Factoid: White men can’t dance.
(Well there was Baryshnikov, Nureyev, David Bowie. . .) But this has nothing to do with our book review—just an attention-grabber.
Factoid: Most artists can’t write about their own work . . .
Fact: It’s much easier to write long than short.
So why would an author ask “106 Artists of the Rocky Mountain West” to write all about their stuff in 200 words or less?
Some, like Salt Lake City’s Ed Bateman, were terrific at this task; others much less so, veering off into autobiography; or “Why are artists asked to write statements about their work? . . . it is what it is,” and other equally unhelpful off-point commentary.
But once again, pictures prove to be worth their weight and this is a superbly designed and photographed book of enjoyable and varied artwork.
Still, one wonders, why 106 artists? Previous books by E. Ashley Rooney—covering New England, the Midwest, and the Northwest—include precisely 100, so this latest coffee-table tome Painted Sky is a bit of an anomaly. Does 106 represent good feng shui, something like that?
Accompanied by a 2 ½ x 3” image of the artist in the left margin of a two-page spread, leaving considerable space for excellent representations of their work on the remainder, this 232-page book (including gallery listings) is filled with everything from painting to mosaics from cities in California to North Dakota (but mostly Colorado).
Included Utahns are Joseph Alleman, Logan, watercolor and oil; Edward Bateman, Salt Lake City, pigment print from 3D digital construction and CDV; Doug Braithwaite, Sunset, oil; Carel P. Brest Van Kempen, Holladay, acrylic; Lloyd Brown, Fillmore, acrylic and oil; Kip Christensen, Springville, various woods; Glen Lyman Edwards, Smithfield, oil; Mark England, Salt Lake City, oil; Edward J. Fraughton, South Jordan, clay and bronze; Lauren Gallaspy, Salt Lake City, porcelain, china paint, terra cotta, gouache; Beth Krensky, Salt Lake City, bronze, brass, gold leaf, crab shells, steel, olive leaves; V. Kim Martinez, Salt Lake City, oil on aluminum; Jim Morgan, Mendon, oil; Andrzej Skorut, Draper, oil.
You have your landscapes, your representational creatures (horses and not-at-all), your sculptures, your turned-wood pieces, your re-imagined digital images, your so-called “typical” Western bronzes and paintings – we have manifestly talented artists here in our state.
Author Rooney acknowledges that she grew up watching “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” and “Have Gun Will Travel” – none of which will be familiar to most of our readership. Her next sentence may explain: “The American cowboy was larger than life as was the wild open space where they roamed.” Sigh . . . She even wonders if there is a Moran, Bierstadt or Remington among the artists she has included in her book. We wonder if any of them really care.
In her foreword, Rose Fredrick, longtime curator of the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, takes a more prosaic view:
“Whether playing off themes of the West, postmodernism, photorealism, pop and abstraction, or incorporating traditional materials to make environmental statements, the artists in this book give audiences a well-rounded view of contemporary Western art as it should be considered: uniquely American.”
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She was the 2018 recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award in the Literary Arts.