Artist Profile: Mapleton
The search for identity in the life and art of Fidalis Buehler
Identity is a tricky thing. It’s hard to know anymore if we are supposed to proudly declare our differences or attempt to blend them seamlessly into the larger tapestry; be aware of color, gender, ethnicity, or blind to it. The task is made more difficult for the hyphenated among us, those whose self is a mix of disparate enough elements — especially in contrast to the majority — to require a punctuated identity. Labels can mislead as much as reveal. Take Fidalis Buehler, professor of art at BYU. His mother is Micronesian, and he spent his teenage years in Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific, so he frequently is identified in exhibition literature as a “Pacific Island artist.” Artistically, though, he was trained in Utah as much as in Honolulu, and his professional career has been spent almost entirely in the Intermountain West. And he was born in Wisconsin, his father a fourth-generation American from the Midwest, with a family that traces its roots to Bern, Switzerland (hence the surname; the given name — a version of the Latin word for “faithful” — came from a maternal aunt). So, he could equally be considered an American artist. Where does one draw the line? Or insert the hyphen?
“I don’t pretend to say I’m this person of Micronesian culture,” Buehler says. “I just say I’m an American. I come from this American background and I’m definitely entrenched in the culture. But at the same time, I recognize traits and peculiarities that are quite foreign to an American experience.”
Exhibition Review: Ogden
Between Force and Fragility
Lydia Okumura and the gendered nuances of Minimalist sculpture
When writing about sculpture, critics often use inadvertently masculine vernacular, expending such terms as “dominant” or “forceful” in describing a work’s construction and effect. While feminist scholars are right to point out how such terminology perpetuates art history’s highly patriarchal cannon, it’s perhaps also uncommon to connote femininity with steel, wire and aluminum sculptures. Additionally, modern sculpture’s use of industrial materials evokes a decidedly romantic notion of masculine middle class labor, one that artists like Jackson Pollock and Carl Andre used to posit themselves as the artistic “everyman.” This is why, perhaps more so than any other artistic medium, sculpture is wrought with gendered nuances and contradictions.
Lydia Okumura’s Situations, now on view at Weber State University’s Shaw Gallery, is a breathtaking exhibition that concentrates the artist’s 50-plus-year career in modest but powerful form. In her first exhibition west of the Mississippi, Situations debuts a remarkable assortment of sculptures and works on paper from throughout the artist’s career. The visual magnificence of Okumura’s work is blinding, effectively demolishing any remnant of gender, race or nationality.