the exhibition examines the unique ways each artist navigates the gender politics of the Beehive State.”
Within this frame, Work To Do can be thought of as a feminist show, and specifically a regional one; and perhaps one of the first to be hung at BYU, and hung with bravado, boldly filling the main gallery. Such an examination certainly has social currency. From the Boston Globe to the bloggersphere, to protest movements on Facebook, feminism is in the air in Utah.