September 2006
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Stefanie Dykes . . . from page 1

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Perhaps part of the reason for this is precisely that we encounter so much more art through reproduction than we do in person. Even we professional art viewers turn to copies to refresh our recollections of direct encounters. Prints, being eponyms of the mechanical processes that produce everything from cereal boxes to Andy Warhol’s celebrity portraits, suffer less from this abridging. But I don’t think that explains the sense of immediacy I feel like a jolt of electricity when confronted by a print. Rather, my sense is that prints fulfill my desire for a certain kind of modern experience more immediately and more fully than do other kinds of images.

We don’t look at art the way our ancestors did, and enjoying older works requires learning to see in outmoded ways. That’s part of what I teach in my Art History classes. The elaborate verisimilitude of painting gives us enormous pleasure, but it fails in one crucial way: a fault it shares with our own, biological vision. Among the dazzling visual array available to us sophisticated moderns, it remains on the raw end of the data stream. The things the painter “shows” us are scarcely discernable against the background illusion. A print, by contrast, is a far more modern way of encoding visual information. The painter shows us two things at once, or maybe three: what was there, what it means, and how he feels about it. A printmaker shows us all these things, but may also diagram relationships between the parts, or contrast two- and three-dimensional ways of showing, and all the while make us aware of her intervention without having to degrade the information to do so. Compared to painting, then, which is a medium of the eye, prints are a medium of the mind. It was Marcel Duchamp, who also said the camera was just a mechanical means of making art and neither good or bad in itself, who called for a more cerebral, less “retinal” art for the future. We—and our prints—are that future.

In a sense, then, Stephanie Dykes’ prints may be viewed not only as evidence of things she has seen and contemplated, but as sometimes-explicit, aesthetically-driven diagrams of those things. Technically speaking, Dykes is plugged into the present; her academic credentials are up to date and she is fully engaged with the contemporary print movement through SaltGrass Printmakers, the cooperative, non-profit facility she co-founded with Sandy Brunvand. A desire to create the visual future is ambitious, and her ambition is evident at once in both the large scale of the individual prints and the limited palette she uses, which places sense data on a more equal, less privileged footing alongside what she knows about its sources. "Discharging Her Duties," a tour de force of printing almost seven feet long, presents a meticulously rendered panoramic industrial setting on the edge of nature, a familiar synecdoche for life on the dry bed of the Great Salt Sea (and a perfect place to find salt grass). Against this background she arrays a compendium of likely impossibilities: a farmer in a welding mask, a cow with a cell phone, a brace of Carnival clowns hanging from a crane, a man in wading boots gently cradling a miniature freighter whose deckhouse seems to be a sprawling collection of buildings that belong on land. |1| In the center, intently studying something we don’t see, her back to us, sits an enigmatic female figure, her pocket full of drawing tools. If this is a portrait of the artist at work, she is not the only recognizably familiar figure in view. In the sky, in the corner where our eyes end up if we scan the image while walking from left to right, a heraldic troop of flying angels wrestle a banner we can’t quite read into the picture. If we could read it, we may rest assured it would say In Hoc Signo Vinces: In This Sign You Shall Conquer.

Such familiar visual tropes, recognizable to some viewers and ironic to others, abound throughout Dykes world, but they are only part of the homely connections she offers. A veritable encyclopedia of representational styles marches along as well. What might be shrubs lining the road to the factory office building turns out, on closer inspection, to be a pair of high-contrast lines of work men, like those on the dole seen waiting in depersonalizing queues in images of the Great Depression. Elsewhere, Renaissance and Victorian decorative patterns, familiar from decorative textiles and luxury goods, form ambiguous fields -- pale background or transparent foreground? -- to scrawled or carved figure studies. The vocabulary of printmaking is explored and exploited everywhere. In "Cyclical Time Too," a pair of crones stands on either side of a central, framed image of an architectural vase.|2| One’s skin is marked by the texture of chiseled wood; the other’s is shaded by a continuous, looping scribble of line. Elsewhere, similar textures render draperies on classic figure pairs: two angels, two saints–one with a shopping bag looped over an arm, or the great medieval duo: the crowned figure of the Church triumphant juxtaposed against the blindfolded symbol of the Synagogue.

One insight into Dykes’ terrestrial cosmology comes from the frequent use of animals one might see in a city or near a lake. Squirrels pursue acorns that seem to fall not from oak trees but from Renaissance ornaments. Long-legged birds—storks, egrets, feathered cranes—groom women’s hair or wait patiently for us to look away so they can move. Another may lie in her use of the term Shiviti to identify several prints. In Jewish tradition, a shiviti is a printed plaque placed on a wall in the home, reminding the occupants that “I have set the Lord always before me.” It is not just a framed piece of paper, though: spiritual power binds it to the spot and exacting ritual is necessary to move it. It may be the closest thing a printmaker can have to a tutelary spirit or guardian angel. It is also, in Dykes’ case, a sobering reminder that all this play aspires to serious ends.

One instance of sobriety interwoven with celebration is "4 by 4orty by 4." |3| At first glance a most grave image, it could come straight from the pages of an alchemical text. Four elaborately decorated, stately goblets stand arrayed as on a shelf above a field of knot work decorations each made of four long-stemmed seedpods. As an example of the encyclopedic universalism of Enlightenment taste it merits not just examination, but long and careful contemplation. One scarcely needs to know that it recalls a night when four women, in common celebration of their fortieth birthdays, shared the intoxicating contents of their individual experiences with love; but knowing that, the generic similarity of the vessels’ utilitarian design and the fanciful, unique way each is turned out take on a ripe significance.

Like any true artist, Dykes is most interested in the work she is doing now. One piece at C.U.A.C. that suggests where she may be going is elaborately entitled "Fibonacci Task With Ernst and Duchamp, to be continued . . .". Made up of several set-pieces that increase in size as they spiral around the sheet on which they are printed, it raises the question of whether the artist means to continue its exploration of the frottage technique of Ernst and the optical experiments of Duchamp—two seminal contributions to our visual lexicon—or whether it would be enough if the viewer imagined its path out into space for her. Another current project, only hinted at here, involves constructing a Gothic cathedral of the mind in a series of large prints. |4-5| Wrapping around the room to surround and incorporate the viewer, the work will combine extensive research into the aesthetics, the engineering, the social, economic, and historical aspects of one of humanity’s greatest moments with the observations and, most likely, the biography of the owner of one of the most inquisitive and playful—may one say curious?—minds on the contemporary scene.

Stefanie Dykes' work will be on display at CUAC through October 3rd. Work from her continuing Cathedral series can be seen in Salt Lake at Patrick Moore Gallery through September 9th. The artist is also participating in the PARTNERS exhibit opening September 15th. Visit her website.
Special Feature: Arts Festivals
Art Outdoors in September

In years past, 15 Bytes ran an article on Arts Festivals at the beginning of every summer. With the emergence of more festivals across the state, however, there are only a couple of cold winter months in which there aren't any festivals to cover, so our art festival coverage will become a regular feature for most of the year. So, even though the summer is winding down, the time to get out and see art isn't. This month the state has outdoor art events -- festivals, street fairs and studio tours -- in the east, the south, the middle and the north. Next month our coverage will include the Ogden Arts Festival and Everett Ruess Days in Escalante. If your community has an art festival and you want to be on our calendar, notify us at

Moab Open Studio Tour (Sept 9 & 10)
As you read this, artists from the Moab area are cleaning up from the first weekend of their annual Moab Studio Tour and preparing for the second and final weekend of the tour on the 9th and 10th. This is the third year of the event, which invites patrons to visit artists' studios in the magnificent redrock setting which inspires much of the artwork. During the Tour, artists are on hand to talk about their artwork and give demonstrations of their methods. The Studio Tour is held in conjunction with the Moab Music Festival making these first two weeks of September the ideal time to visit Moab. Artists open for this second weekend include Eric Trenbeath, Bruce Hucko, Jonathan Frank, |6|, Alex Burbridge, Serena Supplee, |7| Chad Niehaus, Deborah Shank, Wendy Newman, |8| Brian Parkin, Teri AnnTibbetts. Fore more information and a map of the artists' studios visit

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Salt Lake City Avenues Street Fair (September 9th)

If you'll be in the north of the state this weekend, you can still enjoy the weather and peruse art at the 2006 Avenues Street Fair in Salt Lake. This annual event, which celebrates a unique neighborhood in Salt Lake and the artists who inhabit it, runs from 6 to 9 pm on September 9th. The Street Fair occupies 11th avenue between D and I streets. 200 booths will fill this area, including artists, commercial vendors, food and informational booths. Stefanie Dykes (see article this page) designed the T-shirt for this year's street fair and will be available to sign the shirts at her booth. Children can arrive at 9 am in Halloween costume for the children's parade.

Cedar City Arts Festival (September 22)

Cedar City is best known for its nationally acclaimed Shakespearean Festival. While many drama enthusiasts visit Cedar City during the summer to attend the festival, what many don't realize is that there is a second season which takes place for six weeks in the fall. To kick off the fall season, the Cedar City Arts Council has organized their Fall Arts Festival, which takes place on September 24th, the opening weekend of the fall Shakespearean festival. The festival features local and regional artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photogphraphy, and jewelry. And like any good Festival, Cedar City's includes musical performances and food booths. Southern Utah University's Braithwaite Gallery will also have recently opened their exhibit of the full series of Goya's Los Caprichos etchings (see page 9), so whether you like your culture local, britannic or continental, Cedar City will be the place to be.

Spring City Artists Studio Tour (September 23)

Memorial Day weekend, when Spring City holds its Heritage Days, is the time when most art enthusiasts think of visiting Spring City, a small town in central Utah home to a number of artists. But if you just can't get enough of this gem of a town and the artists that make it home, then the September Artists Studio Tour is the time to take that drive to Sanpete valley. A $10 ticket gives you access to the studios of 25 artists. On the tour are fifteen painters who either live there full time or maintain a second/home studio there. The list reads as a who's who in Utah art: Michael Workman, Douglas Fryer,|9| Lee Udall Bennion, Susan Gallacher, |10| Shirley McKay, Osrall Allred, Cassandria Parsons, M'lisa Paulsen, Ed and Kerry Soper,|11| Scott Allred, Kathleen Petersen, Randall Lake and Joan Durfey. In addition to the painters, you'll find: potters Joe Bennion and John Parsons, photographer Paul Allred, bootmaker Don Walker, knifemaker Jerry Johnson, violin/viola maker Holly Nicholes, silversmiths Garth and Vivian Jepperson, ceramicist Gina Garner, and marquetrist Les Kraut. For more information contact Phyllis Snedecor at 1-877-537-2377.

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King's Gallery Academy

Annie Kennedy