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   March 2009
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four of the thirty-five Chris Purdies
Chris Purdie . . . from page 1

Chris Purdie 5: I used to think maybe identity was having an internal identity and everything else was trying to come up against that, trying to break into that identity but in doing this show and doing the things that I have been thinking about, I think I realize more that identity is made up of your environment and the people around you. I remember this kid in the fifth grade who had tons and tons of quirks and everyone recognized his character and I remember at one point I realized I didn’t have these quirks so I started making some up. Now that is past, but push and shove we take from people. 3: I feel it is really important for us to understand the differences between different people and how each action that we have with someone affects the way we think. Every person that I ever talk to in my life will change my life in some way and I think that by examining that closely I have a better understanding of who we are. 4: For me, my identity came across more from my family, doing some genealogical work, hand-me-downs, collecting portions of my back ground and having them with me and now that I have nieces and nephews I am finding different things that are more inherent in me, in my family that come out, I see them do things that I do and I didn’t realize that- that’s me, that’s not something I collected from someone else, from my family and that is something that is closer to me, my essence. 5: It’s kind of an internal reflection, so, how you interpret what’s around you, that becomes your identity instead of that you have something specific that everybody’s trying change, so I think there’s a lot of free agency that you are allowed to take in. I think we definitely have the ability to create these environments, like with music, or with art or writing, and this type of performance.

3: It is impossible for us to completely invent ourselves with out seeing culture, experiencing the effects of art or theater, even music; so it is our decision, it is how we react to the people we are talking to, the things we are experiencing. 2: The media today has a way of pushing various options that a lot of people buy into. We construct our exterior persona and part of that has to do with marketing and what other people do. It is important to remember that there are two aspects, there is the real you, the interior being, the essence of who you are, and then the construct you present to other people. That changes a little bit in how far you but into the commercialism of the persona, are you going to really take the whole package or are you going to try to select it yourself and kind of construct your own persona rather than allow someone else to construct your persona. 1: I think there are plenty of people who are finding ways around marketing’s influce;, for me, for three years I have just tried my hardest not to push other people’s products, not to buy things with logos, not to buy into what everyone thinks is important but try to retain my identity in some way through that. 2: I think there is a spark that I get from the idea of constructing a persona and being able to identify myself as an individual, or at least lean that way rather than buying into a market label. 3: I think that the outside is a manifestation of what is inside; by seeing me, how I choose to present myself, you see a part of my soul, the way I present myself, the way I talk, this is all a manifestation of who we are inside. 2: I like to dress in very plain clothes, almost like a uniform, I like to be able to set my own standards for how I come across to other people. 1: I think that ultimately I have to be myself. Some people react to that differently, some people try to be somebody else, some try to come across as themselves, as an individual, this doesn’t change who you are and how you come across, these are two separate things.

2: In life we have to play different roles, from this time to this time they are this person, and from this time to this time they are this person so hopefully when they come to the show they will see this side and it will relate to them. 3: I think we are all essentially 100 Chris’s and we have to become one common thing that brings us together as Chris. 2: Maybe it’s just a matter of finding ties and commonalities between other people that bring us to that common reality…there’s the reality that we’re all individuals but there’s the reality that we have more in common than we have separate. Each one of us is Chris Purdie, in some ways that is very literal in that we have 99.9% of the same DNA, there are some very minor differences in that physical make up that I think it does get into existentialism when we talk about the individual spirit that makes each person different.

2: Ultimately, though, everyone is an individual, there is no getting around that, men can only sympathize with women to a certain point, woman can only sympathize with men to a certain point, we’ll never know what that reality is but we do know how it feels to be a human being and how to share these things…I think the key is empathy with another being allows us to understand that other being and allows us to understand ourselves in a more significant way. 4: That’s the way these portraits, the art work that the artwork is created for this show, the idea that we can’t really know what it’s like to be someone else, we can only know what it’s like to be us trying to be another person, it is a composite portrait, it’s the combination of two people, the performer with the artist and creating the portrait out of that unique perceived identity that happens and creating a persona or character out of that. 5: I guess the virtue of being a human being, we’re all such unique characters with experiences and the composite of all those is unique to each person so I think this project is an opening up on that and letting people in on my experiences, a kind of letting go, being stifled and this is all of me.

1: This show is how these personas connect, how we interact with each other and we become a part with each other, influence each other. With this project what I found is that I was able to see how other people see me in some ways: really uncomfortable, nervous, meek, and then talking low and slow and I sound kinda of stupid so I’m finding these things that I don’t know about myself, and I’m like…”oh, I don’t know if I want to be me,” and then getting up and not knowing how to act. Do I keep doing those things, maybe there’s going to be some things I might alter but I’ll wait till after the show is done.

The five (out of thirty-five) Chris Purdies that participated in this interview are:
Chris Purdie 1 : Chris Purdie
Chris Purdie 2 : Brian Christianson
Chris Purdie 3 : Lisa Stoffer
Chris Purdie 4 : Carl Hoiland
Chris Purdie 5 : Ashley Mae Christensen

I am Chris Purdie opens at the Sego Art Center with a main performance and reception Friday, March 6, 6 - 9pm. It continues through March 28.

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Matthew Choberka . . . from page 1

All of the Classical painting modes, like portrait, still life, and landscape, were revived virtually simultaneously in Italy during the Renaissance. Ambrogio Lorenzetti did the honors for landscape in Siena, with his 14th-century "Allegory of the Effects of Good and Bad Government." Matthew Choberka refers to Lorenzetti in writing but also in painting, in which he attempts nothing less than another reinvention of landscape. In doing so, he follows an important trend in art since Modernism triumphed with Cubism just before World War One. Where Lorenzetti set the stage for the invention of Optical Perspective, which unified the deep space of a painting by providing a single vantage point—the viewer’s—Picasso and Braque erased perspective, and with it deep space. But after World War Two, painters like Max Ernst and Francis Bacon rediscovered the utility of perspective, which allowed them to make sense of figurative elements presented in de-familiarized ways.

The same subliminal, symbolic distortions permitted by Lorenzetti’s intuitive perspective allow Choberka to distort his representations in symbolic ways. In "Towers to the Sky" (Finch Lane) |0| we see a version of 9/11 that was never broadcast on TV: one that soars above the panic and suffering of the streets to set the events of that day in a wider context. Where Lorenzetti’s context was civic, showing how good or bad governments create peaceful or chaotic lives for their subjects, Choberka’s is ecological, locating the idealized island in a dis-order from which its forced geometry emerged, and back into which it could easily return.

As befits a maker of images, Choberka is captivated by boundaries. The “edge of town” appears as a transition zone in many of his canvases. Here the dialogue of manufactured and natural takes on a new tenor. No more the bleeding heart or the weeping tree-hugger, today’s ecologist has a stern message, of which global warming is only the first salvo. Choberka’s brush reminds us that the natural order, made manifest in our response to beauty, is not predisposed to order over chaos or linear patterns over noisy textures. The sinuous, snake-like brushwork of the smoke over his towers, or on the earth beneath his "Tempest" (CUAC) is as rapturously sensuous as the cracked mud of Andy Goldsworthy.

Towers to the Sky by Matthew Choberka, 2007, acrylic, 127" x 91"
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Such exquisite passages also bespeak Choberka’s love of paint as a material with its own voluptuous nature. Whether in the watered silk sky of the "Towers," the rectilinear color grid of "A Tale of Three Cities (Finch Lane), |1| or isolated gems found tucked among them, the painter makes the case that seeing, reflecting, and acting upon matter—all aspects of the painter’s activity—are things we are meant to do. Why else would we enjoy them so? The uncounted hours consumed in "A Hundred Gates" (CUAC) |2| by building up layers of visual texture, painstakingly masking them, and then painting over them, result is a crazy quilt more representative of our conceptual landscape than the block quilts Grant Wood threw over the agrarian landscape of mythical America. They also produce some of the most sensuous eye-candy ever painted, ranging from the iridescent vermillion carapaces of beetles to the candy-apply maroon metal flake of hot rods. Photographs can't do justice to the depth of these colors, nor to the size of the larger canvases, which envelop the eyes that perceive them.

Instead of seeing the seal pup on the ice floe as nature beleaguered, an artist like Choberka envisions the order that appeals to us—and sustains us—as only one of the natural world’s many possibilities, including any number that are inimical to us. At the edge of Choberka’s city lies the open secret that what we exhale we must also inhale, and we might better see ourselves in that hapless prey stalked by an indifferent hunter. Viewers who make it to the CUAC in Ephraim will see an unusual piece: a narrative installation based on a scene from Moby Dick. |see video| In "Hast Seen the White Whale?" Choberka transforms Melville’s mock-biblical language into the equivalent of our time’s "Have You Looked in the Mirror Lately?" Using scraps and fragments from his studio activities, including polymerized acrylic paint peeled from its cans and wads of masking tape covered with polychrome paint, the artist conjures the carcass of a whale tied alongside the Pequod to be mechanically dismantled by men even as it is attacked by its natural enemies, sharks, so that its great order and majesty are reduced to dregs and slop: the mere wreckage of the great beast that plumbed the sea’s depths and split the sky. It’s not often that the process by which an artist’s materials are turned into wrenching feelings is so clearly and accessibly laid out. Remarkably, even when the trick is exposed, it still works.

New Allegory, works by Matthew Choberka is at the Central Utah Art Center through March 11. Choberka's work is on exhibit at Salt Lake's Finch Lane Gallery through April 11. To see more of Choberka's work, visit his website.

This video contains an audio recording of a lecture Geoff Wichert gave on Matthew Choberka's "Have You Seen the White Whale?" at the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim.

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