Artist Profile: Orem
The Mind's Eye
Blanche P. Wilson's lifelong passion for art
Blanche Wilson may be the oldest working artist in Utah. As she prepares to celebrate her 92nd birthday this month, she’s busy taking down a show at Weber State and moving into a new home in Orem where she's setting up a printmaking studio. And since she suffers from macular degeneration, she’s also struggling with what it means to be a “working” artist.
Wilson's first artistic struggle, at least the first she can recall, was how to depict a croquet wicket. The Salt Lake native, born Blanche Petersen, was sitting in the lawn of the home in Pocatello, Idaho, her family had moved to when she was 2. With her favorite medium of the time, crayon, the pre-schooler had scribbled a large expanse of green on a sheet of paper. But her emerging talents were stymied when she looked at the white plastic hoops embedded across the lawn. She went to her mother for help, and then her father, but neither had the answer. "So I just drew some squiggle things. To me it looked just fine. That was the first time I can remember really trying to create something."
What her mother and father might have lacked as art instructors they made up for as supportive parents. "They paid for lessons [Wilson also plays the violin] and bought materials and were always encouraging me to keep working," she says of them. When her father had one of her early pieces professionally framed and hung it in the living room, it was a very encouraging sign, if also somewhat daunting due to its prominent place.
First in Pocatello and later in Portland, where the family moved when Wilson was 8, the budding artist spent all the time she could drawing and painting. At a time when public education provided art classes through elementary, middle and secondary school, she had plenty of opportunity to practice and develop her skills. "I learned early that it’s like anything else, like the violin. You had to practice to get better." She always had a sense that she would be a professional artist. While the friends she had grown up drawing with chose more practical studies in college, Wilson studied art, first at Marylhurst College, a Catholic women's school in Oregon, and then at Brigham Young University.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Bernard C. Meyers at the Alice Gallery
“I love ambiguity,” Bernard Meyers says, and with that refreshingly unambiguous confession, highlights a principal characteristic of his photography. Ambiguity is what makes his photos—unlike the majority of images produced by today’s ever-more ubiquitous cameras—valid additions to our common visual language. Or in other words, works of art contemporary with the time of their making. Otherwise, in conventional photography, like painting in its heyday, before the advent of the mechanical image, the viewer willfully bypasses the process and the image it produces, presuming to see as if directly, without mediation by the techniques of reproduction. “Point-and-click,” the advertising promises, and it might as well add, “see-and-know.” The mind behind the camera usually searches for the most easily deciphered image: an effort that the camera, with its analogous structure to the human eye, readily abets. Faces, figures, social events, products, and street scenes can respond to the impulse to make art, but first they are visual impressions, not unlike memories that can be shared, and few photographers ask any more of them than that.
But instead of scenes that appear in our minds as if immediately present, the sensuous textures, rhythmic patterns, and copious details in Bernard Meyers’ prints, while they let us feel their visual music, challenge our minds to penetrate the represented spaces and suss out the arrangement of the parts. Along the way, we discover new meanings and significance in what we see. As with life itself, the more information revealed in Meyers’ photos, the less unified and simple the world appears, and the more aware we become of the limits of mere perception to take us behind the veil of material reality.
Exhibitions Reviews: Salt Lake City & Provo
The Eighth Incarnation of Vishnu Manifests Along the Wasatch Front
In 1968, I discovered Krishna. That year, I took a spiritual journey from being a University of Texas at Austin theater student and anti-Vietnam war demonstrator to a student of the Bhagavad Gita and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra in Los Angeles. After several weeks of instruction, I was initiated as a devotee of Lord Sri Sri Krishna by my new spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The magical ceremony was held inside the incense-filled Hindu temple, converted from an old Christian church on La Cienega Boulevard, near the Santa Monica Freeway.
With a shaven head, saffron robes, and the spiritual name of Nityananda das, I lived a monk’s life chanting on the streets, the shores of Laguna Beach, and in the temple that was filled with original paintings and sculptures of many Hindu gods:
— Lord Krishna and his associate and war hero, Arjune, to whom he spoke (or sang or chanted) the Bhagavad Gita on the bloody battlefield of Kurukshetra;
— his consort and inner expansion, Sri Sri Radha;
— the half-man, half-lion, Lord Nrisimha, great protector of devotees in times of danger;
— Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Golden Avatar and incarnation of Krishna, who initiated the Hare Krishna movement over 500 years ago with his associate, Nityananda (my namesake), an incarnation of Arjune;
— and other wildly beautiful and terrifying deities and manifestations of Vishnu.
Almost 50 years later atop the Rocky Mountains—still questing—I see evidence of the bottoms of Krishna’s blue feet, etched with symbols that leave prints along the Wasatch Front. In the mountain winds I hear the breathy sound of his flute.
A temple bears his name in Spanish Fork, and another in Salt Lake City—the Sri Sri Radha Krishna temples. Salt Lake City also hosts the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math Mission, dedicated to Bhakti Yoga and the worship of Krishna.
The Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple was recently dedicated in South Jordan, with shrines in the main sanctum devoted to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of good fortune, new beginnings, and patron of arts, sciences, letters, and learning, and others to Krishna, Rama, Saraswati, Hanuman, Shiva, and to other important deities of the expansive and complex Hindu pantheon. Inside these temples are paintings, sculptures, shrines and other artifacts. Some are for sale, but most serve educational and live ritual purposes—a contemporary use for artifacts derived from ancient prototypes.