Plugging in and Getting Out
Art developments on the University of Utah campus
Why a column on higher education? Because I think very often there is a wide gap between the art community at large and the art communities of our colleges and universities. There are so many resources available to artists through these institutions and so many resources available to students in the art community that it seems a shame they don't mix more. When I first came to the University of Utah I remember how exciting it was to see current exhibits on gallery strolls and hear art talks at the Salt Lake Art Center. I also remember seeing the same small group of people at these things and wondering why so few folks took advantage of these free opportunities. On the flip side, whenever a guest lecturer spoke at the U, very few artists not in the University system came to take it in. I know to some degree that certain people will get out and do things no matter what they are (football game, art show, concert, etc.), and some people just won't. But just in case there is some lingering feeling that you want to go check something out on a campus but are not sure you will be welcome or there's anything to interest you, I want to clear some things up.
For my inaugural column I'll start with the University of Utah, which has had an exciting start to their spring semester. The first student show of the season, Invisible Logic, was a collaboration of Engineering and Art (in idea, faculty and students). The mix bag of students was all a part of a class taught by art professor Paul Stout and computer science professor Erik Brunvand. All of the art pieces were kinetic sculptures with embedded systems.|0-2| For two weeks in the middle of January the Gittins Gallery came alive, with both the humming of computers and the music some of the sculptures made. Two small cars carrying markers whizzed over a white board interpreting rss feeds into lines; a patch of illuminated flowers shook and closed in reaction to the viewers’ proximity; a typewriter clicked away alone as if a ghost were writing a final novel. All of these works created an amazing energy that the audience enjoyed and interacted with.
Mid-month, the UMFA and college of Fine Arts screened “Who Does She Think She Is?”, a documentary by Pamela Tanner Boll on women artists and their need to create art even after they have become mothers and wives (not to mention daughters and sisters). A very enlightening experience, the film should probably be mandatory for anyone that lives with or supports a woman artist. BYU grad Janis Wunderlich stole the show with her amazing ceramic sculptures and Superwoman ability to balance five children, a husband and a very successful art career. I immediately wanted to show the film to a half dozen people -- which I'll soon be able to do since Boll announced the film will soon be on sale at Amazon. The almost hour-long Q and A was interesting, but what was more interesting was seeing so many young women artists like me who have recently started a family. We all shared a similar look. Boll's film gives no advice or answers on how to juggle, but leads through the example of the women featured. If nothing else is learned, know it can be done.
And speaking of balance, newly appointed photography professor Ed Bateman has managed not only to build amazing curriculums for his new classes but also publish a beautiful book through Nazraeli Press. Mechanical Brides of the Uncanny is a 16-page art book based Ed's Cartes de Visites. If you are lucky enough to know Ed, you may have one of these on your fridge, from the days when he passed them out like candy. They are stunning digital montages of 19th century imagery and robots (automatons, if you're steampunk). Copies of the book, each of which contains an original Carte de Visite, are still available through Nazraeli, but they are almost sold out of the first run. I plan on carrying mine around until I "run into" Ed and get a personalized autograph.
The Photo Department at the U has gone through some important changes, especially for non-art majors. Students have asked for years why it wasn't possible to continue their photo classes or get an art minor, and it sounds like the school is starting to listen. They have begun offering advanced digital classes for non-art majors. The class was designed and is being taught by U grad and local artist and photographer, Zuzanna Audette. It is a full immersion Adobe Photoshop class that everyone is excited about.
Shaking things up at the U seems to be a theme this semester, as evidenced by the very first Warnock Artist in Residence, Ernesto Pujol. An internationally acclaimed performance artist, Pujol has had a very esteemed career and brings his ideas about art and the body and citizenship to students at the U. He took the stage at the end of the month in a well-attended art talk open to the greater community. His talk and Q and A showed him to be an extremely thoughtful speaker, and wondered if it translated to the classroom. After a short conversation with some of his students, my musings were confirmed. Even though I am not a performance artist, I am a little jealous I won't have a chance to sit in on his class. You'll be able to read Monty Paret's interview with Pujol in the April edition of 15 bytes, a primer for Pujol's final collaboration with University students somewhere in the city in April. His presence at the U says great things about the future of the Warnock Artist in Residence program.
Also mark your calendars for the U's distinguished alumni celebration, March 31 at Kingsbury Hall. Artist Mario Naves will be honored.
If any readers have any information on art in the colleges and universities they would like to pass on please feel free to email me.
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Place, Publishing & Promotion
Zoo Art | Mestizo | Uconoclasts | New Books
The recent and mysterious death of two zebras at Hogle Zoo has brought attention to the compact but well-loved facility hugging the entrance to Emigration Canyon. The Zoo would prefer to get attention for its new additions -- like baby elephant, Zuri -- and exhibits, like the Asian Highlands. One of its lesser-known events (we hadn't heard of it) is its annual art exhibit, "World of the Wild." In its 17th year, the juried exhibit features works in all possible media dealing with the subject of wild life or wild nature. This year the Zoo received 314 submissions – their largest turnout to date -- from amateur and professional artists. Juror Robin Rankin, Executive Director of the Kimball Art Center, selected 101 pieces for the 2010 show. Among the award winners, who share a total purse of $1000, are Carel Brest van Kempen, Ron Russon and Juule DeHaan. When the exhibit ends on March 14 the Utah Arts Council will travel selected work across the state as part of their Traveling Exhibition Program.
Hogle's loss of two zebras fascinates us because everyone is intrigued by a mystery. Last year Utah's art and literary world had thought one of its most enduring mysteries -- the disappearance of Everett Ruess -- had been solved, only to learn that the mystery continues. Had he not disappeared into the canyons near Escalante, Ruess would not be nearly as well known today: though both writer and artist, he was by no means the most accomplished in either field to be connected to our state. But had he lived he might have gone on to great things. He might even have made Ken Sanders' list of Uconoclasts.
The Uconoclasts is a project concerning writers, artists and performers, from the arcane to the famous, who have had associations with Utah. Sanders, a rare book dealer, says the project began years ago when he discovered that an
important literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Wallace Thurman, had been born in Salt Lake City and had attended the University of Utah, prior to co-founding FIRE!! with Langston Hughes and writing three novels before his premature death at age 34; yet seemingly no one in the state had ever heard of him. In Sanders' Uconoclats project Thurman is joined by thirty-five other individuals, all of whom have, in one way or another, gone against the grain. Sanders intends to bring attention to these mavericks through a series of exhibitions, the first of which opens this month.
Suite One will be on display at the Rose Wagner Art Center February 19 - March 14, and will feature word and visual portraits, done by Sanders and visual artist Trent Call, of a dozen literary figures in Utah's past: Edward Abbey, Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, Neal Cassady, Bernard DeVoto, Raymond F. Jones, Charles Kelly, Dale Morgan, Wallace Stegner, May Swenson, Wallace Thurman and Maurine Whipple. The exhibit is organized in conjunction with Plan B Theatre's world premiere of WALLACE (March 4-14). In this play the lives of Wallace Stegner,|0| the dean of Western letters, and Wallace Thurman,|1| a young gay black man at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, intertwine in a rumination on the power of place and the meaning of home.
Struggling writers in Utah have had as hard a time getting recognition as struggling artists. Finding a publisher can be as hard as finding a gallery. But with the advent of on-demand and self-publishing companies like Lulu and Blurb, things may be changing: it's now easier and cheaper than ever to publish your own book. Local artist and poet Chad Crane recently published a new chapbook. Visual artists are also taking advantage of the new publishing formats to market their work. Last year Salt Lake artist Dave Hall published Moving Water, which combines reproductions of the artist's landscape with reflections on fly-fishing and friendship. At the end of 2009 Jean Arnold published a 120 page, full-color book covering ten years of her art, with an essay by former Salt Lake Art Center Director Heather Farrell.
While publishing a book is easier than ever, marketing it is still a bitch. Getting the word out about anything can be difficult and individuals and organizations must always come up with the new ideas to spread their message (see our own idea on page 6). Terry Hurst, co-founder of Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts, has embarked on a unique campaign to raise funds for a West-side art center. Going without purse or script, the amateur cyclist is biking his way across the country, vowing to not return until he has spread his message about community building and raised 5.2 million dollars for the construction of an art institute west of the tracks. Supporters can help by buying pixels for a dollar each at the Five Million Dollar Fund web page. At the end of September patrons of Mestizo sent Hurst off with a celebratory event, and have continued to organize fundraisers in his absence. Hurst has been bicycling across the West and was recently in San Francisco. You can follow his adventures on his blog. To see what other activities Mestizo is up to, check out this video on Youtube.