From paintings to performance art, photography, and ceramics, Shaw Gallery’s 2021 Biennial Faculty Exhibition has a little bit of everything. With well over 50 works, from 30 artists, this show keeps the viewer on their toes. The themes and ideas explored are just as diverse as the materials and methods used in creating the works: social and environmental statements are made alongside works that explore isolation, the structure of the human body and the fusion of Western landscapes and culture. This showcase feels like a collage: while each piece is unique and tells its own story the showcase finds common and unifying ground in relaying the art practices of Weber State University’s art faculty.
Natural elements are prevalent throughout the show. Ya’el Pedroza’s “Untitled” features natural materials, like coal and a stump of wood, that create an arch that turns into a rainbow. The canvas is filled with bright, yet semi-transparent, spots of pink, blue, and yellow of differing sizes. They give the work an ethereal feel that enhances the beauty of these natural resources. In “Landscapes for Her: Desert,” Jamie Harper creates a pink effect over her landscape photos. The dirt, hills, and brush in her photo all reject their normal colors for a pinkish hue. She does this to subvert the nature of photography as a male-dominated medium and assert that women have a place in landscape photography. Harper’s work is displayed directly next to two photos that relay Josh Winegar’s interpretation of nature. These photos are part of Winegar’s larger series, “Facts that End with Question Marks.” In one, a branch juts across the photo from right to left and at its center appears to be a piece of bark hanging limply across the branch. The other photo shows a young boy, shirtless, facing away from the viewer. The boy stands head slightly tilted down, peering into a forest of thick branches. The photos feel somber and the colors are muted. Winegar’s nature is far more subdued and melancholy in comparison to Pedroza’s bright and ethereal nature and Harper’s playful pinks.
The sense of isolation and slow movement of time that have been part of our recent past are explored in the work of William Emerich and Kristina Lenzi. Emerich’s “Deep in a Dream” and “The Shape of the Light” are oil paintings of space that utilize bright blue colors and scattered stars. The works are both beautiful, but when placed alongside Emerich’s “There is a Loneliness in the World so Great that you can See it in the Slow Movement of the Hands of a Clock,” which features a clock attached to the canvas, the viewer is reminded not only of the vastness of space but of the slowness and unrelenting movement of time. The works create an atmosphere of loneliness and isolation as expansive as space and time itself. Time and isolation are also dominant themes in“Breaking Monotony,” a five-minute video performance by Kristina Lenzi. The video shows the artist standing next to a tree with gauze wrapped around her face, completely concealing her features except for two small slits for her eyes. Attaching the gauze to the tree, Lenzi slowly begins to walk around the tree, unwinding the long piece of gauze from her face and transferring it the tree. The isolation evoked by Lenzi’s covered face, a concept particularly relevant in light of recent quarantine and lockdown regulations, is relieved as the artist connects to the natural world around her.
Artists Trishelle Jeffery and Joshua Petersen both invoked a playful attitude in their works. Jeffery’s work focuses on the many different emotions and facial expressions one might express throughout any given day. A wide range of emotions is portrayed through the face of a cute, cartoon-style face. The character is shown in moments of happiness, anger, boredom, mindlessly scrolling through their phone, and even picking their nose. The piece is both humorous and thought-provoking when considering the depth and range of human emotions. Petersen’s “Bridges” consists of five works featuring animals in places one might not expect. A whale crashing through a sandy desert, an elephant star gazing seated on a crushed car, and an alligator jumping out of a birthday cake are just a few of the situations Petersen imagines. The works are wondrous and imaginative one can’t help but smile when considering these fanciful and fun situations.
Abstraction also found a comfortable spot among many different mediums in the show. The bright colors in Matthew Choberka’s two towering mixed-media canvases (96″ x 67″ each) make his pieces stand out. Both works utilize a wide range of shapes, forms, and colors. “It Takes a Village” focuses on six figures placed in rows of three, one group shown above the other. All six figures have their arms outstretched above their heads but this is where their similarities end. Each figure is painted in different colors and with differing shapes and a wide range of abstract patterns and colors surrounds the figures. Choberka’s works are energetic and eye-catching and feel different every time you view them as something previously missed will suddenly stand out. Art Morrill employs abstraction in his work as a way to explore and interpret the manipulability of the human body. Of his five works on display here is it perhaps easiest to see this in his work “Ilium and Ischium.” The back piece, which is shaped like an uneven square that has the right bottom corner removed, is covered with small brushes of differing shades of blue and tan. Placed on top of this work is a white shape with three holes, one larger than the other two. One of the smaller holes and the bottom half of the large hole is filled in with small greenish/blue rectangles which appear to be sewn into the hole, as tied-off pieces of thread are visible. The ilium and ischium are two of the three parts that comprise the hipbone. Understanding this gives the white shape in this work new meaning. Morrill’s works are bright and intriguing and the stitched-together rectangles and thread, which are apparent in each of these works, recall the ability of the human body to heal when stitched back together.
These works give just a small taste of the wide variety of both mediums and concepts in Weber State’s faculty show. With a little bit of everything, the variety found here is a great way to understand the current concerns, interests, and expertise of Utah-based artists.
Biennial Faculty Showcase, Shaw Gallery, Weber State University, Ogden, through Nov. 3.