“Sometime last year, Tracy [Strauss] and I learned that a book had been published about the extraordinary seven-plus year collaboration of the artists Susan Beck and Bonnie Sucec,” says Salt Lake City artist Brad Slaugh as he’s moving things around in his South Salt Lake studio. “At the time, we only knew the artists from their work and their reputations of being part of the bedrock of the Utah art scene for many years, but gradually through a couple of mutual friends we were able to meet both artists and discuss this collaboration, major parts of which were shown at a time when Tracy and I were living in Mexico back in 2014 and 2015. … We were delighted to meet up with both artists at Bonnie’s studio and look at the works together and talk with them about their process in creating these works.”
Slaugh and Strauss were so taken with the pair’s collaborative work that they decided to give up their own studio space during the semi-annual Poor Yorick Open Studios to hang the work of Beck and Sucec. “It turns out that many of the [collaborative] pieces were shown only in Park City [at the Kimball Art Center exhibit Out of Sight/In the Mind] and may be completely new to the Salt Lake community,” Slaugh says. Dozens of works, mostly on paper, line the spacious, high-ceilinged studio. They are the result of a unique collaborative process the artists developed after years as friends and knowing each other’s work well. Once one has developed a piece, she will call the other and give a verbal description of the work created. Based on this verbal description, the other will create her own work. The resulting works are related, yet unique. The late Ehren Clark compared their work when they first exhibited together at Finch Lane in 2011: “The visual playfulness of Bonnie Sucec’s aesthetic stands in contrast to Beck’s somber work, but like Beck, Sucec is employing a poetic visual language that uses more rhyme than reason.” In both there is a narrative, mythopoetical quality, though seen through different lenses. Charlotte Boye-Christensen of NOW-ID has known both artists for several years. In 2021, her organization published a book on the collaboration called Conversations, copies of which will be available during the open studio event.
You’ll still be able to see some by Slaugh and Strauss during the open studio, Saturday, Sept. 23, 4-10 pm. They’ve hung a few of their larger works in the walls just outside their studio, in the B wing. Poor Yorick is one of the largest studio complexes in Utah — home to more than 40 artists, of all stylistic persuasions, and the open studio events, held in the Spring and Fall, are a chance to show off what they’ve been working on. Not all resident artists participate in the events, but their ranks usually swell and the hallways are filled with guest artist, like Beck and Sucec.
Just outside the doors of the Beck/Sucec exhibition, Artists of Utah, the publisher of 15 Bytes, will give you a taste of what we’ve been up to. “What Gaze” features several works from the 1950s depicting Black Americans in Utah. You are invited to view the works, learn about their historical context and provide feedback about your reaction to them. These works are part of the research for a deep dive article we have been working on for our Before Now series. They also will inform one of our upcoming critical salons — a series of informal and intimate discussion for curators, critics, art historians, artists and collectors exploring a variety of issues connected to Utah exhibitions and artists. (The first will debut at Modern West in October).
NOW-ID’s book project with Beck and Sucec is not the only publishing venture you can catch this weekend. The 801 Art Book Fair, also on Saturday, will highlight several other projects from local publishers and artists. “The 801 Book Fair gives local artists and publishers a platform to promote and sell their books at no cost to themselves,” says Roxanne Gray, director of the local arts nonprofit 801 Salon. The 801 Book Fair will include books and objects from artists, authors, designers, printers, and publishers from around the state. Participants include Actual Source, Zak Jensen, Andrew Alba, and Levi Jackson. Slow Worm Press will be there with Perpetual Garden, a recently published book featuring photographs, scans, paintings, drawings and an essay by Provo artist Maddison Colvin. All books and objects on display will be available for purchase during the fair.
Poor Yorick Open Studios (126 W. Crystal Ave., South Salt Lake ), Saturday, Sept. 23, 4- 10 pm
801 Art Book Fair (801 S. 800 East, Salt Lake City), Sept. 23, 6- 9 pm
Both events are free.
You can read our profile of Bonnie Sucec here.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.