Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Lichens on the Mind: Photographs by Craig Denton

During the month of September, Salt Lake City Public Library’s Atrium Gallery features the photographs of Craig Denton, professor of communications at the University of Utah.

Twenty-five medium-sized works are on display at the third-floor gallery of Salt Lake’s main library. The photographs feature close-up views of lichen-strippled rocks. The rocks provide a cool-blue or subtle brown toned background to the lime and rust colored lichens which float across the surface of the photographs like so many Pollockesque paint drippings.

These photographs provide a prime example of the wonderfully blurred divide between representational and abstract art which Utah’s unique geological makeup provides. Whether in the art of someone like Denis Phillips, who feels equally comfortable working in a landscape genre or pure abstraction, or the abstract art of Doug Snow, which never really departs from the Utah landscape he has known since birth, we see the strongest asset of Utah’s visual arts world: the Utah landscape. Abstract art is not outside of or detached from the “real” world. In its grandeur — such as the lines of the San Rafael swell — or in its intimacy — as evidenced by Denton’s work — Utah’s landscape provides us with unique and intriguing visual stimuli for “abstract” art, rooted in the “real” world.

Denton says of his series of photographs of lichens,” I’ve been fascinated by how these organisms appear to be the result of nature working like a stippler, an artist who painstakingly arranges colored dots to create an image.” Nature has indeed painstakingly created a mosaic of textures and colors. And Denton’s eye has organized them into mosaic compositions sometimes intersected by strong linear elements in an attempt to “order the spots of color into a visual structure.”

Craig Denton’s works will be on display at the Atrium Gallery until October 6.


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