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May 2016
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
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The Salted Earth from 15 Bytes on Vimeo.

 

Literary Arts
The Salted Earth
Eric C. Robertson reads from his first novel

In April, Artists of Utah introduced READ LOCAL, a literary series produced in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Arts Council that brings together two local authors to discuss their individual works and the craft of writing. For the inaugural installment, Eric C. Robertson read from his unpublished novel The Salted Earth, winner of the Utah Division of Arts & Museum’s 2015 Original Writing Contest for Novel. Juror Ernest Hebert wrote, “This is not just a good book—it’s a great book. It could be a classic…a Shakespearean tragedy in the tradition of King Lear. It manages to work on head and heart…Extremely satisfying for the reader interested in fate, the human condition, and the beauty and power of words.”

In this video, Robertson reads the first chapter, accompanied by images from Utah photographer Christine Baczek.



Book Review
Myth-Busting
Branding the American West explores the shifting layers that defined the post-frontier West

Branding the American West, the new exhibit in Brigham Young University Museum of Art’s main floor gallery, is so full of colorful, engaging, accessible paintings, by talented, brand-name artists of regional interest, that patrons likely will find themselves breezing through the exhibit, enjoying one scene after another, with little regard for the larger scope of the exhibition. Sure, it won’t be hard to pick up on the similarities between the paintings of, say, Charles Russell, on one end, and Minerva Teichert on the other, and the cinematic tradition of American westerns they serve to bookend; nor to notice the changing depictions of Native Americans from fearsome “savages” to serene nobles as artists shift their gaze from the Plains to the Southwest; but there’s so much good stuff to look at, from a mini-exhibit within the exhibit devoted to Maynard Dixon, to the dynamic paintings from the Taos school depicting rituals and festivals at the pueblo, that one won’t want to be bothered with wall texts and explanatory tombstones.

Take home with you, then, a copy of the coffee table-ready volume edited by Marian Wardle and Sarah E. Boehme that accompanies the exhibition. Then go back and take another look. Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950, is elegantly designed and chock full of brilliantly reproduced images, but more importantly, its essays probe the complex nature of paintings and films of the American West of the first half of the 20th century from angles the exhibition only briefly outlines. It may have more than one patron rethinking that Joseph Henry Sharp hanging above the mantle.

As the six writers in this 224-page catalog point out, artists of the American West were always engaged in a process of branding, of providing a hungry public with a sometimes shifting but always simplified version of the region—whether it was the wild and dangerous West needing to be broken, like the bronco in a Remington bronze, or the mystical lands of the Southwest where the last remnants of the vanishing Native were to be found.

If art was the weft of these branded tapestries, commerce was the warp. As Susan S. Rugh writes: “without tourism, there would have been no Taos school of painting.” We like to think of the Taos school as reverent chroniclers of a people and way of life they discovered, untouched by modernity. But Taos had been connected to the larger world as early as 1830, when Kit Carson made it a trading hub, and however they felt about the people and land they were depicting, the artists in Taos were in business, stakeholders in a myth which they hawked to as large a public as possible.

They were not alone. Before Maynard Dixon — who receives the lion's share of attention in both the exhibit and the catalog — delved deeper and deeper into slot canyons in search of the “real” West, he was creating advertising posters for railroad companies that shipped an ever-increasing number of tourists and settlers toward those canyons.

The "real" West was always deep and layered, as Elizabeth Hutchinson shows in her essay on the festivals and rituals of the Taos Pueblo. The Taos school artists had been trained to be keen observers and, consciously or not, they captured mainly details that reveal the complex nature of a supposedly simple and ancient society, from their syncretic religious festivals that blend Christianity and ancient traditions, to the complex mix of neighboring tribes that was always as influential on the Taos society as their relationship with the white man.

Depictions of the American West are deep and layered as well. Leanne Howe's charming and learned analysis of the American western, a genre created in the early days of cinema as a specifically American story, includes a discussion of Wild and Woolly, an early silent film where “intertextuality abounds” and the filmmakers take the myth their form was created to perpetuate and lodge it between tongue and cheek to savor all its juices.

Like bucking broncos, myths are hard to bust, especially when they are embodied by images that have become part of our national consciousness. So, if you enjoy your Manifest Destiny clean and uncluttered, your favorite paintings pure and unthreatening, this book is not for you (you should be able to breeze through the exhibit without being overly troubled); but if the story of our American West appeals to you as a rich tapestry in all its various and complicated narratives, Branding the American West will be sure to take you to new and interesting vistas.


15 Bytes: About Us
Our editorial contributors

Ashley AndersonAshley Anderson is a choreographer based in Salt Lake City. She is founder of loveDANCEmore, a blog and biannual journal about dance in Utah, and currently serves as 15 Bytes' Dance Editor.



Simon BlundellSimon Blundell is a Salt Lake City native and has studied art, communication, journalism, design, and advertising. He has an MFA and continues to explore photography and art in all its aspects.



Scotti HillScotti Hill  is a Salt Lake City-based art writer and curator who has taught art history courses at Westminster College and the University of Utah. She currently studies law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the U. where she hopes to specialize in art law, intellectual property and copyright issues.



Ann PooreCamille Pack teaches Language Arts at a private boarding school and received her MA in Literature and Writing from Utah State University.



David G. PaceDavid G. Pace is a writer and literary editor of 15 Bytes. Author of the novel Dream House on Golan Drive, (Signature Books), his creative work has also appeared in Quarterly West, ellipsis...literature and art, Alligator Juniper, Sunstone, Dialogue and reprinted/posted in Phone Fiction.



Ann PooreAnn Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She also worked for City Weekly and has written for such publications as Utah Business and Salt Lake magazines.



Shawn RossiterShawn Rossiter, a native of Boston, was raised on the East Coast. He has degrees in English, French and Italian literature. A professional artist and writer, he founded Artists of Utah in 2001 and is editor of its magazine, 15 Bytes.



Evan WaecthlerEvan Waechtler is a senior in the English Creative writing program at Utah State University with a focus on poetry. He is currently working on a chapbook that explores mental illness with an emphasis on clinical depression, Hope Avenue.

Gregory WalzGregory Walz is a native of Bitburg, Germany and received a B.A. in History from the University of Utah. He has worked at the Utah Division of State History since 2004, in the joint Research Center with the Utah Division of State Archives in the historic Rio Grande depot.  He enjoys music in almost all of its forms and genres.

 


15 Bytes

is published monthly by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization located in Salt Lake City Utah. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 15 Bytes or Artists of Utah. Our editions are published at the beginning of each month. Our deadline for submissions is the last Wednesday of the preceding month.

Writers and photographers who contribute material to 15 Bytes are members of the arts community who volunteer their time. Please contact the editor if you have an idea for an article or feature, or if you would like to volunteer your time to the organization.

Editor: Shawn Rossiter
Contributing Editor: Ann Poore
Contributing Editor: Geoff Wichert
Music Editor: Laura Durham
Literary Editor: David G. Pace
Dance Editor: Ashley Anderson

Mixed Media: Terrece Beesley
You can contact 15 Bytes at editor@artistsofutah.org

Artists of Utah
P.O. Box 526292
SLC, UT 84152
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