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October 2006
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Swinj Art . . . from page 1

Akin to Call's desire to draw is his desire to publish, which began in 1998 with the publication of the first copy of Swinj. Call is pretty matter-of-fact about putting these things together, as if taking the time getting artwork (he mentions "arm-twisting" in the same breath as "getting artwork"), photocopying it, putting it in book form and distributing it locally is the most natural thing in the world. "I know all these amazing artists who have all this wonderful stuff," he says, "so I may as well publish a collection. That's what swinj has always been, a collection of my friends' work . . . I've always wanted to make a book, why not, I like making things. I like books of art."

But don't get the wrong idea. By book of art, Call means something different than the heavy, excessively margined, glossy-print coffeetable art books that make for great Christmas presents for your cultured brother-in-law. The kind of art book Call is putting together is for a culture all its own, where margins are optional, any paper that will photocopy will do and layout is often done with scissors and tape. This is the zine culture, and Swinj No. 6 might work better as a gift for your skater nephew than his stodgy, corduroyed father.

The zine culture is a world unto itself. Zines started out as a method for small, micro-communities, often outside the mainstream, to create a community and spread the word (or image). Usually the zines are distributed free of charge. Politics, art, comics, extreme sports, music, religion -- anything can come under the rubric of zines. They are the extension of the alternative newspapers passed out in high school bathrooms. Or the descendants of the revolutionary pamphleteers (read Lenin or Hamilton, depending on your political persuasion). Without a doubt, they are the forerunners of the now pervasive blog. Their power comes from the community that gets behind them. In recent years, zines have become extremely popular, and some, which started out as black-and-white, Xeroxed, stapled, productions have grown to full glossy spreads.

Swinj hasn't reached this point, but Call has introduced color into some of his publications, and the most recent one, No.6, boasts 153 pages and over thirty artists, twice the size of any previous edition.

Tessa Lindsey's contributions to Swinj No. 6 are a series of collage works that incorporate drawing and photo-copied images, (which work particularly well in the zine format), and examine questions of identity and sexuality. |0| Photocopied images of a 50's pinup girl in shorts and sweater mix with drawings of an ironing board and iron while captions describe the girls longing to recapture the magic of an erotic dream. It reads almost like a short comic (of which there are other examples from artists like Call, Sri Whipple and Jason Jones |1|) but has the look and irreverent tone of some of the California collage artists of the fifties and sixties.

Cein Watson's odd, undefined shoots and bubbles that lead from one thing to the next remind me of what I remember doodling on my notebook margins in Mr. Jaeger's German class in high school.|2| A lot of the work in the zine is stuff taken straight from people's sketchbooks. Pages out of Steve Larson’s sketchbook show drawings of urban scenes including notations for the development of finished work. |3| This look into the thinking process of the artist, and the immediacy of the drawing medium, are what draw you into a publication like this.

Sri Whipple's denizen of liquored up, chain-smoking skeletons, bogeymen and cartoon puppies, at home on the back of a skateboard, reproduce particularly well in Swinj No.6. |4| I found myself wishing that more of the art looked this good in reproduction, though I suppose if it did, this would feel more like an art publication than it does a zine. For two of David Clark's pages, Call has shown the photocopying process. You can see the spirals of Clark's sketch pad -- an ode to the zine aesthetic, which was much more prevalent in previous editions.|5|

The finely rendered drawings of Jonathan Clarke have the delicacy and intricacy of a Renaissance silverpoint drawing. But, of course, his subjects are slimy, sharp-toothed creatures out of a horror flick. But that’s what you get in Swinj.|6|

Patrick Eddington's cats are another example of magnificent and delightful drawing, though the photocopying process dulls them a bit.|7| In some cases the work seems a bit clumsy (well there is a certain purposeful clumsiness in a lot of these but that's not what I'm talking about), like those sketchbooks passed around in high school by the art kids. If I keep mentioning high school, I suppose it's because that's what Swinj reminds me most of, the time when kids' notebooks would get passed from one interested kid to the next; when kids who "could draw" cared more about album cover art and comic books than the march of art history.

There is a certain ethos created by this publication. It is the sense of a group of friends, a group of insiders, that sense of belonging that comes when you're around other people who don't belong to the mainstream; if nothing else that is what this publication is going for. But there's something different in this edition of Swinj. The production is better, the perfect binding gives it a quality feel, and I don't know if Call's circle of friends is simply getting larger or if they are all maturing together, but the art seems to be getting more professional.

Maybe that's because Call's been at it for 8 years, so he has some experience. "It's actually easier than it used to be," he says. Swinj has never been published on any type of firm schedule -- you can look online and see all the former editions to see what I mean -- but Call is convinced he’ll keep at it. "SWINJ will continue forever I imagine. Although I try and follow a philosophy that Art Spiegleman had with RAW magazine, creating each issue as if it's the last, put all you've got into it. Once your ready another shall arrive upon its self. I have a few different zine projects currently in the works all under SWINJ ART PRODUCTION, collections of drawings, comics, and themed collections. They shall happen when they do."

When I pointed out to Call that there are certainly easier ways to get artwork seen (websites, for instance) he said the zine/book format felt more real. "It's not pixels on a screen. It's real. You can share it in a group, whereas a website or e-zines are most usually viewed privately. . . You own it. You don't just visit and look." To own your own copy of Swinj No. 6, visit Call's website or, for the "real" book buying experience, go to Ken Sanders Rare Books.

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Feature: Alder's Accounts
Art That'll Spook You
by Tom Alder

It may come as no surprise to most Utahns that we are ingrained with superstitions, folklore and other lies—oh, that sounds terrible. After all, most folklore is true, right? Perhaps it is because Utah remains the “Crossroads of the West,” and along with that title we have inherited the best and worst of stories and tales from all points of the compass. Part of my parents’ families came from the Isle of Man with the early pioneers, and with them came superstitions that even I struggle with from time to time. I don’t set a place for Elijah anymore at the table—hearing that one creeped me out!

Since this is the month of spooks, goblins and ghosts, there exist many fine examples of spookiness and vivid folklore in Utah, in the art context. The roots of the majority of these stories seem to relate to the performing rather than the visual arts. Who has not heard about George, the usher who was killed in a 1940s fire in the Capitol Theatre? I hear tell that the lights still turn on and off without control sometimes, and the toilets flush without anyone initiating them. I have the same problem in my house, but I don’t think it has anything to do with my toilets being haunted.

Not too many years ago, I read a story in The Salt Lake Tribune about the man in formal clothes who still roams the halls of the Charleston Apartments, that imposing building of solid concrete where architect Frank Lloyd Wright once refused to stay on a visit to Salt Lake because he thought it might collapse. The well-dressed man about town has even been known to wander up and down 13th East, perhaps for Wright’s benefit. Since the Charleston houses the visiting artists who perform at The Simmons Pioneer Theatre up the block a piece, maybe some fine member of Actors’ Equity simply didn’t make his costume change at the theatre before he headed to his temporary digs.

Speaking of Pioneer Theatre, Meg Brady, noted folklorist and oral historian from the University of Utah, reminded me of the taboo on saying “Macbeth” before any play. Her son, Ned, was in a Babcock Theatre play in 2000 when someone uttered, “Macbeth” to many disgruntled actor ears. The legend was confirmed when, during the play, a panel fell, hitting someone who required a visit to the hospital for repairs.

Utah art and historical museums are not exempt from their “true” stories. Edith Mena from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers told me that there are still stories floating around about a photographer who used to take death pictures, that is pictures of those who recently passed away in order to be remembered by his or her relatives. The photographer, who, by the way, still wanders the halls of the DUP Museum at the top of Salt Lake’s Main Street, use to paint eyes into his photographs of the dead, to make his subjects more alive, I suppose.

Lila Abersold, of the Utah Arts Council, reported to me that the stories of the “Purple Lady” still abound at the Rio Grande Depot, where by the way, much of the Utah State (Alice Art) collection is housed or spends time for cleaning and conserving. During World War II, as the story goes, a girl’s fiancé returned from the war, arriving at the Rio Grande. The girl and her returning soldier had a fight, resulting in her ring being dropped or thrown onto the railroad tracks. As she bent over to pick up the ring, well, you know the rest. A train hit and killed her, and so she remains at the depot in her purple clothes, the same that she was wearing that fateful day. You could call Dr. Phil Notarianni, the state history director, who might provide some more rational explanation to this story, or maybe some recent sightings.

How about Clem at the Fort Douglas Museum? He’s the guy who walks around the historical museum in an old army uniform. I love how these stories are legitimized by obtaining names for them, rather than just, “The Ghost of…”

I remember the Brigham Young Farmhouse, now housed at This is the Place Heritage Park, when it was located on the site of Brigham’s 823-acre orchard, about 2300 South and 700 in Salt Lake. This double-gabled, pinkish stucco home, believed to have been designed by Salt Lake Temple architect, Truman O. Angell, was cut in two—don’t get ahead of me now—and moved to its present site some years ago. Employees and volunteers at the home continue to report that they have seen a woman, presumably, former resident, Ann Eliza Webb, in the dining room, sitting in a chair and looking out the window. They hear voices of kids playing, smell food cooking and, in addition to hearing door knobs rattling, listen to “people” walking across the upper wooden floors.

Lastly, I recall writing a research paper for Dr. Robert Olpin’s Utah Artlife class at the U, and one of the requirements was that I needed to view a local museum or gallery, and report on the art therein. I visited the Salt Lake County collection, compiled by Olpin and others, and noticed a work by Francis Horspool. He’s the guy who produced his paintings and continued painting his scenes over the frames. Sometimes he believed that fairies haunted them. Indeed, if you examine his painting, “River Bed Station” (1939, O/C, 34 X 54 in.) you can see all sorts of bizarre little gargoyles, demons and other spooks, the sort that would keep me up as a child, were Horspool’s painting hanging in my bedroom.

Whatever your belief system is, you should take time this month to recall your own artistic superstitions and other demons that haunt you and tell them to your children, grandchildren or art students. Feel free to adapt these stories to the situation so that they can best benefit your household or class, pretty much like our parents did for us in our Octobers past.

Horspool

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