Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
A Revolutionary Who Just Wants to Change The World
Earl Jones' life in art
A decade ago, painter Earl Jones told this writer he liked to focus on “important subjects: mountains and women.” Recently he explained the quote: now-deceased Utah Supreme Court Justice I. Daniel Stewart attended a show of his and asked, “How come you [just] paint landscapes and nude women?” Jones replied, “I love to paint mountains, and there’s only one thing more beautiful than a mountain.” The justice responded, “Well said.”
Another show of Jones’ signature mountains and women opens October 17 at Phillips Gallery along with sculpture by Cordell Taylor. It will be partially a retrospective and partly an exhibit of Jones’ new work. Some pieces are quite singular -- paintings “we’ve just kind of kept in the family and decided that we have more than we really need,” says the artist.
Kimberly Johnson's Uncommon Prayer
Kimberly Johnson’s third collection of poems, Uncommon Prayer (Persea 2014), nicely follows her recently co-edited anthology, Before the Door of God, An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (2013 Yale UP), which gathered devotional poetry in English (in the Judeo-Christian tradition) going back to the beginnings of English verse. Uncommon Prayer is a stunning collection of lyrics—sonnets, prayers, poems of praise, laments, monologues, prose poems—which gives voice to personal and universal themes of faith—religious and secular, serious and ironic, traditional and contemporary. With the fine artistry, precision, erudition, wit, and lexical magic we have come to expect from Johnson, this new collection explores dimensions of faith often avoided in contemporary American poetry. If you know Johnson’s earlier work, you will not be surprised to find riffs on other voices spoken before the door of God—Donne, Milton, Herbert, Blake, Dickinson, Hopkins, Rilke, Berryman, Plath, even Eliot and Whitman, though Johnson’s aesthetic casts its line more often beside the Metaphysicals than the Romantics.
Exhibitions Review: Ogden
The Continuing Conversation
The Biennial Faculty Exhibition at Weber State
Across the nation, critics are asking if we dare ignore an artist who has generated a billion dollars in sales. The often-strident debate about Jeff Koons centers on the unquestionable fact that some artists whose works were reviled at first were later elevated into the pantheon of masters. Does our age wish to be identified by posterity with those who ignored Van Gogh and rejected Warhol? That Koons’ art falls so far short of them borders on irrelevant here: what counts are bodies through the turnstiles and cash in the till.
Happy Utah, then, where a very different conversation opens up. Perhaps the most useful and accurate definition of art is this: that part of any endeavor learned by practice under supervision of someone who learned from a previous teacher in the same way. Thus masters turn apprentices into journeymen, a process that now occurs primarily at colleges, where working artists engage promising students in a hands-on version of the Socratic method. The Biennial Faculty Exhibition at Weber State, running until mid-November, is where those teachers publicly demonstrate the decisive qualities that inspire their students to pay attention. Then for two weeks in December, their latest crop of graduates will reply, equally publicly, by holding the Fall BFA Thesis Exhibition in the same gallery. Anyone interested can eavesdrop on the discourse within Utah’s influential community of art-makers.
Two things are soon apparent on entering the Shaw Gallery. The first is that, to paraphrase The Wizard of Oz, we’re not in Utah any more. No rugged, majestic redrock; no visions of angels; no illustrated parables. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a visit to UMOCA or CUAC will find little pleasure here. A work like Jason Manley’s “Drive Through,” a free-standing aluminum girder-and-truss structure festooned with illuminated signs, presents a view of Utah here and now, rather than out there and then, that will alienate some viewers. Sure, our cities look like this, but do we need to see it reproduced here? Can’t we recollect the park where we spent our vacation instead? “Drive Through” argues that a vacation is valued precisely for its escape value, and that we should expend a little more contemplation on the place where we spend most of our actual lives.