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    October 2007
Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization
Jennifer Rasmusson in her studio

Artist Profile: Cedar City
Conversations with Jennifer Rasmusson
by Robyn Heirtzler

Southern Utah artist Jennifer Rasmusson not only makes a living with her paintings, she carries on conversations with them.

Her paintings begin with a base of thickened paint to give them depth, followed by an application of colors to erase any sign that the canvas had shown up at her house in one solid color – white. "I hate white canvases,” Rasmusson says. “They’re no good at all."

Rasmusson resolves this problem with big splotches, drips and splashes of color. She uses palette knives to scrape paint on and off, using many mediums to thicken the paint. Her brushes "scrumble" the paint into the fabric, creating the perfect dips and lines for the painting to follow. This is what Jennifer calls the "real raw part of painting, just paint as paint -- drips and scrumbles."

The process repeats as Rasmusson introduces herself to each of her stark canvases, creating something pleasing with great potential. Five to ten canvases greet her at a time as she molds them into her masterpieces.

"Painting’s more like a conversation to me than it is just painting, because you put something down and then you kind of just go with it," she says. "It’s like a conversation between me and the painting."

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Feature: Alder's Accounts
On the Trail with George M. Ottinger
by Tom Alder

Any description of George Martin Ottinger's (1833-1917) life reads much like a "lost and found" listing in the newspaper: "Lost: Dog with scar on head; no teeth; has broken tail; missing front leg; answers to the name 'Lucky.'" Ottinger was born in Pennsylvania to a family who, when Ottinger was nine, fell on hard times. He was sent to New York City to live with his uncle and aunt. After his aunt died, and with his parents now separated, young Ottinger was passed about from friends to relatives until, at age seventeen, he became a sailor. Working on a whaling ship, Ottinger became frustrated and bolted once the ship docked, for which he is to have spent a little time in the brig.

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Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
A Woman's Place is in the Darkroom
Zuzanna Smolarkiewicz: a woman's place? at the Gittens Gallery
by Geoff Wichert

In a photographic portrait we see Alley, a young woman with olive skin and black hair, in a white room that doubles as kitchen and dining room. Her stance is too energetic to call a pose: she pivots on one foot like a dancing figure carved on a temple, her full length figure facing the viewer but turning into the frame. We see her face in profile, her nose echoing the thrust of a flexed knee. She smiles at the scene before her, where a woman who could be her sister or a close friend entertains a toddler in a highchair. The distant child is the only one who acknowledges the camera, staring out at us as though in a conventional portrait. The photographer has positioned her lens at an angle to the room’s walls, so that the converging orthogonal lines of fixtures and parquet floor reinforce the diminishing scale of the three figures. Everything is triangular, the triangles summarized by the one that starts with Alley, extends deep into space to the child, follows its gaze back to us, then pivots towards Alley to begin the journey again.

Zuzanna Smolarkiewicz is the rare artist who leaves little for a legitimate critic to do. It’s not just that she knows exactly what she wants to accomplish, or that she can explain herself in clear prose that doesn't hijack language for ulterior purposes; it's that what she achieves is pretty much precisely what she sets out to do. These thirty portraits intend to explore the old calumny that "a woman's place is in the kitchen:" to see how well it accords with women's lives today. Has the smartly dressed Alley traded her companion's messy happiness for a career? Then again, isn't this female society exactly where women prosper? Feminists and their foes could trade rhetorical positions and opinions about these lives, but Smolarkiewicz has the infinitely richer and more complex visual truth. If this were a nativity, wouldn't Alley be standing in for Joseph?

Alley, Brooklyn, New York by Zuzanna Smolarkiewicz

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