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

Utah artist Jody Plant in her Salt Lake City home. Photo by Portia Snow.

Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Blending Conversations
The life and art of Jody Plant

“I had always been a kind of kitchen-table artist,” says Jody Plant in her Salt Lake City studio, where she’s surrounded by a sprawling mass of assemblage sculptures, stacks of old books, tree limbs, shells and rocks. Far too much material for a kitchen table. In her former home in the Avenues, Plant worked small and in spurts, having to put things away before a guest stopped in or the cat got curious. That changed five years ago when she and her husband, pediatrician and author Lou Borgenicht, found a new home in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. A modern construction of concrete and glass and rough-hewn wood, it’s nestled in a row of 1920s bungalows. Yet somehow it fits, neither matching its neighbors nor challenging them but, rather, changing the conversation. It’s not unlike Plant’s art, assemblages where the natural and the manufactured worlds blend into poetic dialogue, forming conversations that can be soft and threatening, melancholy and euphoric. It is a body of work that continues to expand in her new studio, growing larger in scale, branching into new dimensions, evidence both of the artist’s love for the printed word and her deep tie to the natural world. “I love being in my studio,” she says, “asking questions and trying to find the answers.”

Theater: Artist Profile
Based on a True Story
The versatile Elaine Jarvik plays it where it lays

I had forgotten she plays the drums. Or that she once wrote the Itty Bitty Salt Lake City feature for the Deseret News.

Amazing what you discover while researching a piece on someone you thought you already knew a lot about.

Elaine Jarvik is a woman of numerous talents: 27 years as a writer with the local LDS Church-owned newspaper, followed by a stint doing a few stories for The Salt Lake Tribune, all alongside a successful career as a playwright – her latest, “Based on a True Story,” sold out before rehearsals even began. I mean, who does that?

She won’t lay claim to the title “reporter” because “I’ll ask questions, but I’m not really great at digging out information,” she says; but will accept “feature writer” since that’s precisely what she did so well for so long. Who knows how many successful productions it will take before she’s willing to call herself a playwright? “I still have a little nametag they gave me at Humana [Festival of New American Plays] that says ‘Elaine Jarvik  . . .  Playwright’ and I keep that where I can see it every day,” she says with a quick laugh.

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Humor and Hyperbole
Ideologue at UMOCA

There’s a work in Ideologue you can’t avoid. It’s a music video whose soundtrack floods the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s (UMOCA) main hall, its saccharine lyrics following you from one room to the next, eating away at your skull like a cavity finding its way to a sensitive nerve. “America, we must carry on!” croons Dennis Madalone, his long dark hair parted down the middle and feathered back, a gold chain adorning his neck and a bandana tied around one leg of his ripped jeans (his fashion sense should place the stunt coordinator-turned-singer two or more decades in the past, but the video was actually recorded as a response to 9/11). In appropriating Madalone’s music video, Swiss artist Christoph Büchel has added Arabic subtitles, presumably an attempt to undermine the self-satisfied nature of the patriotic rock anthem; but it’s a strategy that seems gratuitous, for the video itself, with its heavy-handed sentimentality and questionable production values, is so bad one could be forgiven for thinking it was already, sans subtitles, a parody. It will make you laugh. Until you step away and realize you can’t get away from it.

UMOCA’S current exhibit features nine artists “who employ humor and hyperbole to address platforms of ideology.” It would be hard for any art exhibit to compete with the humor and hyperbole that seem to spring forth weekly in the current election cycle, where it’s frequently unclear if the person behind the rostrum is a candidate or performance artist; thankfully, this exhibit of international artists avoids the confrontation of the parochial and the strictly political, exploring broader issues and contexts that will outlast any one news cycle.

In Fayçal Baghriche’s “Envelopment,” a series of red flags arranged in a line jut out from one of the exhibit’s freestanding walls. The 27 standards belong to different nations but are furled so that only the last inches of material show, concealing the emblems’ layered political message and history as identifier of political entities and affiliations. What should be a multicolored parade of nations has been reduced to a uniform sea of red. The color choice might suggest the dream of a triumphant global communism, the specter of which still haunts conspiracy spinners fearful of a “new world order;” but such interpretations betray a specifically American bias and may not resonate with an Algerian artist working in France. And the furled form of the flags hints at a less threatening, more benign interpretation, the unifying color of furled flags perhaps suggesting a commonality masked by unfurled differences. The interpretative precariousness in this ambiguous work may say a lot about how ideologies and historical context inform our perceptions.

Fayçal Baghriche’s Envelopment.
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