Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Be Wild and Original
Art and life burn bright for Maureen O'Hara Ure
Maureen O’Hara Ure shares her truth, however whimsical, however wrenching, in mixed media on panel.
The incident in “The Night of the Fire,” which is part of Love & Work, her fascinating solo show at Phillips Gallery through Nov. 11, actually occurred in 1978, when the timeworn apartment building in which she lived with her small family burned to the ground, with one fatality among the residents. The artist still can’t shake the events of that cold and terrifying January night: fire frequently makes an appearance in her dreams and in her work, often as, in “Smoke, There’s Fire,” an active volcano. And no wonder: she, her husband and 4-year-old daughter escaped with little. After the fire, she says, “I owned clogs and a bathrobe and a necklace and my husband owned an old ratty parka and loafers and slacks and our daughter owned underwear, a blouse and a baby blanket.”
She recalls the Red Cross being on scene with beverages and doughnuts and refusing the hot cup of coffee husband Lincoln Ure offered because she would never get back to sleep if she drank it and “I had an early class.” Crazy, she says, how our minds work in a crisis, adding that as life goes on, “more disasters get sent your way.”
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Living in an Inmaterial World
Mike Lee's Digital Mirror at UMOCA
Mike Lee, an Artist in Residence at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, describes himself as a product of two world cultures, having split his childhood between rural Japan and Utah. His work bridges these two separate geographical and cultural regions with reference to an elusive third: the young culture of the Internet realm. In Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness, Japanese and American symbols from separate times and places come together with the help of vintage electronics and neon illumination. Lee references images and stories from feudal Japan and the ancient Shinto religion, but also states that he “draws inspiration from amassing information, both visual and non-visual, through obsessive Internet searches.” The result is a complex exhibit that, in many ways, looks like a physical representation of a bustling Internet forum, but is also a reflection of Lee’s personal history and identity.
Exhibition Review: Ephraim
Installing the Space Between
Stephanie Leitch at The Granary
C.C.A. Christensen painted his most important work, the “Mormon Panorama,” in the mid-1870s. Even though as an immigrant he hadn’t witnessed the persecution and violence central to the stories he gave visual form, it was his dramatic images, in which nature herself seemed to recoil in horror, that came to represent the experience of the Latter-day Saints. After Christensen’s death in 1912, both his gigantic project and his one-room cabin outside Ephraim, with its small window, were treated as irreplaceable relics. In time, the cabin was moved to the historic block in Ephraim, and set down behind the restored roller mill building that had become the Central Utah Art Center, where it has since served as an auxiliary gallery. Recently, Stephanie Leitch chose this structure, with all its associations, as the site for her latest installation.
The term “archival” permeates the art world; artworks have traditionally been investments, and artists like Christensen were trained to make them as durable as possible. Yet beginning in the late 20th century, many artists began to embrace impermanence as a principle: one that set them at odds with the commonplace notion that art endowed with universal relevance should be made to last forever as well. Some of the most popular and exciting recent artworks have had a life span of months, weeks, or even days, while installation art has become a catchall category for works that may have few common characteristics other than their frequently temporary nature. For an artist who subscribed to Duchamp’s notion that artists primarily select objects to elevate to the status of art, installation was the logical next step; find some potentially meaningful things, arrange them together in the gallery, and voila! However, for an artist like Leitch, who crafts large scale, physical versions of sophisticated mental constructs—installations that require careful planning followed by countless hours of painstaking labor—the idea that they may be on view for less time than it took to create them feels paradoxical at best.
“Exterior of Carthage Jail” by C.C.A. Christensen