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May 2006
Published Monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization.
Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Beautiful Chaos: Bruce Robertson
by Laura Durham | photos Manju Varghese

Works by Bruce Robertson are on view at Salt Lake's A Gallery May 11 - 31st with an opening reception Thursday, 11th from 6-8 pm and a Gallery Stroll reception Friday, 19th from 6 to 9 pm.

People rarely see Riverton artist Bruce Robertson on a down day. His optimism and positive perspective are second nature to him despite the discouragement and frustrations that often come with balancing a creative career with an administrative one (he is Executive Director of the Visual Arts Institute in Sugarhouse). The responsibilities and obligations that come with day-to-day life can weigh on him as well. If his wife, five children and two grandchildren don’t keep him busy enough, serving as LDS bishop for his local ward does.

This month, A Gallery features Robertson’s work in a solo exhibition entitled “Beautiful Chaos.” Just a week or two prior to the exhibit, at the time of this interview, his studio is populated with, what appear to be, disparate pieces awaiting completion so they can be released for display. At times, Robertson says, he has difficulty deciding when a painting is complete and admits it is usually when the gallery demands it that he decides he is finished.

Robertson’s studio reveals an active, ambitious artist, launching into new visual enterprises from a solid, academic foundation based on drawing. Figurative sketches, sculpted heads, mannequins, and a library of books inhabit his workspace. Occasionally, frustration or administrative demands will pull him away from his art for a while and he returns confused or disappointed. “Sometimes I come back to a painting and wonder ‘where was I going with this?’” Robertson says, “as if I were drunk when I started it.” “Beautiful Chaos” applies not only to the relationship among the artwork on display at A Gallery, but also embodies the artist’s outlook on disruptions that bring disorder to our lives.

Cultivating the Artist
The aim of art is not just to imitate nature, but to participate in it in such a way as to create new and believable worlds.

Robertson grew up in Southern California, but would visit his grandmother’s art studio in Roosevelt, Utah on occasion. With a love for the smell of linseed oil and turpentine, he always knew he wanted to be an artist, but never took formal classes as a child. His mother took community art classes and he would accompany her to those, but he didn’t absorb much from the experience. “It was kind of a ‘paint along with Bob’ kind of thing, so I would go walk around the parking lot while she was in class.”

Robertson’s first organized art class was with James Christensen his freshman year at Brigham Young University. “He instilled a sense of adventure,” Robertson reminisces. “He was such a storyteller and he could set up the dynamics of the studio to make it interesting.”

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Exhibition Review: Salt Lake
Bird Flu & the Emperor's New Clothes
A Conversation w/Cein Watson & Joe McVetty
by Jim Frazer

Cein Watson and Joe McVetty III’s exhibit To Leave and Never Return is on view at Kayo Gallery in Salt Lake City through May 15th. The artists were once students together at the Maine College of Art; Cein now lives in Salt Lake and is a triple major in philosophy, art history and printmaking at the U of U; and Joe just graduated from the Maine College of Art and is taking a year off before grad school. Cein’s work was recently shown in the fall of 2005 at the Kimball Art Center in Park City (read more). Joe’s wall drawing was exhibited in The 19th Drawing Show at Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts in January of 2006.

I spoke with the artists as they were installing at Kayo Gallery. Cein was working on a large wall painting that occupies the entire west wall of the gallery. Joe was working on some large drawings in pencil on gessoed paper. In preparation for this interview, I asked the two to name some of the influences on their work. Cein sent me a 300-word list of artists, philosophers and concepts. Joe just told me that I needed to understand Bill Buckner in game six of the 1986 World Series.

(We go over to look at Joe’s work, standing in front of a drawing of what appears to be a gargantuan fart rising into the stratosphere from a crouched figure)

Joe: That’s the Challenger explosion. I think the defining year in my life was 1986 into early ’87 – the Challenger explosion, Iran Contra and Bill Buckner.

Cein: It shaped the man he is today.

Jim: Because those are just events that stick in your mind?

Cein: I think that you’re looking for meaning and there’s no meaning here.

Joe: No, There’s meaning in 1986!

Cein: There was maybe then, for you.

Jim: Tell me about the relationship of what happened to Bill Buckner in game six of the 1986 World Series to your work.

Joe: I was at that game with my Dad. The thing that struck me about what happened with Bill Buckner was that you could have more of an effect on people by screwing up than by doing your job right. That’s what I see myself as doing.
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