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August 2012
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
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Wynter Jones stands in front of one of her paintings in her Salt Lake studio, Photo by Simon Blundell.
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Wynter Jones . . . from page 1

A work like “Departure” exemplifies what is left of Jones’ unresolved sense of self-conflict.|1| It is a piece that resonates with her previous artistic language: an essential method that itself bears the essence of conflict. It is a method that is integral with images of the grotesque and the amorphous. Jones attacks her paint and canvas with a mixture of mineral spirits, linseed oil and paint thinner, creating the marks that have defined her style for much of her ten years as a professional artist. This method is essentially one of contrasts and conflict, aggression and tension -- abstract works that still speak of an interior struggle.

In her newer works, in which the figure is central, Jones’ gaze is more external. Although she moves ahead with an easier sense of self, it seems from the new work that Jones has not settled for a life of easy answers and a pacified existence but is prepared for challenges that inevitably lie ahead.

Many of the figures in these new works stem from a trip Jones took to Africa in 2008 to do humanitarian work. But if one were to take a look at “Holding Up Half The Sky” |3| and think that Jones has found herself by patronizing the Africans she met, they would be far from the truth. “I felt out of place,” Jones says of her trip. She found herself asking, “What are we doing here? They’re fine. They don’t do things the way we do. We show up with a bag of solutions when they don’t know they have a problem.” She paints “Holding Up Half The Sky” from anything but a detached perspective of the “National Geographic style of observation,” but rather imbues the work with a keen artistic perspective of color, beauty and vision. This is a mirror image; the same woman is painted on the left, wearing red, and on the right, in blue. She bears no resemblance to the fair-skinned, red-haired artist, yet, it is hard not to see in the work a subjective, autobiographical gaze … that even as her gaze looks outward, that as far as she has come, her work is still an expression of herself. This woman stands tall, proudly and bravely, and seems to say, “I have come far, I have fought my battles, I have won my war and I journey on, take me or leave me as I am.” The duality of the mirror image might respond to the ongoing autobiographical nature of Jones’ work. Jones’ conscientious self is perhaps never truly alone but always in a dual relationship of being -- a relationship gained and one not broken after a lifetime of “putting myself out there” and self-contemplation.

“To Each Their Own” is also not isolated but five representations of the same young African.|4| He is a charming and happy boy, who is seen in five phases of totality. The first is complete, the second is phased out to a degree and the fifth is but a shade. Just what these phases consist of psychologically is equivocal, yet it is unequivocal that Jones infuses herself with the subject. This is very much like van Gogh’s approach to his canvases -- symbolically with a sense of self. The sunflowers bear a very personal energy; the universal starry night also evokes also an individual emotion while his portraits were either of himself or charged with emotive symbolism.

Perhaps the most revealing of Jones’ progress as an artist and as a human being is the incredibly personal and intimate “Self Portrait.” The image is a sensitive portrait of the artist with her son. Painted in a way that by now Jones is singularly expert at, she combines a marvelously subdued and finely articulated rendering of herself and her son that is interwoven with hushed abstraction, all in magnificent muted jewel tones. The painting is a stunning work of art; to render such figures is astonishing; to create such wonderful abstraction is astonishing; and to express the two together in such a way is even more astonishing. Further, as a work of meaning it is heavy-laden. Jones attributes the greatest change in her recent life to her two-year-old son, to which this painting serves as a witness. Further, look carefully at the face of the artist and you will not see someone totally at peace, tranquil, and meditating on her son and a new found sense of place, but a face still journeying forward. It is a calm face, resolute, strong, with a secure consciousness and one that is still searching with more of life to live and more challenges to face.

In the new works by Wynter Jones one can see a visual progression and a metaphorical one too. One can see a style and capacity that has moved ahead. It is essentially linked to the artist whose personal emotive expression has allowed her to move forward -- a personal emancipation that has allowed for an artistic emancipation also. Yet even in these new works of new subjects the energetic autobiographical impulse that has defined the artist’s work for 10 years continues unabated. As Jones is a fascinating artist and a provocative human being one hopes to continue to see a future inclusive of herself as much of the subject of her work as anything else. Interest gained through Jones’ autobiographical impetus may be more compelling and personal to the viewer than any isolated subjects without Jones’ fighting spirit could ever be.

video work at UMOCA. . . from page 1

“The History of the Typewriter Recited by Michael Winslow, 2009” documents a series of vignettes performed by the “man of 10000 sound effects,” Michael Winslow. Armed with only a microphone, headphones and his superhuman mouth, we watch as Winslow stretches and contorts his mandible to mimic the sounds of typewriter machines built between 1895 and 1983. The result is comparable to the a capella acrobatics of Bobby McFerrin. Yet Winslow essentially automates himself, transforming himself into a robot of sorts. This reading is tempered by the artist’s own foibles, as he spits, sputters and gasps through the performance.

While Winslow works his way through the typewriter models, the sentence he ‘types’ remains unchanged: “The History of the Typewriter Recited by Michael Winslow, 2009.” Because the sentence doesn’t change, the audience is able to decipher unique sounds that distinguish each model. The results range from the choppy slam of keys on a rubber roller, to the sleeker muffles of ‘noiseless’ electronic machines. As such, the work is not only a paean to the more mechanistic side of twentieth century business life (predating the sleek screens of today), but pays tribute to a buried dimension of the office that must have characterized modern working life. The work’s circuitousness presents a conundrum; the object under consideration is conspicuously absent, yet is beautifully resurrected in the intersection of text and sound.

Upstairs, a solo-exhibition of Christian Jankowski’s “Casting Jesus” (2011) documents a real-life casting call hosted by papal officiates in the Roman Vatican. Not since the Second Council of Nicaea (AD 787) have a group of men gathered to discuss the image of Christ with such ... devotion. Critiquing various actors who’ve answered ‘the call’ to portray Him, we witness the reenactment of iconic New Testament moments in the story of Christ. Barefoot and bearded, the contenders feign piety and pathos not from any inherent religiosity, but to appease the selection committee and land a job. Such a transparent window into the machinations of the Vatican leaves even this Jew wondering: is nothing sacred? The results are definitely camp. (Or, in Utah parlance, ‘inappropriate.’) Unfortunately, we all know the outcome. For, despite the candidates’ efforts, Christianity is like a game show: there can be only one that rises to the top.

As the reaction of committee members shifts from applause to disapproval, the subjective nature of their comments becomes evident; they are no more experts in the life of Christ than we are. In this way, another reality starts to dawn. Jesus is no more the embodiment of the Truth than a cultural construction carefully gerrymandered by religious leaders. For devotees of the moral majority, to say nothing of the Holy See and Pontificate, this conclusion is nothing short of scandalous. As such, UMOCA should be congratulated for bringing us such potentially contentious work. And yes, cracking our brains just a little.

Unlike the above works, which document performances by artists or the public, Omer Fast’s “CNN Concatenated” (2002) intervenes with the video stream to form a collage of sorts. Specifically, second-long frames from a CNN broadcast, each the length of a single word, are isolated and then reassembled to form whole, lengthy sentences. Initially appearing incoherent, the words stutter along while the journalist, background and NYSE ticker leap from frame to frame. While these elements remain in flux, various phrases in the dialogue start to surface and repeat themselves until we eventually see the forest through the trees, and whole sentences emerge. Harking back to conspiracy theories claiming a hidden, subliminal message, this secret dialogue is at times confessional and soul-searching. Like the Truisms of Jenny Holzer, it asks pejorative questions, yet is infused with Freudian psychobabble, as if the speaker and viewer might be in couple’s counseling. “How did we get to this point? Where did we go wrong?” and “You’re so cynical. Is it your anxiety making you do this? That’s so typical of your generation.” However self-critical the statements are, the speaker’s search for answers is undermined by the segmented editing; and is incongruous for a national broadcast. Such tactics undermine the authority of the CNN broadcast that, as an arbiter of world events, has become a kind of Big Brother. No surprise that the artist is from Israel, a place heavily inscribed by media narratives.

The works on view until September 22 at UMOCA offer an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of video art. But it is just the tip of the iceberg. Looking further afield, half a century of production has yielded a voluminous body of work that plays a vital role in the life of art, worldwide. Since Salt Lake City offers no independent, artist-run production studio, and the subject is sidelined as ‘new media’ in most Utah art departments, UMOCA has an educational imperative to raise the bar: Cantastoria is a step in the right direction.
Ignacio Uriarte, The History of the Typewriter recited by Michael Winslow, 2009, Photo courtesy of UMOCA
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