Exhibition Review: West Valley City
What You ShouldBump Into
The Face of Utah Sculpture at Utah Cultural Celebration Center
In an interview he gave Jennifer Napier Pierce prior to the opening of The Face Of Utah Sculpture, an annual exhibition he founded and curates, Dan Cummings explained why he considers this such an important opportunity for artists like him. “Sculptors,” he said, “don’t much get single shows.” It’s true. Sculptors are typically invited to take part in two-person shows, where their work complements the work of a painter. To be seen clearly, paintings require empty rooms; sculpture ensures the resulting space is not wasted. Thus the celebrated judgment of Barnett Newman: “A sculpture is what you bump into when you back up to get a look at a painting.” But there is good reason why we, as audience, should see what Cummings has brought to the Cultural Celebration Center. Far from the display of challenging aesthetic statements that make up many modern art shows, this one is immediately accessible and, in place of consternation, is more likely to generate feelings of pleasure, fun, and even exhilaration.
Anyone who thinks artists work best in garrets, away from interference by the public, can learn something from the example of Marilyn Sunderland. A few years ago, her painted gourds brought to mind folk arts. Although she selected the gourd as a painter selects a grade and shape of canvas, the final product resembled classroom design practice: fit the image to the 3D shape. Interaction with her peers and the public has opened up her approach, literally: in “The Rope” she cuts away the negative space between coils of illusionistic cordage carved in bas relief, revealing the solid-looking gourd to be a thin, hollow skin.|1| Paradoxically, the more she reduces the solid-looking ellipsoid to a surface of lace, the more solid the representation appears. The gourd’s shape disappears, demonstrating the dimensional alchemy underlying all visual art. Rope connects thematically with “Looking At An Object I’ll Never Understand,” one of Cummings’ fused and carved glass pieces, in which a black-and-white checkerboard resembles water into which stones are thrown, the surface roiling into ornaments suggesting a computer animation of a mathematical equation.|2| Another glass artist, Andrew Kosorok, uses the translucence of flat glass to model the dimensions of space, demonstrating the notion shared among the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions that spirit first creates, and then infuses, everything.
It sometimes seems the three dimensions of sculpture impose more limits on an artist than do the two of painting, but contrasting representations of the human form argue that the range of possibilities in sculpture is as wide as the artist’s vision. Julie Lucus opens up the torso in “Nevermore,” where her signature mosaic tiles suggest the stone walls of a prison or a fortress, a suggestion underscored by the presence of barred windows behind the occupant, who dwells close to the heart.|3| Emily de la Cruz Ellis takes an opposing view in “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Obdurate and opaque, her sandstone blocks lie silent on the floor, denying entry and suggesting John Donne was wrong: everyone is an island, no one can be known.|4| But Brian Christensen’s “Blue Note” gets it right.|5| Our own knowledge and experience allow us to decipher the features of his standing female figure, who proffers us the crystal she holds in her hand as though it were the key to her sorrow. The ruined piano mechanism that frames her and carves out her space, stopping our eyes from straying, suggests another kind of passageway: the evocative art of music, tinted with aural color the way her skin carries the shifting hints of pigment. Like sounds, appearances can carry something essential between us. There are conduits by which we can know and—sculpture being supremely tactile—touch one another.
No survey of 3-D art could be complete without a few examples of trompe-l’oeil -- in which the sculptor displays his skill by fooling our eyes. In effect, such illusions argue that touch remains more reliable than its more popular, more glamorous, and more successful long-distance version: vision. Relegated long ago to the status of stunt, of trompe-l’oeil, made a comeback when Jasper Johns rendered mundane beer cans in painted bronze, those transformative and supposedly ennobling materials. Perfectly illusionistic tours de force followed, including leather goods made of clay and a motorcycle carved from wood. Darwin Dower has also chosen wood, but a more homely and more challenging array of subjects. “Restoration: A Divine Calling” reveals what a desktop was before the computer undertook to steal its identity and displace so many once-familiar things. Among the objects and materials it ‘restores’ are leather bindings, printed paper pages, spectacles, a candle, and the compound paraphernalia of handwriting: a feather quill, an inkstand with cover, a blotter, and a bit of foolscap displaying a fine hand.|6| There can be a fine line between pleasure and frustration, and as the eye wanders along the ragged edges of well-worn paper pages, the mind crosses back and forth between the imaginary pleasure of turning over those pages and the frustration of knowing it to be impossible.
In the same way, the limit of art is also what makes it indispensable. Only in our imaginations can we go where these works take us, or make us want to take ourselves. Not every one of the 70 works by 40 artists assembled here will succeed for everyone, but each is a potential launching pad for a trip into real things and their imaginary connections. Instead of selecting a narrow range of objects meant to prove a point, The Face of Utah Sculpture assumes that if it includes the wide range of competent work, viewers can sort them out. You don’t have to like them all, but if Andrea Heidienger’s cast-paper cityscape is not to your liking, perhaps Randy Chamberlain’s bronze bald eagle in the form of a scythe will do. But take a second look at the things you first want to dismiss: therein lies the key to personal growth.
August 3-5, Park City
Park City Kimball Arts Festival. In addition to 220 exhibiting artists the festival features wide recreation and entertainment options and the restaurants participating in Taste of Art.
August 10-11, Cedar City
Cedar City Arts Festival gets in the grove adjacent to SUU's Randal Jones Theater
in conjunction with the Utah Shakespearean Festival.
Friday and Saturday August 10 -11.
10am - 7pm both days.
August 11, Salt Lake City
The 4th Annual Craft Lake City festival features close to 200 vendors, showcasing and selling anything and everything DIY. From arts and crafts to science and technology booths, there is something for everyone.
Noon – 10pm at the Gallivan Center:
239 South Main Street Salt Lake City.
August 17-19, Helper
18th annual Helper Arts & Music Festival features three days of stellar fine arts and crafts in the Artists Marketplace featuring over 65 booths. From free live music on the park mainstage to theatre performances at The Rio Theatre to the annual custom car show, there is always something new to see at Carbon County’s only fine arts festival.
August 25, Magna
The Magna Arts Festival is presented by the Magna Arts Council and includes food, music (a dozen live bands), dancing, art exhibits, and activities all laid out along historic Main Street. 10 am-9pm.
August 25-25, South Jordan
Great Basin Fiber Arts Fair promotes fiber arts as historical and thriving art forms. Members of the fiber community will provide demos and teach classes and samples of knit, spinning, crochet, felting, weaving and other fiber related arts forms will be on display. Salt Lake County Equestrian Park at 2200 West 11400 South, South Jordan, Utah. 9am-4pm.
15 Bytes: About Us
Our editorial contributors this edition
|Simon Blundell is a Salt Lake native and has studied art, communication, journalism, design, and advertising. He has a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and continues to explore photography and art in all its aspects. He loves music, literature, film, good food, travel, and motorcycles.
Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the
University of Reading in the UK. He is now a professional writer.
|Alexandra Karl did a BFA in Ottawa (Canada) and then spent ten years studying art history in Europe. She worked at Munich's Lenbachhaus for five years while completing her Masters, and received her PhD in the History of Art from Cambridge. She has taught at the U, the McGillis School and Congregation Kol Ami. She has led tours to the Spiral Jetty and Frank Lloyd Wright's Stromquist House. She believes a vigorous art scene is essential to any thriving society
Shawn Rossiter, a native of Boston, was raised on the East Coast. He has degrees in English, French and Italian Literature. He dropped out of a Masters program in Contemporary Literature to pursue a career as an artist. He founded Artists of Utah in 2001 and is editor of its magazine, 15 Bytes.
|Geoff Wichert has degrees in critical writing and creative nonfiction. He writes about art to settle the arguments going on in his head.
|Jo-Ann Wong is a local, born in Ogden, UT and raised in SLC. She attended a "fun, 40th East High School reunion last August. I've been taking photos for a long time and I really enjoy capturing moments of my life with my patient, generous and understanding friends and family."