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December 2015
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
Page 5    

Art Books
Honeymoons and Bucket Lists
The Poultons' Painters of Grand Teton National Park

Utah author Donna Poulton has co-written some truly beautiful and informative art books published by Layton’s Gibbs Smith: Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts, with Vern Swanson in 2009, and 2012’s magnificent LeConte Stewart Masterworks (reviewed in the December 2012 issue of 15 Bytes), come immediately to mind.

Now, she and husband Jim Poulton have written another lavish volume, also published by Gibbs: Painters of Grand Teton National Park. Several of the included artists have been claiming bragging rights on Facebook for weeks and rightly so.

“From our honeymoon trip in 1994, when we had one of the best meals of our lives at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – a martini and a hamburger just after our midnight arrival in Jackson – to the present, the Teton area has been one of our favorite escapes,” they write.

Commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 2016 formation of the National Park Service, the book is a joy to peruse. At a whopping 288 pages, this coffee-table-size tome brings the Grand Teton Range and Jackson Hole area to life in two dimensions. From “Trappers and Traders” to more contemporary works (by Poor Yorick’s Brad Slaugh, for one) it includes more than 375 paintings, drawings and photographs of the Tetons landscape and its wildlife covering over 200 years.

Expertly designed by Renee Bond, the layout is lively and enticing, the images crisp and in superb color. Interspersed with many lovely and memorable quotations by a variety of sources, the writing is sincere, enthusiastic and tantalizing – it makes one want to load up a backpack and easel and head for the Tetons (I neither paint nor hike so that’s saying something).

You may find the book a tad pricey at $75 – but it is well worth it, in this writer’s opinion. You’ve got work included by Billy Schenck, Thomas Hart Benton, Thomas Moran – and you just know them from area galleries and museums. What about Edward Hopper (bet that surprised you!)? Several excellent works by the “Nighthawks” artist were done while on vacation with his wife, Jo (also an aspiring painter), in the Tetons and the details given of their life together are fascinating.

In fact, the Poultons had a bucket list, of sorts. “When we first began to think about the book, we dreamed of the artists we hoped would have visited the Tetons. We came up with a dream list of artists that included Andy Warhol, Charlie Russell, Maynard Dixon, Thomas Eakins, Joseph Henry Sharp and many others. Unfortunately, through all of our research, we couldn’t verify that many of these artists had ever painted the Tetons,” says Donna.

“Other artists on the list, however, did paint the Tetons,” adds Jim. “These included Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Edgar Payne, Frank Tenney Johnson, Carl Rungius, Ed Mell and others. With enough research, we were able to find works by these spectacular artists, and they became the foundation for the book.”

The authors were surprised by “the number of beautiful works by our own Utah artists.” These include Florence Ware (who did the murals in Kingsbury Hall at the U of U); Theodore Wassmer (who was Ware’s model and assistant and a prolific painter in his own right); Alfred Lambourne (who lived alone for a year on Gunnison Island in the Great Salt Lake); George Ottinger; George Beard; Lewis Ramsey (who studied under John Hafen); Jared Sanders; Michael Coleman and his son, Nicholas Coleman; Jim Morgan; Jeff Pugh; Gary Ernest Smith; Brad Aldridge; LDS painter and women’s rights advocate Minerva Teichert; contemporary tonalist landscape painter Andrew Skorut; John Myrup; Salt Lake City gallery owner Karen Horne; Orson Campbell; LeConte Stewart (natch); Henri Moser; Russell Case; the above-mentioned Brad Slaugh; Doug Braithwaite; Michael S. Albrechtsen; 15 Bytes columnist and plein air landscape painter John Hughes; David Meikle; H. L. A. Culmer; Alvin Gittins; and Gibbs Smith, publisher, himself.

“[They] have made important contributions to the interpretation of the Tetons for the past 130 years. Our favorite quote in the book, in fact,” Donna states, “is from Alfred Lambourne:”

Sky gray with rain fringe, ‘pride of the morning,’ soon to melt away in dapple cloudlets, leaving the sun to blaze at noonday in cloudless azure. Snake River, hurrying along in its basaltic bed — a cyclopean aqueduct. Over low foot-hills, dim with distance, the snow-clad Tetons, thrusting sharp peaks to heaven, ‘To climb up there — nay even your thought itself slides off.’

Donna L. Poulton grew up in Dillon, Montana, and enjoyed a great deal of time on her grandfather’s ranch there. She received her master’s from Boston University in Stuttgart (she spent 12 years in Germany) and later earned her Ph.D. at BYU. She has juried and curated numerous exhibitions and written widely on Utah and Western art. Her detailed 2012 book Reuben Kirkham: Pioneer Artist was well received (see our review in the January 2012 issue of 15 Bytes). For seven years she was curator of Art of Utah and the West at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and later took a position as director of the Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foundation.

James L. Poulton, a co-author of LeConte Stewart Masterworks, has written several other books that have nothing whatever to do with art, but plenty to do with his chosen profession: He is a psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City.

It's a Wrap — Add a Few Bows
Plan B's Booksmart at The Rose

Been there, done that. Many of us have, I’m sure.

“I don’t know the title or the author but I can kinda tell you what the cover looks like. Can you find it for me?”

“Well, why can’t you call Barnes and Noble to see if they have it? Yes, I know this is Sam Weller’s, but I’m really short on time . . .”

Those aren’t the precise words from Rob Tennant’s first play, Booksmart, but you get the gist: customers making outrageous demands of frazzled bookstore employees in the midst of the Christmas rush. One of them (Casey, played by Tyson Baker) decides to go on strike (for what, he isn’t exactly sure) by staging a sit-in in the breakroom, urging his equally underpaid and overeducated co-workers to join him in this class struggle. Marx and Engels, he discovers to his chagrin, are out of stock until January.

It’s hard to be amused by a play after watching a massacre unfold for seven hours on MSNBC, but some smart dialogue and good acting helped. While Tennant occasionally gives his characters too-long paragraphs that can lead to rushed delivery – and the play’s ending is just a bit abrupt if quite tidy – the play is well-conceived and well-written.

Interaction between Baker (who did an effective job of carrying this production) and Sarah Danielle Young (Alex) was strong and seemed genuine. She admits to having had “more than two but less than 10” majors in college but settled on art: “I have a lot of interests. Art was the only one that allowed me to explore them all.” She conveys impatience, exasperation, and tenderness toward Casey, though how she feels romantically about him is never quite clear.

Anne Louise Brings was a delight as Cindy, spunky and a funky dresser (thanks to Aaron Swenson), besotted by The Hunger Games, or maybe just the films (but then she does work in a bookstore), someone who fancies herself as Katniss Everdeen who fancies Peeta (though she does seem to hunt, in a well-acted scene, with Gale as played by Baker), but it was a little confusing – that might have been Peeta, not Gale. (There was an apparent dream sequence in the play, too – featuring all the players, where I got a bit lost. No doubt my bad.)

Another actress that always had my attention was April Fossen as Ruth, a “mother” whose art degree and many years of college teaching as an adjunct (“That’s Latin for ‘no benefits’”) have left her stuck at another low-paying job without benefits. She’s perfection in the part.

Hippie Ed (Joe Crnich), management but never in charge, is always stoned, which makes for some extremely funny exchanges in the breakroom. Ed learns from a customer about Solstice, the Pagan holiday from which Dec. 25th festivities are derived. He’s fascinated, but appalled when he learns the customer is buying a book to prove this to his mother. “Maybe Christmas isn’t the right time for a religious intervention,” he pleads. “Has she read The Christmas Box?

The sound design shone. You won’t want to be TOO early, as you will be listening to every conceivable version of the red-nosed reindeer song in recording history. That theme, though, carries evenly into the production, as it is playing constantly in the bookstore. Any time the breakroom door opens, the song blares forth, but just until the door closes on it again. Remarkable work by Cheryl Ann Cluff.

It wasn’t an evening of perfect theater, but Thursday was a tech rehearsal and flaws undoubtedly were corrected by opening night. Director Jerry Rapier clearly was seeing to that immediately after the performance. He cares about his company – and his audience.

A grant from The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists (The Davey Foundation) to playwright Rob Tenant resulted in this Plan-B Theatre production. Four short films produced from foundation grants will be premiered December 15 at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City. For tickets and more information about foundation grants visit thedaveyfoundation.org.

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