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     December 2010
Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization    
Shawn Porter

Artist Profile: Salt Lake
Driven by Idea, Married to Material
The Artistic Education of Shawn Porter

Shawn Porter knows materials and how to use them, but in art, he says, the idea comes first.

Porter has always worked with his hands. He says he doesn't really understand something unless he can see the mechanics of it and his mind can communicate with his hands. School, obviously, held little interest for him. He grew up in Lehi, Utah, where at eighteen he got a job in a cabinet shop working on high-end architectural fixtures. His desire to leave the state and see the world caught up with him one day while he was sitting in an unemployment line. He joined the Navy, where he spent three years on a salvage ship, picking up wrecked aircraft, towing ships and submarines, and debeaching ships run aground. His hands learned a whole new set of skills and became familiar with new material; and he enjoyed the life experience, seeing cultures and places in the Pacific few get to see: "The little cartoon of the two guys sitting on a sandbar with the palm tree," he says, "The sandbar, it really exists, I've seen it."

When he came back to Utah -- he missed the mountains, the desert and the Great Salt Lake -- he returned to carpentry, but in its rougher form: building homes from the foundation up, he added electrical and plumbing skills to his set. He returned to fine carpentry when he got a job building furniture with Jeff Kobay.

The artistic side of working with Kobay peaked Porter's interest in art and when he saw a job at the University of Utah's art department he jumped at the opportunity. "I wanted to expose myself to [art] more and really immerse myself in it, see what it's like from the inside."

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake
Faces at the UMFA
Selections from the permanent collection of modern and contemporary art

The Utah Museum of Fine Art puts its best face forward with a collection of prints, photographs and sculpture. Most of the work in the show falls under the umbrella of Pop, and overtly or otherwise deals with portraiture.

The artists within Faces are well known, but the work shown is not necessarily what they are known for. Perhaps the most widely notable is Andy Warhol, whose Polaroid photographs – a recent gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation – are on view for the first time with this exhibit. Other big-hitters in the show include Alex Katz, Larry Rivers and Robert Arneson.

Alex Katz’ name is synonymous with large, billboard-sized oil paintings. In this exhibit we get a look at several of his etchings and aquatints instead. They lack most of the presence of his flagship works, but retain his stylistic charm and his sensitivity to the subject. The same flat colors that are used throughout his larger paintings translate remarkably well to the prints “Boy with Branch I” and “Anne Lauterbach.” The 12 etchings of "Untitled," arranged in a grid on the wall and lacking his quintessential color palette, are a more somber approach to portraiture, not only in their lack of color but in their tight cropping. All of the foreheads, and in some cases even the chins, fall off the edge of the paper creating a too-tight cropping that is reminiscent of amateur photography. The portraits, small as they are, give the impression of expanding beyond the edges of the paper. The viewer is presented with an intimate perspective of what one imagines must be the close friends and family of the artist.
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