There are few competitions like it in Utah: Your reputation is irrelevant. Your resume is immaterial. There is no entry fee. Any Utahn 18 years or older has a fair chance. First-time applicants may get juried in; strong, well-known artists may get juried out. The artwork must stand alone, independent of its creator. Every year, two out-of-state jurors enter a different host gallery, walk among hundreds of paintings and sculptures, and begin a daylong task of creating an esteemed exhibit from what Utah artists have placed before them.
Since 1899, the Utah Arts Council’s Statewide Annual Exhibition, an attempt to “advance the arts in all their phases,” showcases artwork of all styles, genres and media. Recently, to avoid an overwhelming amount of entries, the Visual Arts Program decided to divide the media into three categories, creating themed shows that rotate every three years. The three themes are: Mixed Media and Works on Paper; Crafts and Photography; and this year’s theme: Painting and Sculpture.
Park City’s Kimball Art Center hosted Utah 2002: Painting and Sculpture. Ben Mitchell, Senior Curator for the Yellowstone Art Museum, and Patty Ortiz, Curator at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, were this year’s jurors. They had a responsibility to choose quality artwork, but they also needed to curate a show. The pieces they selected were strong enough to stand on their own, but they also needed to complement the other pieces chosen for display. They accepted works that not only manifested an obvious talent, but possessed a voice as well. The jury process moved rather quickly at first, but eventually difficult decisions had to be made. By the time they finished, Mitchell and Ortiz selected 92 entries out of 486 to be included in the exhibit at the Kimball Art Center for the next six weeks.
The result is an extraordinarily varied show including artists aged 18 to 70 that represent the best of each genre submitted, including landscape, still life and abstract art. So how did the jurors make their decisions? Juror Ben Mitchell stated,
“Some of us are more drawn to traditional approaches to materials and subjects. Some are more focused on just plain and good craft and hang the content. Others applaud the experimental. Or we like work with apparent social and political themes. Or work which shows a clear debt to art history. I believe you can find examples of all these in our selections.”
Juror Patty Ortiz explained, “My criterion in selecting work for this exhibition was based on the presence of three important factors: the artist’s personal experience, transcendence to the common experience and an obvious dialogue with the ever-changing contemporary visual issues of the day.
Both jurors were impressed with the high quality and number of works submitted for this year’s exhibit. Ortiz finds it refreshing that artists no longer flock to New York or Los Angeles to realize their artistic careers. ThisRyan Moffettexhibition exemplifies how the arts thrive in Utah. Artists in this exhibition would proudly stand up against any other artist succeeding in New York or Los Angeles. Mitchell and Ortiz chose six outstanding pieces by six artists to receive a cash prize. These artists demonstrate technical excellence and their work embodies an excitement and freshness that explores a new concept or idea.
The jurors’ awards went to:
Wilson Jay Ong
Casey J. Smith
Utah 2002: Painting and Sculpture hung from October 7 through November 25, but a portion of the exhibit will travel for the next year. The Utah Arts Council’s Traveling Exhibition Program awarded a cash prize to twenty-four artists whose pieces were selected to travel to various venues throughout the state. These awards went to:
Ricky Allman, Liberty Blake, Paul Vincent Bernard, Sandy Brunvand, Brian Esparza, Carole H. Evans, Sharron Evans, David Hoeft, Satoko Iwasaki, Carla Jimison, Jason N. Jones, Veera Kasicharernvat, Jamie Kirkland, Jossy Lownes, Chris Miles, Joseph Ostraff, Joshua Ostraff, Woody Renzetti, Gretchen Reynolds, Casey J. Smith, Marha Tarnawiecki, Adrian Van Suchtelen, Clay Wagstaff, Jason Wheatley
Laura Durham works for KUED Channel-7 in the Creative Services Department, curating community engagement projects for both PBS and KUED productions that foster trust and value to the communities in Utah. She also produces Contact with Mary Dickson and Contact in the Community — a digital series featuring arts and culture groups in Utah. Prior to her work at KUED, Laura spent 15 years at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums in the visual arts program and later managing communications, branding, marketing, and public value projects for all arts and museums programming. She has served the Utah community in various capacities with her role as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association and Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. She lives in Salt Lake City, sings with Utah Chamber Artists, and loves to contribute to 15 Bytes as often as time allows.