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Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization   

Utah artist Jim Jacobs outside his Ogden studio

Artist Profile: Ogden
The life and art of Jim Jacobs

“It feels kind of like I’m just out of graduate school and I can finally work in the studio,” says Ogden artist Jim Jacobs, who is enjoying his first year of retirement after three decades as professor of art at Weber State University. Down a one-way alley off Ogden’s 24th Street, in a salmon-colored building and behind a rust-colored door, Jacobs now spends his days layering photos, acrylics and epoxy for a group of paintings that explore memory (the source material harks back to a year spent in Spain almost a decade ago), or grafting segments of planed wood and found tree limbs for his elegant sculptural works, some of which are on exhibit this month at the Rio Gallery, others of which are slated for a show at Finch Lane in April.

Jacobs spent his first 18 years in Philadelphia, where he says his relationship to the outdoors was influenced by the job he got at 14 working for his neighbor, a gardener. They landscaped for a wealthy family—the model for Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story— with an estate of 33 acres. “We would start cutting the lawn on Monday,” he jokes, “and finish by the end of the week. I think that had an impact on me, with my relationships to plants, grass and trees,” he says, referencing the many limbs that dot his studio. It also helped his ability to think. “The job was just incredibly boring. Your mind could go lots of places.”

Jacobs also liked to surf, even if the Jersey shore he visited offered little in the way of waves — “You had to wait for a hurricane.” So when it came time to decide on college, he headed to Jacksonville University in Florida.  “I probably misspent a lot of my undergraduate time,” he remarks wryly.

When he wasn’t surfing, an interest in the sciences that began at a young age directed his initial studies. It was only halfway through college that he took a painting class and then “slowly started switching away from chemistry and botany.” He finished with a BFA in 1978, after which he enrolled in an MFA program at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Again, it wasn’t far from the beach, but he says, “there I became more serious, and I focused on painting.”

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Something for Everyone
Tess Cook, Grant Fuhst and Larry Revoir at Finch Lane Gallery

It may seem like there are as many possible artistic goals, and strategies for achieving them, as there are artists, but it’s not really true. Just as the number of genres remains finite—landscape, portrait, figure, still life, and so on—and the variety of qualities, like abstraction, representation, or expression, while infinitely graduated, still ranges among a few fixed stars, so artistic strategies constitute a familiar set of options. One artist may employ visual contrasts, her works playing well-known techniques, styles, moods, or other measures off each other. Another may choose a single look and concentrate on making it as deep as he can. And a third may strive to invent a completely new visual strategy: in essence, a new visual language. This month, Finch Lane Gallery presents three artists, each of whom typifies one of these three options.

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Wrestling with the Self
Andrew Moncrief at UMOCA

When ancient Greek city-states vied against each other, not in ruthless combat but in the more civilized arena we now call the Olympics, they were transforming the frequently violent but seemingly ever-present desire for conflict into a ritualized and artistic form of competition. Foremost among these was the essential form of man-to-man conflict, wrestling. Strange Feeling, Andrew Moncrief’s new show at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), taps into this ancient sport to challenge the absolutes of traditional norms of male-to-male aggression for the sake of supremacy, and explores his own feelings and experience, to deconstruct what is a given, taken for granted, in order to explore a deeper and more penetrative understanding of possibility.

Moncrief is from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where he began his formal art training at the local North Island College before relocating to Montreal to attend the Fine Arts Program at Concordia University, where he earned his BFA in 2013. During his education, he developed an interest in classical studies, and a formal approach to the figure and rendering. This is essential to the progression of his art, which can range from the literal to the decomposed. Says the artist in his statement: “Stating a resolve for something unresolved is inherently contradictory, a search for that which can’t be found. The point is not the end, but rather the means to the end—the search, the journey itself, and those overwhelming, split-second moments of clarity and enlightenment. The journey is not the attainment of an answer, but the being of the question.” In this Zen-like approach to discovery and attainment, he maintains a sense of seeking and searching, while knowing there will be no end to life exploration. It is how his figures are rendered, the level of abstraction, color, expression, value, texture and mood that lend his canvases their expressive force as well as their communicative power.

In a pair of canvases painted in 2015, we see the same portrait figure, each with a like composition, but subtle differences between the two grant conceptual meanings also found in the titles. The figures exist within spaces that are dense, hardly breathable, seemingly swallowed up by mood and the substance of the subject. The artist renders an upper torso portrait of the sitter, entirely composed of tonalities of light and dark, with intense volume, depth and dimension, as well as stark definition of clashing of light and dark. The two mirrored portraits, at first, seem identical, even with the heavy gestural brushwork, but in the first, “Found,” the eyes are closed, in the second, “Lost,” the eyes are opened. Regarding this work, the artist states; “This work is uncertain, it is existential; the figures—lost and vulnerable—are inevitably me.”

Found, by Andrew Moncrief.
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