Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Process is Everything
The life and art of John Vehar
One of John Vehar’s most characteristic images, and consequently one of his best, is “Bison,” which can be seen currently at his solo show at Modern West Fine Art. The strength of the image is in the balance the artist strikes between raw, coarse, brushwork, and what ultimately comes across as sophisticated, developed, and attuned strokes. They are highly revelatory of the tenor, and specific quality of this bison. It is presented as something strong, yes, massive, yes, intimidating, of course; but the purposeful distortion in certain parts of the bison’s front legs, and a certain ambiguity in the haze that covers what would be the eyes of a raging animal, creates a dynamic reticence. What might seem hurried, unfinished aspects of this painting are actually what provide it with a magnetic pull. It’s the result of the artist’s approach to his figurative work: “I think if you don’t give yourself time to think too much you come up with something really good.”
Vehar’s pieces feel bold and spontaneous, and yet are the result of a lifetime of intuition, planning and practice. “I used to be a house painter,” Vehar says, “and I think of [my process] like that. There was a lot of prep time, but the actual work is pretty fast. If you spend the time and sketch things out, if you do a lot of prepping, you know where it is going to go. You don’t need much more than that, really. It’s a progression. Process is everything. Subject, not so much.”
Vehar’s subjects tend toward the figural, be they human or animal, and accordingly, his process is the means to a more figurally expressive end. This progression, starting from what is seen in the most rudimentary charcoal renderings, is already distinctively his, with the mark seen in the brushwork, here in its nascent stages, boldly aggressive in the line of the rendering. In its entirety, this process is a coming to terms with the tactility of the body in space in the final piece, the figuration, and the placement, the animation, of both the primary structural forms, and more subtle gestures of being alive.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
The Art of Losing Someone Who's Still There
Art on Alzheimer's at Art Access
You’d expect an art show about Alzheimer’s to be dreary, depressing and certainly just for people of an age to be facing the disease. But What’s My Name? at Art Access turns out to be an exhibition that will fascinate most anyone.
As executive director Sheryl Gillilan says, “The stories — it’s all about the stories. The abstract depiction of Alzheimer’s disease progression, the humorous moments that arise when confusion and forgetfulness overtake minds, and the pain of losing someone you love even though they’re still there.”
One in 10 of us will lose our minds to some form of dementia before we die: more than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s today (28,000 of them in Utah); that number is expected to increase by 50 percent just in this state by 2025.
Exhibitions Review: Salt Lake City
An Ecology of Talent
Collective Experience at Rio Gallery
Ansel Adams, the first photographer to insist that photographs are artworks, blurred another boundary when he compared the making of a photograph to the composition of music. The negative, he said, was like a score, and the print was like a performance. Marcel Duchamp, the pioneering gender-bender who assumed the alternate identity of Rrose Selavy, played Adams’ metaphor from the other end by composing a musical score with no notes. Instead, his score loosely sketched a random process for selecting all the attributes of music—the sequence of tones, their duration, and so forth—using an art mechanism to be fashioned by the performer. British musician Brian Eno, after a brief career onstage as a member of Roxy Music, retired as rock star in order to collaborate in the studio with visionary musicians. In fact, after Eno realized that he preferred inventing ways of creating music to carrying out those ideas, he became the most sought–after collaborator among musicians pushing the boundaries of music. These and other 20th-century artists went a long way in dethroning the isolated genius as the source of art, a movement that may have culminated in Eno’s plan to turn a democratic vision of art into a program for making it.
Collective Experience, the group exhibition showing at Rio Gallery through April, draws its inspiration from Eno’s term for something he called an ”ecology of talent.“ He envisioned bringing together creative individuals who together would form a scene, or locus of creativity. Instead of a lonely genius, he proposed a ”Scenius” would emerge from the synergistic interaction of this group. The particular group out of which Collective Experience emerged were participants in the performance, five years ago, of Awaiting, a meditative, walking activity conceived by artist Ernesto Pujol, which took place on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol, involving some 80 local artists, U of U educators, students, and Salt Lake community leaders. The 14 principals participating in Collective Experience all took part and were affected by that performance five years ago, and the works present in the gallery were each in some way inspired or inflected by that day spent together, contemplating regional and personal themes that are said to have included “walking, gender roles, embodiment, the gestural, site-specificity, and the notion of waiting.”