December 2005
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Beverly Wheeler Mastrim . . . from page 1

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Beverly may have had an early start when she discovered her passion for art on that morning as a six year-old, but realizing her dream proved to be a challenge. When she was a girl in school in the 1940’s and even as a student at the University of Utah from 1952-1956, only a few outlets existed for art. There were no art teachers, classes or career fields established for the craft. Nine months after celebrating her wedding in the family farmhouse in 1943, her Grandpa Wheeler passed away and a nineteen year-old Beverly left Utah for the first time. The Wheeler children and grandchildren had returned to the farm to assist Henry when his wife and Beverly’s grandmother, Sariah, died in 1928. With his passing the need to stay close to home was no longer needed.

Beverly’s husband’s work led them to San Francisco and there she continued to search for her dream. In the year and a half she lived there she worked nine different jobs, forcing her art to take a backseat to a regular paycheck. But work in hat factories, dress shops and doll factories did not intrigue her like painting did. A union job as a butcherette at Safeway Foods was an easy transition for Beverly, courtesy of her training growing up as a farm girl. As a child, her mornings before school were spent milking cows, hauling hay and dressing chickens. This past experience, combined with good wages, kept her content at this position, but it didn’t satisfy her desire to be an artist. The closest she got to the art world while in California was an interview with a local sketch artist. The traditional interview questions were tossed aside and the only request he had for her was to draw a sketch of him. Beverly obliged and then waited. He never returned her call and Beverly eventually left Safeway Foods and California behind her and returned to Salt Lake City.

Back in Utah, Beveryly studied at the University and began developing her careers. She credits the Associated Utah Artists for displaying her work, which resulted in her first sale as an artist. She recalls it being purchased by a woman whose name she has long forgotten, but the piece sticks with her -- it was a brass pitcher with grapes and peaches. Beverly has exhibited award-winning landscape paintings locally and in 1952 began work as the art exhibit supervisor for the Salt Lake County Fair. A similar position for the Murray Showcase of Fine Artists was also started in 1958. With many awards to her name, Beverly’s artwork is represented in numerous collections both locally and elsewhere, including the Wheeler Historical Farm House.

When Beverly reveals to me that she was born in the dining room of the 100 year-old historic Wheeler farmhouse on a chilly March morning in front of a "heaterola," my puzzlement over this term prompts Bev to seek out a piece of paper and pen so she can explain it with a sketch. At this moment it is obvious she is a true artist, someone who uses lines and shapes to articulate and communicate. In the span of one minute both a history lesson and an original Mastrim piece are dispersed, both free of charge.

Beverly’s medium continually changes and is based on what she determines looks the best for each object, including pastels, watercolor, oil and sculpture. “Some of my paintings are social and philosophical having concern for world affairs and preservation of environment. My style ranges from representative paintings to the abstracts depending on subject matter.” Her current project, a small book with good friend and writer Ethel Bradford, follows a farming theme. Entitled “The Sunset of the Farmer,” it is a collection of historical sketches by Beverly and accompanying memories from Bradford. The two ladies agree that there is a decline in the interest of farming and the book is a reflection of a time period each remembers fondly. “To me the farmer is an aristocrat among men,” Beverly states.

A fixture in the art scene in Salt Lake City and well traveled nationwide and abroad, Beverly considers Utah a top rate state for artists. Unlike most people, a vacation for Beverly does not include a break from her work. She visits galleries, exhibits and makes a point to paint while on the road. On a recent trip to London she did not feel right until she got some painting in. She has witnessed the growth in the art world here in Salt Lake City during the last few years and strives to keep it growing by bringing back fresh ideas about what galleries are doing around the world and using what she can implement on her own. Any idea that increases awareness and expands one’s view on the subject always gets her attention. She misses the Sunday Salt Lake Tribune newspaper columns from professor and critic George Dibble who passed away a few years back. He was a voice in and about the local art community and in her view nothing has since replaced him.

Even though Beverly has exhibited statewide and has received numerous awards and accolades over the years she still strives for her big break. Asked what her favorite piece is, she responds with, “The one I haven’t done yet” and likens the journey to gambling. Artists are always looking for the jackpot. Being an artist equals constant turmoil over ”never knowing if you’ve made it as an artist.” This motivation keeps her working at her craft today. Those of us lucky enough to know Beverly and enjoy her talent have truly hit the jackpot. For her's is a life rich in history and art.

Wheeler Farm honored Beverly’s legacy and ancestry by establishing The Beverly Wheeler Mastrim Art Gallery on the grounds in 2002. True to her roots, the gallery showcases both the works of local artists as well as works from the Salt Lake County Art Collection. The exhibits rotate several times a year and new artists are always welcome if space allows. The idea is simple -- provide local artists a venue to showcase their work.

Tuesday, December 13 the Wheeler Historic Farm will host members of the Intermountain Society of Artists and their guests at aHoliday Buffet and celebration of the year 2005. Drawings for art supplies and original art, along with special gifts for those attending, will highlight the evening from 6:30 until 9:00 pm.

Exhibition Preview: Springville
Joseph, Joseph, Joseph
Photographs by Don O. Thorpe
by Chris Brooks

On December 23rd, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of church founder, Joseph Smith. Smith’s tumultuous life has received attention from the time he began speaking of visions and golden scriptures to his assassination in a frontier jail; and his life and personality continues to fascinate modern thinkers and scholars, including literary critic Harold Bloom and Columbia University professor Richard Bushman, who recently published a cultural biography of Smith, subtitled “Rough Stone Rolling.”

Joseph Smith also fascinates many artists, especially those associated with the Mormon church. Salt Lake photographer, Don O. Thorpe, is one such artist and his recent pilgrimage to the sites of Joseph Smith’s life are the subject of an exhibit opening at the Springville Museum of Art at the end of this month.

Thorpe is a Utah born artist who has shown at the The Finch Lane Art Gallery, Eccles Gallery, Harris Fine Arts Gallery, The Utah Arts Council’s Alice Gallery and others. He has developed a personal style he calls Impressionist Photography that uses digital technology to create effects in his photographs to enhance his subjects’ emotional character. Many of his photographs are fairly untouched while others can be very graphic oriented, with saturated colors and pixilated surfaces.

This summer, Thorpe held an exhibition of photographs at the LDS Nauvoo Visitors center. Nauvoo was the last home of Joseph Smith and the city the Mormons fled before coming to the Rocky Mountains. The subjects of the photographs were “sites and artifacts relating to the life and times of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The photographs were created with a variety of photographic and artistic techniques using color and texture enhancements designed to touch the emotions as well as the literal senses.” When he returned to pick up the pieces from this exhibit, Thorpe spent more time visiting sites related to Joseph Smith and the LDS church. Photographs from this trip, as well as those in the Nauvoo exhibit, will be on display at the Springville show Joseph, Joseph, Joseph.

One of Thorpe’s pieces depicts a statue of Joseph Smith. |1| Thorpe’s impressionistic technique reduces the background material into washes of teal and orange contrasting against the silhouette of the statue to create a very modern look. Many of Thorpe’s photographs are about place rather than person. With the specter of a dead man – and his legacy – as subject an artist must go to other places to reveal his subject. Many times Thorpe does this with shots of the buildings – a newspaper office, the prophet’s home in Nauvoo, the temples at Nauvoo and Kirtland – Joseph Smith and his people built. |2| Sometimes these can feel too much like travel brochure images. But in other shots, Thorpe creates more subtle images.

Smith Cabin Window at Palmyra” is one of my favorites. |0| The photograph shows a cold, wet, misted-over windowpane, with the diffused light of a lantern seen through the glass. The piece creates a strong sense of separation, of being in and being out, of looking “through a glass darkly.” In this respect it is a strong work in and of itself. With the title, more associations come to mind. The photograph seems to highlight the concept of “the veil” articulated by Smith, a veil of understanding between this world and the supernatural world, a veil that Smith parted at various times in his life. The glassed over window also reflects the attempts of scholars, the faithful and the curious to understand Smith, especially his early years.

Many other images are landscape scenes, many depicting early morning or evening. Though this is often a choice for photographers because of the effects of light, I think it is also central to Thorpe’s attempts to depict Joseph Smith’s life through the landscape. The morning motifs reflect Smith’s “birth” of a new religion, his “ushering in a new dispensation” as Mormons often say. And the twilight scenes reflect Smith’s tragically early death. In this respect “The Road from Nauvoo to Carthage” is a powerful image. |3| It shows a lumbering, leafless tree, but from the green grass and trees in the background we know that the tree is dead rather than slumbering in winter. The tree almost looks like a crucifix prophesying Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.

Some of the other landscapes have some very strong composition with the verticality and curves of trees juxtaposed against the straight lines of the Midwest landscape. |4| A number of the images seem to be very well done and I think will have an appeal to a broad audience, but I imagine that most will be attracted to the images as visual reference points of the life of a man they care dearly about. This is what has attracted the artist to these places.

Joseph Smith has a special place in my life.” Thorpe writes. “ My wife is a convert to the church from France, and though she knew the restored church was real, she had some reservations about Joseph Smith. So, during the first year of our marriage, I took her with me on a six-week tour of many of the church historical sites. On a hot summer day in August we climbed the stairs of Carthage Jail and stepped into the room where Joseph and his companions were shot by a mob. We were the only people in the room, standing there in hushed silence. Suddenly my wife began to cry and said, ’I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and I can feel his spirit in this room.’ Since that time, Joseph Smith has been a special member of our family circle. We named our first born son after him, and I dedicate these two exhibits to him as a token of our love and eternal respect.”

If you catch Thorpe’s exhibit, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph in its first week you’ll also be able to see the Springville Museum of Art’s annual Spiritual and Religious Art of Utah, where you’ll find a number of other artists who were influenced by the man Thorpe and the LDS church celebrate this month.

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::Susannah Yaunt-Torreano recently took over as the new director of The Womens Art Center. Founder and former director Teresa Flowers, stepped down in October due to health reasons.

::The Salt Lake Gallery Association is pleased to welcome Meri DeCaria as their new president. Born in Minneapolis, De Caria attended the Pratt School of Design in New York and earned a BFA at the American College in London. Her work includes several commissioned public murals downtown and is exhibited widely in galleries and shows. DeCaria has been the Director/Curator of Phillips Gallery for over ten years and an active member of the SLGA since 1991.

“I can’t think of another Salt Lake organization that opens its doors on a monthly basis, at no charge and is able to give back so much,” says DeCaria, “People come away from the galleries refreshed in mind and soul, they are excited about art. My hope is that we can find a way to reach out to those who haven’t already discovered the wonderful world of art in Salt Lake City. There are 33 members representing mainly local artists here, it is a little know fact that our community is wealthy in art. These are the people of our neighborhoods. We want to introduce this incredible and unique side of our city, which is constantly refreshing itself to everyone.”

DeCaria replaces Kent Rigby, artist and architect who faithfully served the organization for 12 years, more than half of the organization’s 22-year existence. “The opportunity to work with the SLGA has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” reflects Rigby, “Visual art is very important to the cultural climate of Salt Lake and lends greatly to the quality of life. I am honored to have been fortunate enough to play a small role in helping to gain greater recognition for, and participation in, the visual arts.”

In addition to Meri DeCaria, the SLGA welcomes Michael Berry and Amity Waldecker to their executive committee. Berry will serve as secretary and Waldecker will serve as treasurer. Laura Durham and Kristina Robb return as vice presidents of the organization.

:: Local photographer John McCarthy announces the opening of his new gallery, John McCarthy Photography at 1500 South 1100 East. The opening exhibition features photographs of Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Avenues area of Salt Lake City.