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October 2006
Published Monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization.
Bryan Larsen
Artist Spotlight: Draper
With Age, Subtelty: The Life and Art of Bryan Larsen
by Shawn Rossiter

When I googled Draper artist Bryan Larsen, whose work is now on exhibit at the Rose Wagner Arts Center in Salt Lake, I found, in addition to his current website, a few galleries that carry his art, an old web page of his, a collaborative site with Damon Denys, and a number of group sites bearing names like “rational art” or “romantic realism.” When looking at these pages I began reading things like “I began to suspect that fine visual art was dead. No one seemed interested in teaching students how to draw well, or paint well”; or he talked about creating “artwork that I considered worthy of being called Fine Art,” and I saw his almost militant emphasis on use of materials like linen and rabbit skin glue, I began to conjure up the image of a reactionary young artist, railing against modernism and calling for a return to the art of a different century. So, when I asked Larsen to meet me at the Rose Wagner for an interview, I figured it would be an interesting hour or so. When he showed up on a sunny afternoon in late September, his two-year old son in tow, I was presently surprised to find Larsen wasn’t quite the black-shirted crank my suspicious mind had invented.

Larsen creates meticulously rendered images filled with figures, buildings and machinery. His general philosophy about art remains the same as it did when he started painting ten years ago – he believes in a strong work-ethic and a dedication to craft, and is propelled to make art that portrays the heroic in a modern setting. But as I discovered during our conversation, not only is he articulate, generous, engaged and determined, but he has, by his own account, matured somewhat, and has opened himself to things he had previously shuttered away.

Larsen grew up with two interests as a child: art and mathematics. Both have woven themselves in the sometimes circuitous path he has followed in becoming an artist. All through his school years Larsen was involved in art classes, and his involvement in the Sterling Scholar program in high school gave him access to recruiters from the art schools around the state. Ultimately, Larsen decided on Utah State University because in their illustration program, headed by Glen Edwards, he felt he could find the classical training in painting and drawing that he wanted to incorporate into his work.

Halfway through his program, though, Larsen quit. He says that while he was in school he began to enter shows and look around at galleries but at these venues he couldn’t find any of the type of art that he felt he wanted to do. Discouraged, he decided he would pursue a degree in engineering and would have to paint on the side.

In the meantime, Larsen moved to Salt Lake and got married. He and his wife, Sara, decided he would work while she finished her degree in geology and then he would return to school. At the same time he started to become close friends with Damon Denys, an artist he had met at Utah State, who shared his artistic philosophy and now lived in Salt Lake as well.

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Publication Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Trent Call Keeps on Swinjing
by Kasey Boone

In last month's edition of 15 Bytes, Kent Rigby asked "Where will all the young lions go?" referring to the recent closing of the Unknown Gallery and Kayo Gallery, both of which showed younger artists often outside of the mainstream art world. I have a partial answer, but my response is not a gallery, it's a book. Well, really it's a zine, but more on that later. A lot of the artists you might have seen at the aforementioned galleries find themselves wedged between the covers of Swinj Art's newest publication, Swinj No.6.

Swinj Art is the creation of Salt Lake City's Trent Call, who since 1998 has been publishing zines filled with the artwork of local artists. Call is the type of guy, I imagine, that would draw on just about anything, like his hand is on auto-pilot, furiously scribbling away while he goes about his daily tasks; so that I imagine doodles of his turning up on the kitchen counter as he stirs a bowl of pasta, in the marginalia of the magazines at his dentist's office, or, if you weren't paying attention very well, crawling up your arm as you sit to interview him (which is why I chose to shoot him a few email questions rather than drop in his studio).

All of this is part of my imagination. For the record, I have yet to come across one of his figures or comics in my dentist's office; as far as I know, his counters are as clean and sterile as an operating table, and I have yet to be subjected to a free Call tattoo. But I don't think my daydreams are far off because his art does seem to be everywhere, and he does seem willing to draw/paint on all kinds of surfaces. You've probably seen Call's work, though you might not have known it. His work has been in the Main Street kiosks. If you've ever seen a poster for one of the Open Studios at Poor Yorick's (another lamented closing) you'll have noticed his unique graphic style that gave that den of heterogeneous artists a brand. Or you may have picked up a CD, seen a cover of Slug Magazine, attended an exhibition opening, bought a skateboard, -- all visual forms that have come under the doodling hand of the artist.
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