Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
The life and art of Claudia Sisemore
Teacher, artist and filmmaker Claudia Sisemore was “hot stuff” when she was 21, says Layne Meacham of his former Hillside Junior High teacher. “All the guys would talk about her and her silver Jag XKE,” the Salt Lake City artist recalls. Local artist Trent Thursby Alvey, then an 8th-grade creative-writing student of Sisemore’s, agrees: “She was single, wore stiletto heels and cashmere sweaters and drove a hot car.”
More important than her style, however, was Sisemore’s creative influence. “She set the tone for my whole life of creativity in that class,” Alvey says.
“She was not uptight and could relate to all the students, and she was easy to talk to and just hip,” Meacham states. “The other teachers seemed to be about 20 years behind her in demeanor, dress and having an understanding of the current culture the kids were relating to . . . kids just kind of hung on her and she could connect better than all the other teachers at Hillside Junior High. She didn't seem to judge me that I was a budding delinquent called down to the office daily . . . she just accepted me as another kid trying to figure out the screwy ‘60s.”
Her influence in Utah’s art world has extended far beyond that classroom and those young students (some of whom are now influential members of the art community in their own right). As a filmmaker, Sisemore captured some of Utah’s seminal figures, artists like LeConte Stewart, Denis Phillips, Alvin Gittins, Francis Zimbeaux, and Lee Deffebach, as well as dance teacher Virginia Tanner and Utah Symphony Maestro Maurice Abravanel. She’s also chronicled the artistry of organizations like Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Children’s Dance Theatre and Repertory Dance Theatre. She is working on a film about Phillips Gallery and near to completing one on sculptor Angelo Caravaglia. In total she has produced over 200 films.
Someone should have turned the camera on Sisemore during those years, as she, too, has been an inventive and prolific artist. You’ll find her abstract work at Phillips Gallery and regularly in the annuals, like the Springville Salon and the BDAC Statewide Annual, and three years ago, Rio Gallery featured an exhibit of her work and those she has influenced, curated by Alvey. Her life in art is being further honored this year at the Utah Arts Festival, where she’ll receive a Mayor’s Award in the Arts.
Culture Conversations: Literary Arts
There is a Hunger
The relentless Jeff Metcalf
Jeff Metcalf is fresh off a trip to Bermuda when we sit down for an interview in mid-May. He is tanned and claims to have put on a few extra pounds from “island drinks and island food.” He has also just returned from an appointment at Huntsman Cancer Institute where he received some good news about his ongoing fight with prostate cancer. “The PSA level is down and the docs were encouraged by the weight gain,” he says. “I didn’t bother to mention the drinks or the Bermuda trip, of course.”
Exhibitions Review: Salt Lake City
The Cost of Anything Alice Gallery
The art world is full of strange processes, from the rituals artists use to give themselves ideas, to the crafts they employ in bringing these inspirations into being, and so on to the necessary habits and innovations employed by audiences in sorting out the results. One of the strangest of these processes is the way works of art are brought together to fill galleries. In spite of the connecting themes and strong sympathies often apparent in an exhibition, the works themselves rarely come about in response to the words on the sign. A dozen artists in the full stride of their careers don’t suddenly go off on a common subject, like painting the same mountain. Instead, gallerists, curators, or the artists themselves settle on something they’ve discovered among known works, the art inspiring the theme instead of the other way ‘round.
The Cost of Anything, 20 works by six artists in the two cozy rooms of Alice Gallery, strives to be the exception. Yes, all these works existed, and had probably been shown independently, but then their makers agreed to remake them: to transform art into meta-art, moving them one step up the ladder of allegory (meta=beyond), making them self-referential as well. They agreed, in response to an assertion by Henry David Thoreau . . .
. . . to assess the various specific costs, in dollars and cents, of these pre-existing works, using a simple template to report the result: a paper tag tied to each work with string. Consequently, viewers see at least two simultaneous shows, an experience a little like watching a movie with the director’s commentary on. Borrowing from theatrical jargon, they view the physical work with disbelief suspended: the image fools the eye; the sculptural object is taken for real. At the same time, the tag pierces the fourth wall, making viewers aware of special tools and raw materials lined up on shelves, modified by the labor of turning them into what is seen, labor backed by countless hours spent over years developing and honing the skills, all eventually wielded for the times specified on the tags. Other costs, as will be seen, remain ephemeral. The presence in each case of two works in a single form—one a relatively conventional two- or three-dimensional object submitted for delectation, while the second shatters the conventions of the first—challenges viewers even as it assaults the works. Seeing a price-per-hour posted next to the objet undermines its aura and raises powerful doubts: can both survive.