Operation Salt . . . from page 1
It should perhaps come as no surprise that the works that most reliably deliver a sense of an artist in control of her effects are among the more conventional. Erin Esplin's diorama, "Oblivious," turns viewers to voyeurs as they gaze through a glass window into a box and find themselves watching a woman taking a bath. Here the artist makes a far clearer, if also more obvious, connection between art and the ethical issues surrounding privacy. Grace Ashby's witty paintings include "I See You, I Smell You, Now Kiss Me," consisting of four square panels hung in a larger square, each covered with a thick layer of paint through which a trompe l’oeil facial feature appears to protrude. “Pearamount Invasion” a surreal fantasia on historical images of war and bombing, points up the futility of placing observers in the path of events they can't do anything about. In the gallery’s corner, her "Watcher," a painted stand-up figure of a man in business suit-and-binoculars, points up the mundane, if not exactly banal, nature of the act.
Paul Stout's three small sculptures, enclosed in vitrines, are each a small planet supported by a base the massive size of which emphasizes the little world's vulnerability. "Genetic Erosion" is planted in one continuous, spiraling furrow to emphasize the ongoing reduction in species variability. "For Another Night of Warmth" finds a tent pitched in the tiny remaining clearing on an icy world. The world of "After the Armistice" is a cratered wasteland on which a few trees valiantly still stand.|1| A more ambiguous comment on nature can be seen in three more paintings by Erin Esplin that play on the tendency of birds to seem toor actually tostand on man-made structures and watch us. Her vulpine birds favor wires that may carry telephone or cable signals, while the dripped and scribbled skies behind them hint at uncertain messages.
Artists are expected to have edgy personalities, but among Utah's largely complacent artists Amanda Moore stands out as one who takes no aesthetic prisoners in pursuit of showing just how things truly are. Her four large images employ voluptuous commercial product photography on peripheral items that aren't usually subjected to such glorification, so that the suspicions she raises about commodity, security, and privacy are referred back to the ideas of consumption and consumer values. Anyone who has ever received a credit card solicitation from a strange bank that somehow knows his private financial affairs can appreciate the threat behind these real-looking but blank cards. And while many of us carry a bar code-marked convenience tag on our keys, how many of us have noticed that the directions on the back instruct finders of lost keys to return them to the merchant?|2| Moore has even put her own credit card in a microwave to show how the electronic chip under the hologram reacts.
David Baddley's two mural-sized prints from film exposed to airport X-ray machines make for more abstract photography, while pointing out the risks to more than just vacation snaps. It wasn't that long ago that the adverse health effects of medical X-rays were controversial, but any progress made in that direction was long ago lost to the invasive use of electro-magnetic radiation for prying into non-medical questions. Baddley's vast images resemble Mark Rothko's black paintings, but instead of faith find only visual noise.
To my mind, Kristina Lenzi's video, "Coffee and a Cigarette," shows why video continues to be both a prolific and a marginal medium. Evidently a surveillance video, shot from above, of a man innocently consuming the title items, it mates either a rich or an annoyingdepending on tastesound track of eavesdropped conversations with a grainy image that Andy Warhol would have made last for hours. Although possessing a certain power to make aesthetic an event that otherwise defies interest, such works make their admittedly valid points in seconds, but go on interminable. The questions then arises: why not a conventional work, such as a painting, that uses the maker's skill in selecting one key moment and presents that for contemplation, rather than a plethora of succeeding instants that attempt the same effect but end up numbing the viewer's senses?
The most ambitious piece in Surveillance is "W(hole)," |0| an elaborate and interactive sculpture installation by Shasta Fletcher that initially confronts the viewer with a life-sized, photographic image of a pregnant woman parting her clothing to display her swollen belly. A red and gold mandala and a wooden frame surround her, marking off a private space that can be entered visually through the veil that covers where her face would otherwise be. Looking through this gauze portal one sees ones a clock face of 12 men and women's faces surrounding a mirror. In the mirror are reflected the back of the mandalaon which appear a pair of collage-modified copies of the Last Supper, one inverted below the otherand the viewer's own eyes, peering though the hold voyeuristically. Red yarns keep the anatomical allegory in mind, threading through the interior space and spilling from the woman's navel. Fletcher has chosen not to enclose her work in the manner of its ancestor, Marcel Duchamp's “Etant Donnés,” thereby forcing viewers to explore its complexities entirely through its title orifice. Perhaps she's chosen instead to take mercy on viewers by allowing limited entry into the "backstage" area, where this rich and variegated presentation of the human sexual circus can be more completely surveilled.
Fletcher reminds us that the root of "surveillance" must lie in moving beneath the veil. Whether that veil is the skin that covers our body or the privacy of our relationships, it's an irony of our time that at the very moment when privacy struggles to become established in law, it is attacked with new vehemence by forces of social reaction. Those who share the notion that art, whether or not it can change anything, ought to at least comment on such matters will find a visit to the library even more meaningful than usual from now until September 13.
Up & Upcoming: Salt Lake Area
Up & Upcoming This Month
WILLIAMS FINE ART (200 E South Temple Ste 100, 534-0331) UP: Early and recent paintings of national parks and the Tetons, Bryce Canyon, and Yellowstone, many painted in the 20s and 30s, before roads. Susan Rugh, author of "Are We There Yet?," will discuss car travel in the 50s and 60s and sign her books.
ART BARN/FINCH LANE GALLERY UP: Paintings by Jim Sullivan and sculptures by Tom Hartvigsen and Chip Larkin. Sullivan's abstracts explore religion, spirituality, and energy. Hartvigsen's sculpturals explore ways that plants and animals interact with people on physical, intellectual, and historical levels. Larkin's textured and geological forms made from porous clay and concrete mixtures include electronic and other found objects.
Through September 12.
SAM WELLER'S GALLERY ON THE MEZZANINE (Sam Weller's Bookstore, 254 S. Main, 328-2586) UP: Cringe:Purge, a high school retrospective. Featuring the poignant high school works of local artists including Nolan Baumgartner, Mike Bernard, Trent Call, Brady Gunnell, Steve Larson, Stephanie Leitch, Tessa Lindsay, Brian L. Schiele, Sri Whipple, Sabina Wise, and others.
DON BRADY DRIVE-THROUGH GALLERY (1301 S 2100 E 801-582-4300) UP: Storm's Coming, an installation and first collaboration by Elmer Presslee and Xkot Toxsik. The best times for viewing are rumored to be from dusk to 3 am.
GATEWAY GALLERY OF FINE ART (south end of Gateway Mall; 595-1600). UP: The High Country, mountain scenes by Bryan Mark Taylor.
HALUS World Furnishings (3003 S Highland Drive; 486-0407) UPCOMING: To celebrate the opening of Halus, T-squared Art presents new paintings by Cassandria W. Parsons, Carlisle, Susan Gallacher and Tricia F. Terry.
ART ACCESS GALLERIES UP: The Female Vernacular, mixed-media works by Downy Doxey and Amy Adams AND Note to Self, paintings by Shilo Jackson (see page 1). UPCOMING: 14th Annual Partners Exhibit: nine emerging adult artists with their professional mentors. AND: In Gallery II, the 11th annual Art Access Teen Workshop Exhibition, featuring juried work by 50 teens who participated in this year's program.
UMFA UP: Monet to Picasso from the Cleveland Museum of Art. (see July edition). The Museum is closed for remodeling and touring its comprehensive collection: Modernist masterworks from 1850 to 1950. Through September 21.
NOTE: UMFA is not open during Gallery Stroll.
SALT LAKE ART CENTER UP: Interweave: Innovations in Contemporary Basketry. No longer just utilitarian, these baskets are sculptures, often thematic and imbued with meaning. Through September 27.
AND: Present Tense - artworks and installations by 25 artists who participated in the 337 Project. Created so that an audience from Salt Lake, Utah, and beyond can learn about the effects of the 337 Project and to allow the artists to show their post-337 perspectives.
UTAH CULTURAL CELEBRATION CENTER ART GALLERY (1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City, 965-5100) UP: Face of Utah Sculpture IV. 40 well-known and emerging sculptors present Utah culture, showcasing traditional and contemporary techniques, styles, mediums and forms. AND: Childhood Fantasy, by Tim Little: a large scale winged fairy riding a stick-bug will entice children to interact with the art by honking noise makers and pulling levers that produce streams of water!
AND: The Wild Life of Dollores Shelledy, an outdoor sculpture exhibit of life-size zoo animals.
Through August 20.
UTAH ARTS ALLIANCE UP: New works by Layne Meacham. With multiple layers, assemblage, rough primordial markings and built-up surfaces conjuring primitive material from the unconscious. Through August 30.
A GALLERY UP: 25th Anniversary exhibition with gallery artists. UPCOMING: New paintings by Zane Lancaster.
CITY LIBRARY (4th Floor Gallery) UP: Surveillance by Operation Salt, a 10-member arts collective (see page 1).
PICKETT FAIRBANKS GALLERY UP: Summer Views by Cheryl Merkley.
SOUTHAM GALLERY UP: Spring Exhibit. Paintings and sculpture by gallery regulars.
EVERY BLOOMING THING (444 S 700 E, 521-4773) UP: Carole Evans, Colleen Howe, G.J. Labonty, Megan Pingree, and Arron Stills.
ALICE MERRILL HORNE GALLERY (617 E. South Temple, 236-7555) UP: The five paintings added to the Utah State Fine Art Collection during the 2007-08 fiscal year plus six recently conserved pieces.
TIN ANGEL CAFE UP: Works by Elmer Presslee.
APERTURE GALLERY UP: Local Artist Open House, featuring work by over 16 local artists.
LOCAL COLORS OF UTAH (535 S. 700 East, 363-3922) UP: Red Show, featuring work from all members of the gallery including paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery, glass and fiber.
KEN SANDERS RARE BOOKS UP: New landscapes by Leslie Thomas.
ART AT THE MAIN UP: Dazzling Dust, new works in pastel and water media by Julie Morriss. Through August 9,
PALMERS GALLERY UP: Figurative painting by John Sproul. Through August 9th.
PHILLIPS GALLERY UP: Summer Group Show featuring the gallery's artists. UPCOMING: works by Waldo Midgley.
NOBROW COFFEE & TEA UP: Remembering the Magic, memorial show for artist, Steve Salget.
UTAH ARTIST HANDS UP: The latest work by Steven K. Sheffield.
WASATCH FRAME SHOP UP: Colors of Costa Rica, photographs by Adam Barker through August 30.
STATIC SALON (240 S 400 W, 363-0900) UP: Gerry Swanson, will be exhibiting a diverse plethora of work including: Inner Turmoil (spray-paint series), Left In Stones (frottage drawings), Cardiovascular Road Maps (ink drawings), Circular Logic (acrylic paintings) and other thought inspiring pieces.
SALTGRASS PRINTMAKERS UPCOMING: STEAMROLLER, a community project to create large woodblock images to be printed with a steamroller (see page 3).
WOMENS ART CENTER UP: POP!, a new spin on pop culture from the 1940's to today. The new executive board of the Women's Art Center introduces themselves to the public with this group showing of mixed media and photography.
CAFFE NICHE UP: Alex Boynton vs. SCIENCE, works in ink, watercolor and oils exploring how things burn, melt, evaporate, and react to gravity. John Edam, digital photography
CHARLEY HAFEN GALLERY UP: The Liquid Landscape, water designs to engage the desert eye by Dayle Record.
RED KILN UP:New works from nationally-known Utah ceramic artist Richard Barker. Also featuring works of other well known Utah ceramic artists.
KAYO GALLERY UP: Print Parallels, international exhibit featuring artists from Saltgrass Printmakers in SLC, UT, USA, and Malaspina Printmakers Society in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.