Utah Watercolorsts . . . from page 1
I grew up with the work of Gaell Lindstrom in my house. By the time I had graduated High School, my family had moved five different times. Each house became our
house when the artwork was finally put up. And by and large, the artwork that went up was Gaell’s. The first ones were a couple of wharf scenes from the 1950s, paintings I think Gaell didn’t feel were satisfactory but which he let an uncle of ours take out of his studio (1). We also had a large forest scene, in umbers and ochres, that resembled a Jackson Pollock drip painting (2). As I grew up, we acquired others -- either as gifts from my grandmother or outright purchases -- a "junk" painting from Gaell's time in Hong Kong (3), a scene from Guatemala, a storefront in an old mining town. Visits to my grandmother’s house in the summer gave me glimpses at more of his work -- dark skies over deserted homes in Montana mining country and even a few early redrock paintings. When, now living in my own home, I was able to scrap together enough money, I bought my own piece by Gaell -- one from a series of ink wash paintings, inspired by time in Taiwan and China. The works are done on tissue-thin paper and is a process of developing a somewhat referential space -- a mountain in this case -- from a lucky accident of ink on paper (4).
A few years ago, as I was just beginning to take my life in art seriously, I spent a few days at Gaell’s home outside of Hurricane. We drove down across the Arizona border to the Marble Canyon, home to a couple of California Condors, Lee’s Ferry, and an amazing combination of white dunes, red rock cliffs, and ultramarine shadows. An eager storyteller, Gaell kept the conversation going the whole time with remembrances of his early painting days -- classes with George Dibble, a cross country painting trip with LeConte Stewart. When he first started studying watercolor, he recalled to me, he was told all kinds of things that he couldn’t do. Watercolor was about limitations. You had to paint light and you had to use a certain palette. He was told, for instance, that there was no way one could mix two dark colors like Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber. So that is precisely what Gaell set out to do. And did it masterfully. An award-winning watercolor of his hangs in his front room. It is fairly monochromatic -- some old white home fronts with velvety dark shadows and skies. I’m pretty sure it’s a watercolor constructed around the possibility of mixing Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber. Much of his work has been created in that same dark vein and is what I believe sets him apart from many other watercolorists.
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Except for Osral Allred
, that is. Allred studied with Gaell and the relationship is unmistakable. Allred uses the same dark, rich palette, pushing the depth of his color in a granulated fashion. At the recent show at the Patrick Moore Gallery, I was struck by a stunning painting of the back of a boat on a shaded lake. With washes and dots of color, Allred had created a very still, very dark negative space that wrapped itself around the fairly simple forms of the back end of two motorboats.
I like Allred best when he paints old farm machinery or an abandoned locomotive. The textures and colors he achieves makes one think he is painting with rust itself. He seems often to work from the center, detailing the prop on a speedboat or some other feature, and then fading into non-referential washes or negative white spaces towards the edges of his pieces. The effect is compelling and has an oriental feel to it. Allred has no problem letting the color spread out on the paper, filling a space without detail or description. He alternates this method with areas of detail and texture.
But both of these artists really have nothing to do with Ed Maryon. They are just the diversion of a wandering mind. If anything, Allred and Lindstrom serve as a contrast to the work of Maryon, who paints light, flat and in a very controlled manner.
But that’s just it. If someone were to describe to me the work of Ed Maryon, I would be sure that I wouldn’t like it. But I do.
Lindstrom and Allred love the dark moody places, the run down and rusted out. They delight in the scrumble of the watercolor across a surface. They love to let the brush show. But Maryon effaces the brush. He constructs his paintings, minutely. Tightness usually bores me. But what amazes me about Maryon is no matter how gridlike, composed, and thoroughly thought-out his paintings are, they remain fresh. It frustrates me to no end. Because I can’t see how he does it.
The recent monograph of his work, 96 pages with 80 color reproductions, provided me ample material to search for his secret. The book provides just enough biography to take someone along through the progression of Maryon's work, highlighting his early years in California and the lasting impression it had on his subject matter; his years as an instructor at the University of Utah; and the development of his mature style. I found particularly appealing the many quotes -- from Maryon himself and from colleagues and art writers -- sprinkled throughout the book. It was one of these comments that led me to thinking about Gaell Lindstrom and took me down the detours that kept us from our initial subject.
Ed Maryon images 0
If you are familiar with Maryon’s work, most of the images in Ed Maryon: Reflections of the Artist
will seem recognizable. But a few fresh suprises are in there to discover in the fifty year career of the artist. The images from the fifties, his student days, are fairly straightforward watercolors: scenes of wharfs, railroad tracks, and city corners in slightly muted umbers and ochres. The sixties and early seventies are covered in just a couple of pages;but the works are certainly a surprise, a move in an abstract direction, influenced, as Maryon notes, by Doug Snow. Sausalito
(1) is an imaginative balance of the wharf scenes Maryon was painting a decade before and the abstracts he would have seen Snow producing during this time. Other abstracts produced in the early seventies take on a harder edge, looking more like the late work of Don Olson.
At the same time, apparently, Maryon was experimenting with the “cubist” style that he would develop for the rest of his life. In these works, reminiscent somewhat of Stuart Davis, the paintings are laid out in blocks of flat color laid across the surface in intersecting planes. The subject matter remains the same: the California coast, fruit stands, old cars.
By the eighties, Maryon’s work had completely shed itself of the muted tones of his earlier work, concentrating on scenes of bright days, cast shadows, and an adroit interplay of light, color and form (2). With some deviations, this seems to be the style that has engaged him for the past twenty years. He is able to capture a wide range of subject matter with this style. There is not a great deal of watercolor effects in his works -- not the splashes of Allred or the scrumbling of Lindstrom. Things are often laid out in hard edge lines like his abstract pieces of the seventies. Everything becomes faceted. All of this creates a strong sense of dimension, despite his even washes and relatively slight modelling.
His storefront pieces (a subject he shares with Lindstrom and Allred -- so there are some similarities) lose this dimensional quality and tend to be my least favorite. Still, his eye captures some masterful designs and some gorgeous color combinations, as in Club Leones, San Migue
I could go page by page dissecting Maryon's work, but I'm not sure that I would come to a satisfactory conclusion. I feel almost as if he is tricking me. I get the “feeling” that the paint is doing more than it seems to be doing on closer inspection. Maryon's watercolors have an indescribable quality about them. The freshness in design, in color, and in line keeps a very controlled and flatly painted watercolor from being boring. Far from it. The works are elegies to structure and grace.
These three Utah men of watercolor each appeal in their own way to my eclectic tastes. They have stretched the possibilities of their medium in such a way to make it stand the equal of its more opaque colleagues.
Sadly, these artists are not exactly in their youth (though Allred, who with a show coming up at the Eccles Community Art Center will have had two large exhibitions within a month of each other, certainly doesn't act like it). They have left a great legacy in the state. But as I consider the three artists, I stop to ask myself, where is the next generation? Are their equals working now in the state? . . . But that would be the subject for a later detour.
Organization Profile: Salt Lake City
by Allen Bishop | Photos by Tami Baum
When printmakers Sandy Brunvand (MFA) and Stefanie Dykes (BFA) graduated from the University of Utah, they recognized a real need in the Wasatch Front art community, one I also felt after graduation years ago. Many art students revel in learning printmaking techniques on expensive equipment in college and university art departments, but no longer have access to that equipment after graduation. Realizing this need hatched an idea that in turn became the mother of Utah’s first non-profit cooperative printmaking studio.
Saltgrass Printmakers, located at 2126 South 1000 East in Salt Lake City, has assembled much of what printmakers need to continue their passion, and plans to acquire other equipment to make available to anyone interested in making (or learning to make) prints for a modest monthly membership fee or for an hourly rate (Open press times are Thursdays 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays 3 to 6 p.m., advance reservations required). The shop offers working spaces with presses, roller, brayers, and other materials needed for professional artists, students and the curious public to create a broad range of relief and intaglio prints. As the membership grows, Saltgrass may add lithography and screen printing to their arsenal of capabilities. On a regular rotating basis, classes and workshops in wood block, etching, collagraph and monotype printing are taught.
Facilities include 32”x60” and 28”x40” etching presses, etching facilities, a Vandercook letterpress, work areas, print gallery and other support for fine-art printmaking. Users are asked to provide their own paper, ink and image matrix; etchants, ink additives, hard and soft grounds, blotters, drying rack, scrim, newsprint, etc.are provided by Saltgrass Printmakers.
Brunvand and Dykes, who founded and run the Sugarhouse print shop, are both artist-printmakers who have a vision for Saltgrass Printmakers’ role in Utah’s visual arts community. Saltgrass Printmakers is “dedicated to the fine art of printmaking.” That vision extends beyond supporting artists and printmakers, by sponsoring “exhibits that increase the public’s appreciation and understanding of the printmakers' art.” Saltgrass will continue to provide educational programs, and to establish a facility open to professional and beginning printmakers. Having opened their doors just over a year ago, however, Dykes and Brunvand say that Saltgrass Printmakers is, in some ways, still finding its voice -- “what we are about.” Clientele has included professional artists, teachers, homemakers, writers, art students, etc. Although professional artists were originally targeted as primary users, the general public has since taken the lead, with many taking classes to explore the printmaking process.
Knowing that most students are brand new to printmaking, what is their teaching philosophy? While not wanting to overwhelm students with too much too fast, they give them just enough information to get them into the actual work as quickly as possible. Students are encouraged to bring ideas for their own prints. Some students come to class knowing just what they want to do and loaded with images. Instructors are more than happy to help others who are more tentative to develop their own ideas. But after getting started, many of these students soon find themselves collaborating over ideas and techniques, even teaching each other; and excitement builds for their newfound passion. “We often see students just take off into something they never dreamed of before.”
Many printmakers are excited by opportunities to trade editioned prints with other artists in a “print exchange.” Saltgrass has sponsored two print exchanges during the past year. The first one was by invitation for a Saltgrass Printmakers fundraiser last November. Twenty printers created an edition of prints for the “First Impressions” exchange. Each printer received a print from each edition in return for their participation and donated the additional prints to Saltgrass to help raise funds for equipment and materials. A current print exchange is open to all printmakers and all printmaking techniques. The theme, developed by Lisa Nichols, a member of the printshop, is “When Cultures Collide.” Details and deadlines are posted at Saltgrass Printmakers website. This exchange will be on display during the April Open House on April 29. For participating printers, this is a great way to build a print collection on a shoestring budget, and for everyone else it is a great way to enjoy the wide range of techniques and opinions that print exchanges offer.
Professional artists and art instructors have been very supportive. Often people will “just pop in” to find out what is going on or how they can get involved with Saltgrass. Teachers from the University of Utah and Westminster College have brought interested classes through to learn what is available locally in printmaking.
Saltgrass Printmakers also sponsors print exhibits in their modest sized gallery. I have been very intrigued with the wide variety of styles and approaches represented there.
I recently tried my own hand at Saltgrass by printing a collagraph combining flat and textured color areas in an abstract design requiring four runs through the press. I used two work rooms and both etching presses and found a clean, logical layout and easy accessibility of equipment and supplies that enhanced production efficiency. Definitely more so than when I have printed in my own studio with its usual clutter. Brunvand and Dykes were always helpful, interested and available if for any reason I could not find something (rare).
If you are a printmaker or have even a slight urge to learn about it or just mingle with artists passionate about their craft, you owe it to yourself to try Saltgrass. At least call or stop in to chat with Sandy Brunvand or Stefanie Dykes. You’ll be glad you did.
For further information see the Saltgrass website: http://www.saltgrassprintmakers.org or call 801.467-1080, or visit during open shop hours 11:00 am-3:00 pm weekdays.