Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Awakening the Soul
The life and art of David Maestas
David Maestas doesn’t regard being an artist as a career choice, or something he necessarily initiated at a certain point in his life. It is a way of life, and how life always has been. “I think being an artist is a full-time thing, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, and it is your power of observation, the way you look at things,” he says. “It’s almost like a sensitivity to things that most people would miss. Maybe you walk into a room and you see things happening all around, but your mind fixates on a ray of light breaking through glass or a salt shaker, the way it makes a star; it’s having that sensitivity throughout your day, and having that awareness and taking it all in—it can be a bit overwhelming.”
That impulse, that unique sensitivity can be a double-edged sword: the same sensitivity may be what influences the anxiety and depression the artist suffers from; but it also allows him to produce something that functions as “an escape, or maybe a refuge, for all of the emotions I experience.” Painting is very much a personal expression for Maestas, opening doors to spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and transcendent struggles. It is evident in the relationships of strong color and bold tonality in his abstract canvases, 20 of which will be featured later this month at UTah Artist Hands. They are done, the artist says, “in a new palette and loose style that is less geometric and linear,” and in a play with inner emotions and outer materials that stretches back to his boyhood.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Francis Zimbeaux, the early years
Francis Zimbeaux was a storyteller and a mythmaker, whether in his art or in his life. His paintings frequently explored remembered or imagined landscapes, and were shrouded in a mythic mist, filled with reclining nudes, dancing nymphs and pipe-blowing Pans. His own story has been shrouded in a similar mist, created by him or those around him. He was French, the story goes, and spoke French as a child; his parents lived a bohemian lifestyle; he grew up playing in Matisse’s studio; his mother was a famous concert pianist.
In truth, though, while he was born in Paris, Francis’ parents were British and American, and by the time he began to talk, he was living in London. His parents did run in artistic circles — they lived around the block from Gertrude Stein and his mother, Lillian, told of fixing a button for Matisse — but they were also properly wed (in Notre Dame), and the works by his father that garnered attention were religious scenes and portraits of minor aristocrats; and while his mother did perform on the concert stage, the fame of the former governess may have been exaggerated.
One story that is true is that Francis H. Zimbeaux was born on Bastille Day in 1913, while fireworks exploded across the city. His French-sounding name was a recent transformation by his father, a German-American from Pittsburgh who during his successful career as a portrait painter, first in Pittsburgh and then in Paris, went by his given name, Franz Seraph Ignatius Zirnbauer. Increasing hostilities between France and Germany, however, made it wise to adopt a more Gallic surname. When war broke out in 1914, the family was forced to flee and to separate, mother and child to her family in London, and Franz, now Frank, back to the states. They were reunited three years later, in Missouri, where Frank had found a small, shingled cottage in the tiny village of Thomas Hill, about six miles outside the larger city of Carthage, where his sister lived.
Exhibitions Review: Salt Lake City
Remapping the Natural World
Elise LaJeunesse, Nancy Steele-Makasci and Matt Kruback at Finch Lane Gallery
Group shows often come about when several like-minded artists approach a gallery and propose one. Or a commercial gallery may decide to hang several members of its stable they feel might appeal to each other’s enthusiasts. The staff of Finch Lane, on the other hand, has an admirable strategy of creating what might be called meta-group shows, by selecting exhibits for their three galleries that resonate with one another. In Remapping the Natural World in Black and White, not only do the three artists chosen by curator Kandace Steadman—Elise LaJeunesse, Nancy Steele-Makasci, and Matt Kruback—form a thought-provoking cross section of contemporary strategies for image-making, but they resonate with the contrasting works of Jena Schmidt in the adjoining room.
Probably the most familiar of the three is Elise LaJeunesse, whose bromoil photographs are related to hand-tinted photos, yet visually and conceptually at odds with them. Rooted in the academic technique of modeling light and shade monochromatically (known as grisaille), then overlaying transparent glazes to add color, tinted photos emerged in the 19th century, when most photography was otherwise limited to black and white. Hand-tinters kept the original photographic print, with all its sharp detail, but overlaid color much like Ted Turner’s computer colorizing of black-and-white movies. Once color photography became available in the 20th century, hand tinting largely disappeared, until it was revived near the end of the century as an artistic medium.
In LaJeunesse’s bromoils, on the other hand, silver is extracted from the original print by bleaching then manually replaced with lithographic ink. Detail is softened but monochromatic tonality is preserved, in an antique look that proclaims its reliance on traditional manual skills. Through careful selection of her subjects, LaJeunesse aligns subject matter and technique to produce new images that sensually evoke vintage photographs. To complete the nostalgic effect, she exhibits the finished, unique images in salvaged antique frames. This results in a kind of ‘stealth art’ one can imagine hanging alone or among other works in a home or office, easily misread as a collectible photograph, when in reality it’s a complex time machine: a 2-D tardis that’s a lot bigger on the inside of the frame than it is outside. Whether it’s the “Ruins of St. Mary’s” or “Winchester Cathedral Nave,” one an authentic medieval ruin and the other a still-functioning church, we see them as they are today but projected back more than a century, to the late Romanticism of Frederick Evans, whose images of similar subjects in England and France showed the potential of photographs to determine how we see something. Parallel American subjects, like the “Criterion Dance Hall and Saloon,” or “Barber – C Hoffman, Proprietor,” offer anything but simple experiences about the interpenetration of past and future as seen from the present. In the best examples, here including “Great Salt Lake Oil Jetty,” which calls to mind much older structures, such as the Neolithic Stonehenge, the visual analogues are as rich as any in art.