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June 2006
Published Monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization.
Artist Profile: Helper
Dogs, Laundry and Art: Helper's Marilou Kundmueller
by Melanie Steele

On a typical day in the studio, artist Marilou Kundmueller is not alone. The floors, chairs and couches surrounding her painting space are littered with dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors. But Marilou doesn’t mind. She loves dogs, especially her own.

Only two dogs out of the herd belong to her: Poncho, the wise old Dalmatian-Border Collie, and Smudge, the fun-loving Border Collie mix that loves to run the hills surrounding her home in Helper. She describes them as having “good souls” and always being “full of love and enthusiasm.“ The other dogs usually belong to fellow artists or friends who have left town and need a sitter.

The dogs are just there for company, though, not as subject matter. Fabric is Marilou’s current fixation. Linens, tablecloths, napkins, handkerchiefs, flags, bandanas, and any other kind of cloth imaginable have found their way into her recent paintings. Whether she is portraying piles of laundry, stacks of vibrantly colored t-shirts, or vintage material with intricate patterns, her tight realism echoes her meticulous nature. Marilou says she paints cloth because she loves the complexity of its light logic and subtle changes in color. Representing the delicate texture and folds also appeals to her. “The fabric can be literal or a metaphor for almost anything.”

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Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
What Gets Filtered Out By Speed: Jean Arnold at Phillips Gallery
by Van Lewis

Artist Jean Arnold was in the Helper Hotel seven years ago, sketching people coming and going. The difficulty of sketching even the most cursory glimpse of them, besides underlining the differences between drawing and photography, triggered a multi-year experiment in the depiction of movement. Her current show at Philips Gallery in Salt Lake City, mostly paintings based on drawings she did while riding city buses, is the most recent result. I have rarely seen a bunch of paintings that so strongly demands engagement and that deals so plainly in the following simultaneities: sensual and cerebral, abstract and figural, planar and spatial, journalistic and subjective. My enjoyment of these paintings is multilayered: they are forthcoming enough that I feel a simple pleasure in their colors, shapes, and sense of space, but they are difficult enough that I feel compelled to make sense of them, to put my mind to them. They are well-painted and technically proficient, but never slick: so many of the lines are rendered in an in-the-moment, child-like calligraphy that I feel required to take each line seriously as the map of some thought or intention. They can read like straightforward abstracts, but they are right on the edge of figural depiction, right where my mind keeps trying to grab hold of something clear and intelligible. I am feeling pretty smug about this observation, that Arnold is painting in the margin between abstraction and representation, when I realize that the piece I’m looking at is called “Fool’s Errand”. It is clear that no single exegesis will be adequate for this body of work.
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Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Constructing the Self
30 Self-Portraits at SLC's Main Library
by Kasey Boone

DaVinci. Okay, there, I’ve said it, and now 15 Bytes can join just about every other publication you’ll read this month where you’ll find mention of the famous poet, engineer, painter and courtier from the little town of Vinci. Of course, you’ll also be reading about a code.

But not here. I won’t even take the time to mention how silly the novel is, and as far as the film goes, well the book is always better, isn’t it, so you can just imagine what the celluloid Code must be like. But I will mention Leonardo daVinci, the man behind the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa. Literally, he is the man behind the Mona Lisa, at least if one accepts the theory of Dr. Lillian Schwartz, who believes the Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait. The source of that enigmatic smile, then? The artist liked dressing in drag.

What Mona/Leonardo’s smile tells us, whichever theory you hold to, is that portraiture still fascinates us. Not stiff, formal portraiture, the type commissioned by people of power and status – think about it, when was the last time you spent any amount of time in a museum gallery of 18th century portraiture? – but real portraiture, artistic portrayals of a person unfettered by the guiding hand of the patron. But how often does this happen? How many people can afford to commission a portrait of themselves? And of those that can, how many want an unvarnished (speaking figuratively) version?

Which leads us to self-portraiture and the current exhibit at Salt Lake City’s Main Library. Constructing Self: Thirty Self-Portraits is an exhibit of, you guessed it, thirty Utah artists portraying themselves and is being held in honor of the Utah Art Festival's thirtieth anniversary. Portraiture and self-portraiture have managed to weather the artistic storms of the 20th century, faring much better than, let’s say, history painting, the former king of the mountain in artistic circles. Many modern artists – from the early ones, Cezanne and van Gogh, to more recent ones like Chuck Close, Lucien Freud and Andy Warhol -- have made portraiture a central part of their oeuvre.

But, ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a portrait in a Utah exhibition? (Let alone an entire exhibition of portraits). And maybe for good reason. Unless you know the person, or the sitter has an intriguing smile, why care about portrait art? But there is something about self-portraiture that interests us in a way other portraiture does not. And maybe that is because when artists step forward to depict themselves, we expect something more than an agreeable likeness that will be pleasing to the paying customer. And something more is what you’ll find in this exhibit.
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