Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

“Another Group Show?” Asked the Editor: SLCC’s 75th Anniversary Alumni Show

Samantha Snyder, “No Longer Available”

There’s not much to say about the Salt Lake Community College’s 75th Anniversary Alumni Show, currently open at the art gallery of the main campus on State Street. Not that there isn’t plenty to say about the 30 works it includes or the same number of artists who created them, but the overall premise of the show — that uncounted students have studied art at SLCC since 1948, under what must have been the variously skilled guidance of many different artist-professors — all but demands that the resulting collection will lack any sort of theme or single attitude. All these works have in common is the fact that their makers, at some time in their careers, spent some time in a studio classroom. Whatever traces their experiences may have left on them or their work may be too subtle to be detected here. Their very difference suggests, rather, that the system is working and they all emerged with their originality intact.

There’s a high level of craft, and individual imagination to spare. Just inside the door, for example, Samantha Snyder’s “No Longer Available” presents a miniature vignette in a box, containing a “small” commercial tragedy in an imaginary clothing outlet. Three party dresses on hangers, a shelf full of folded garments, and another full of identical, anonymous boxes, are arranged around a phone left dangling off the hook. In the next window, Kevin Wellman’s stained glass panel, “Panes,” features a goateed man in an apron and a reversed baseball cap amidst scenes of people and pets that may be from his life or life in general: his “pains” or someone else’s. Like everything else here, what these two works have in common is their differences. All the subjects in Synder’s scene are folded from collagraphs: prints made by applying first a coat of shellac and, after that dries, ink to a three-dimensional collage that is then run through the printing press like any other matrix. Wellman’s individual panes are ambrotypes: glass images, variations of the popular tintypes that were the first widely available photographs in the 19th century.

Kevin Wellman, “Panes”

Kathleen Stone, “Best Friends I,”

Lynn Bright’s “Willard Farm,” with its pastel mountains, utilitarian structures and hay field all rendered in straw-like impasto, is dated 2022, but could have been in style a century and a half earlier. It’s blistered-looking frame is a splendid example of how the complete work of art may include the frame in the artist’s vision. The virtues of not completing the ensemble are essential to Kathleen Stone’s “Best Friends I,” a photo-realist goat on which — or on whom — a chicken perches to reveal the great secret: that animals not only have consciousness, but transcendent personal lives. The meticulous beasts on an incomplete, scrubbed-in ground causes them, the goat particularly, to pop out in what becomes an encounter with the real being.

One of the first choices an artist makes is whether to represent the exterior world or their own interior. Pablo Ayala’s “Ofrenda Al Tierra,” Rob Adamson’s “Point,” and Julie Strong’s “The Crowned Anemone” all find liminal points (to use this season’s buzz word) on that border, but two works that come down decisively are Grant Fuhst’s “Creation Myth,” on the side of the fabulous, and James McGee’s collectable sneakers, “Stan Smiths,” for the concrete. 

Grant Fuhst, “Creation Myth”

James McGee, “Stan Smiths”

Some of these artists began their careers before the rise of the Curator — the impresario who dedicates and constructs so many modern shows. Others came later, but SLCC’s 75th Anniversary suggests an attentive viewer need not be bored by the combination of self-selection and jurying that has worked for so long.

75th Anniversary Alumni Show, The George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Gallery: SLCC South Campus, Salt Lake City, through Sep. 29

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