15 Bytes Column: Alder's Accounts
Borglum, a Household Word? or How I Spent my Summer Vacation
by Tom Alder
No one who has ever seen the movies "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" can deny that they have a fascination with Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore, and I am no exception. I have owned an Infiniti with one of those gizmos that maps out destinations, and one day while waiting (I don't wait well) for my wife, Linda, at Nordstrom I fooled around with the GPS thing and mapped out a car trip to these two famous US landmarks. I quickly realized that they are within 100 miles of each other. I hatched a plan to travel there by car, especially since we hadn't taken a car trip, outside of one to Las Vegas, for years. So, in early July we packed, avoided making any reservations, loaded up the ice chest and headed to Devil's Tower. I won't bother with the details in between point A and point B because there aren't any. With apologies to residents of Wyoming, I think whoever designed the state decided to put all of their efforts into two places -- Devil's Tower and The Tetons -- and left the rest for another day.
As Linda and I approached Devil's Tower on our second day of travel, I immediately morphed into Richard Dreyfuss and had visions of driving my car through fences and fields in pursuit of this grand example of nature's art. This giant monolith's grandeur is enhanced because it dramatically shoots upward in contrast to the surrounding, rolling hills. There are not many trails in the area, with the best being one that encircles Devil's Tower at its base. We were particularly delighted to see rock climbers -- no UFOs -- scaling the sheer face of the north side of the monument. Our time there was joyous and although I will probably never make the long pilgrimage again, whenever I see "Close Encounters" I will have a perspective that not many afford themselves.
The next day Linda and I continued to our final destination, the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. Our first sighting of the carved four presidents that make up the monument was sacred. It seemed like all of the postcards, documentaries, history book reports and movies quickly came together and left me silent. During our visit I learned a great deal about the origin of the monument that faces Mt. Rushmore and its indomitable artist/sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. I don't think many Americans would associate the name Borglum with Mt. Rushmore, let alone realize that he came from Danish parents who had converted to the Mormon Church and traveled the vast distance to the Utah Territory in 1864, settling in what is now the Bear Lake region of southern Idaho. Gutzon (born, John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum) was the product of his father's second plural wife, the sister of the first wife. When Borglum's father became disaffected with the Mormon Church, the jealousies of the two sisters, and the squalid sod-home, he removed his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where he studied to become a homeopathic doctor. Because the Borglums were now outside the protection of the Utah Territory, and therefore outlaws because of their polygamous lifestyle, Gutzon's mother left the family and the children in the care of her sister. The circumstances of her leaving are unclear, but the children were directed never to speak of Gutzon's mother, Christina.
Gutzon was raised in the Midwest and amid the Wild West shows, Pawnee Indians and other characters of the west he discovered his talent for sketching, painting and sculpting. Fast forward to 1891 when Gutzon was studying in Paris at the Academie Julian and Ecole des Beaux-Arts, two favorite training destinations of early Utah artists. Gutzon spent the next couple of decades painting and sculpting across America and his artworks are now housed from the Springville Museum of Art to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. His art even made it to his old training ground in France. His famous statue of Thomas Paine in Paris, was commissioned in 1937 by a memorial committee consisting of several people you may have heard of: Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Sanger and former French premier Edouard Herriot.
Borglum is likely best remembered for his two largest artworks, Stone Mountain, outside of Atlanta, and Mt. Rushmore, a short distance from Rapid City (remember the movie?). The cameo-like depiction on the side of Stone Mountain was created by Gutzon, but due to a falling out with the sponsors and promoters, all Klansmen, Gutzon left the project. I have seen the finished product and although it is quite a stunning portrayal of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, it cannot compare to Borglum's masterpiece, Mt. Rushmore. This project began with South Dakota state historian, Doane Robinson, who, with an eye on tourism, invited Gutzon to tour the Black Hills, proposing that he carve several likenesses of American heroes. After much discussion and searching for the right promontory of granite, Gutzon settled on the present day site [see image]. Borglum would carve the monument honoring Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt on and off for some seventeen years, until his death in early 1941. Gutzon's son, Lincoln, who had worked with his father in many capacities on Mt. Rushmore, would continue another seven months on the sculpture until funding was depleted and Lincoln declared the monument complete. It was two months before Pearl Harbor and the US entry into World War II and there was no hope of additional funds to finish the presidents as Gutzon had envisionedin full profile.
An additional project, the Hall of Records, was commenced late in 1938 as an 80-foot tunnel, intended by Gutzon to lead to a large room in which records would be deposited "of what our people aspired to and what they have accomplished should be collected and preserved." Gutzon reasoned that future generations might not understand the full significance of what the figures that he carved represented. "You might as well drop a letter into the world's postal service without an address or signature, as to send that carved mountain into history without identification," he asserted. The Hall of Records, located out of site and behind the carved presidential heads, was completed and dedicated in 1998, housing only a small vault that contains sixteen enamel panels that capture the text of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, descriptions of the four honored presidents and various other historical details.
Mount Rushmore is as much a monument to the genius of former Utahn, Gutzon Borglum, as it is to the presidents he sought to honor. That Gutzon could effectively express his art in small sketches, painted murals, freestanding sculptures and bronzes testifies to his high ranking among American artists with Rushmore as his zenith.
Linda and I drove away from one of the grandest art attractions extant that hot July day and returned to Utah. Rushmore remained punctuated in our minds as we crossed hundreds of miles of otherwise barren land. I'll never view two of my favorite movies in the same way again. Remember that name, "Gutzon Borglum," and make it a household word.
-- For next month's column Tom Alder is preparing a spooky account of haunting, specters and mysterious happenings in Utah's visual art world. If you have a story to share, email him at email@example.com
Gallery Spotlight: Heber
Two Sisters, Two Buildings, One Gallery
by Emily Chaney
Arriving early for my appointment with Cynthia Stott, owner of the Two Sisters Fine Art Gallery in Heber, I pull into the gallery's parking lot just off highway 113. The buildings in the area look like a western town from the 1800's with sidewalks made of wood planks. The gallery occupies two buildings next to the Snake Creek Grill. The main gallery is a charming red-sided building complete with delicate railing and French doors beckoning people to enter.
As I make my way along the sidewalk towards the French doors, Cynthia Stott eagerly strides towards me, telling me she has just come from the movie set of Dark Matter, a film starring Meryl Streep and Adian Quinn, due out this fall or next spring. She had loaned art and furniture to the film for two set dressings,
As Stott shows me the different set pieces, I glance around at the art displayed on the walls of the main gallery. The open one-room space has an elegant southwestern feel. The floors are a worn wood mixed with marbled tile. Stott is meticulous in arranging the art so that the natural light from the windows attracts the eye to each piece.
Walking next door to the gallery's second building, Stott opens the French doors, allowing the evening breeze to carry in the aroma of fresh grilled steak from the Snake Creek Grill next door. As we walk to the next building, I notice two paintings hanging on the outside walls; they compliment the building and greet the visitors. This building is also a single room and displays Asian style furniture, bronze sculptures, oil paintings, and a striking digital image created by Alison Armstrong. Stott delights in talking about every artist she represents and has a strong relationship with each. She firmly believes in nurturing and encouraging artists in their work. Stott found most of the artists in her gallery by going to various art shows, including the Spring Salon at the Springville Museum of Art, and art festivals and by artists introducing other artists to her. She currently shows work from Karrie Penney, Jack Morford, Joyce Baron, Jason Christensen, and Sophie Soprano, to name a few. She also supports her sister, Lynn Farrar, a mid-career Utah artist, by showing some of her work.
“Two Sisters” came into being when Stott left her home in San Diego and her job as a butterfly biologist, and traveled to Utah to visit with her three older daughters who were attending college. While here she stopped into Edelwiess, a gallery in Midway, and came upon the idea to open one of her own. She figured it would be a way to make a living in Utah, and also support her sister, and so the gallery was christened "Two Sisters Fine Art."
Stott found the actual store location while dinning at the Snake Creek Grill. She noticed an old run-down building and immediately saw a vision of a gallery with a unique style and the opportunity to become a destination spot by combining fine food from the Snake Creek Grill with art. Stott transformed the building by rebuilding the sagging floors, replacing the gloomy blue siding with a warm red, and adding a few other finishing touches.
Because of her love for art and living by her tag line of "Fresh. Organic. Traditional." Stott has made the gallery a destination for her clients from Park City and around the country for almost three years now. Stott believes that the clients appreciate her dedication to exclusively showing original art from local Utah artists. She credits the success of her business to her philosophy of showing only art she loves herself and by showing only quality pieces, making the room simple yet interesting, so the customer can concentrate on each piece.
Two Sisters Fine Art Gallery is currently showing new work by Anne Gregerson, a ceramic clay sculptor, for the month of September. Gregerson, an Idaho native, grew up the daughter of an avid outdoorsman. She followed her father over mountain trails, and floating the South Fork of the Snake River with him in an old yellow rubber raft. This early connection to nature, she says, is her touchstone, her anchor. Though she has been interested in art her whole life, she did not begin her academic training until the age of 40. In 1997 she graduated from Brigham Young University with a BFA in Fine Art with an emphasis in sculpture. Most of Gregerson's works are hand built in clay and examine interpersonal relationships or the solitary figure in moments of contemplation.
The gallery has recently added the work of digital photographer Alison Armstrong, voted one of Ten Artists to Watch in this month's issue of Salt Lake Magazine. A creative portrait photographer by day, and co-owner, with husband Tom Taylor, of www.picturesandstories.com Alison does her digital collage photography for fun stating: "My inner child still wants to play with paper dolls. . . only now she plays with very expensive equipment, which is why my inner grown-up must offer for sale the results of her indulgence."
Besides exhibitions, Two Sisters Fine Art Gallery features artists by having them create their art while in the gallery - an unusual attraction, but one sure to attract visitors.
For more information on shows and the Two Sisters Fine Art Gallery go to www.twosistersfineartgallery.com.