Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Magical Mystery Tourist
The World of Edward Bateman
I still have a card on my refrigerator from Phillips Gallery from 2005 that I am not ready to stop looking at — a computerized montage on Ralph Waldo Emerson by Edward Bateman with an Albert Einstein quotation: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
Bateman, 52, notes in his brief 15 Bytes artist’s biography that as a child of “what was then called the Space Age” he was torn between being a scientist or an artist, which is why the quote is so apropos. The computer, he writes, “allowed him to split the difference,” and in 1983 he began using it to create images. So while at age 9 or so he was faking photos of flying saucers, and as an undergraduate was doing fake UFO shots complete with handwritten eyewitness testimony (you can see a pattern forming here), by the early ‘90s he was working professionally in the field of digital imaging and now teaches and lectures internationally on the subject. His biggest surprise, he writes, was discovering that the tools he thought “would direct his thinking to the future have led him to contemplate the art of the past.”
Take the nineteenth-century cartes de visite, that were made in the millions and exchanged among friends — sort of the Facebook of the day, Bateman says (they were put in books that “contained all your friends as well as cards of celebrities, entertainers, generals and so forth that you could purchase to round out a collection”) — they have led him to endless hours of fascination and manipulation.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Absence through Visual Representation
Bingham Canyon Mine at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
How many views does it take to depict the steady, human-formed creation of absence on the land? In the case of Utah Museum of Fine Art's (UMFA) current exhibition Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine, the answer is over one hundred. This well-researched, historical view of the mine — Donna Poulton’s last exhibition as the former curator of art of Utah and the West — is an in-depth, multi-media exploration of both how the land in the Oquirrh Mountains has been changed through industrialization and how artists have chosen to depict these changes. Works in the exhibition show us the land through an artistic lens, from a silver plate gelatin print of 1873, through the development of the mining industry, up to the landslide that took place at the mine in 2013. Through paintings, drawings, photography, prints, watercolors, books, and magazines, the exhibition continues the regional interest UMFA has shown in the past few years.
Exhibitions Review: Salt Lake City
Sourcing the New
Morgan Donovan, Nancy Vorm and John Mack at Finch Lane
Every time art renews itself, there is the impression that something entirely new is taking place: something coming into being that has never been seen before. More likely, taking in the whole picture, the artists are actually narrowing the field, selecting a small part of what went before, and by isolating a kernel, foregrounding a seed that may grow into the next big thing. This month, the indispensable Finch Lane Gallery exhibits three artists who each offer a cross section of this progress. On first viewing, Morgan Donovan’s photographic portraits appear conventional, while Nancy Vorm offers seemingly endless variations on ornamental design. John Mack focuses on materials and techniques, suggestively slotting him into last century’s breakout of art rooted in crafts. With time, such initial impressions come to seem premature and short sighted.
Morgan Donovan begins by ignoring most of the options expected from photographic portraits or figure studies. Take the assumption, which came early to camera work, that each subject requires, or at least rewards, its own treatment: angle, distance, lens, lighting, and so on. By framing each of her two dozen models identically, with the same absence of background or personal adornment and in the same light, she signals that what she is after has nothing to do with any of these traditional means of self-expression. What she offers in their place looks on first viewing like a stunt: each model close up, stripped down, scrubbed clean, and presented straight from the shower, still dripping wet, as metaphorically, spiritually naked as they appear to be in the flesh. And indeed, this could have turned out to be nothing more than a gimmick, were it not for the alchemy that occurs when artist and subject gaze into each other’s eyes through a camera. To do what Donovan does forces intimacy between her and her models, in itself a process that could come down anywhere from a doctor visit to a police investigation. Whatever comfort the artist’s sensitivity may offer, whatever trust they may develop, merely allows the threat of the camera to emerge like a bone lifting the skin of a flexing body. Anyone who has been to, for just one example, a nude beach knows the difference between simply being naked and being photographed in the nude.