With our “Still Here” series, we are checking in with members of Utah’s art community to see what the past several months have meant for them. Lewis J. Crawford (Look: lewisjcrawford.com | Shop: theljcstore.com) is a mixed media photographer/artist and an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) for the University of Utah. He considers Salt Lake City, UT, his home, but is proud to be a fourth-generation Arizona native and second-generation Arizona artist. In 2009 he earned an MFA in photography from the University of Utah and in 2005 a BFA in photography from Arizona State University, graduating summa cum laude.
When all of this craziness started, I was finalizing imagery for an exhibition scheduled for August at Nox Contemporary. The work explores the myths within my family history, what symbols I choose to represent those individuals, and how their mythos helped shape me to become the artist I am today. It has been an emotional experience learning more about my ancestors, who they were, and what elements of their lives help make me, me. During this research, I learned my great grandfather, a barnstormer, had a fake eye. I finally grieved his son’s death, my grandfather, who passed away about 25 years ago. He is one of my heroes. This is what I was doing when the pandemic hit.
Trips I was planning to Chanute, Kansas, and Idaho Falls to photograph some important historical locations and family heirlooms had to be put on hold. Little did I know I also needed to put the exhibition on hold, which was a blessing. Nox owner John Sproul asked if I would push the show back to December. That wasn’t a problem. We weren’t sure how the pandemic was going to progress or if art events were even going to be allowed to happen. Also, the printer I normally use was having issues.
As I diligently started printing and drawing the artwork, I realized they needed more text. I need to include little stories about those family members within each installation. This fall, with the rise in COVID-19 cases and how I wanted my show to look, I asked John if I could postpone my exhibition until 2021. I didn’t want people getting close together to read the stories then step back to see the overall composition. Too much back and forth in a tight space. John agreed, and the show is now scheduled for August 2021. (I hope you all can make it.)
That’s where I’m at right now. I’m working on art that is constantly making me cry. It’s cathartic. It also helps me ignore (forget, block out?) all the shock from this pandemic, this summer’s social unrest, and the election. Of course, I morally can’t block all of that out, but I have somewhere I can go that helps. I am lucky to have an amazing studio at the Bogue Foundry. It gives me a place to go that isn’t home. I escape. I think about art or music or just clear my head. I can safely chat with fellow artists and still feel like a member of Utah’s great arts community. It is a little place of sanctuary.
I am also blessed to be an art professor at the U. With the transition to online learning this past spring, I was lucky. It wasn’t that different than what I was already doing. I teach digital art courses and a class that focuses on using new media technology to write visually pleasing and researched essays. I was already sitting in front of a computer while teaching. The only difference, really, is I now get to sit at home in a nice shirt and my sweats while I teach through a camera. The best part of all of this is I get to work with my amazing, resilient students who comfort me with their intelligence, caring, endurance, and determination. They are going to change the world for the better, and I can’t wait to help.
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.
Categories: Still Here