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        January 2010
Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization    
Randall Lake at his Guthrie Building studio

Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
Breaking the Rules
The life and art of Randall Lake

How does an Orange County boy, a homosexual with a growing reputation as a painter in Paris, become one of Utah’s most known and venerated painters? By obeying the rules. These days, that is exactly what Randall Lake is not doing. Lake grew up in affluent circumstances. In the sixties he delighted the French where his talent as a painter was recognized, but while there this young, homosexual man joined the Mormon Church. He married and had five children. He did everything a Mormon father was expected to do, except be honest, especially to himself. Why? To avoid familial catastrophe he says --“so I could encase myself like some toxic substance from Chernobyl, that I would protect myself from ever having to deal with this.” Lake’s days of pleasing others, playing by the rules, keeping up appearances, is long over and today he does not care whose toes he steps on.

The paintings Lake is working on now are angry pieces, far removed from the dainty teacups and colorful landscapes for which he is known. In a series of shocking symbolic narrative works, ones he knows will offend, he is dealing with his lifetime as a homosexual. He is angry. He is angry at the artifice of living in the closet. Angry at the rules that were placed on him, and that he placed on himself; and almost twenty-five years after his first love hung himself rather than disclose his homosexuality to the world, he is angry at the repression he feels has tempered his happiness. “I have always been ashamed of being gay because my family let me know in no uncertain terms that that was unacceptable. I joined the LDS Church initially because it held out the promise that I could be straight. You finally find your way to religion and it’s not because you want to go to heaven but it’s because you’ve been to hell.”

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Marking Time at Sun Tunnels

In the ghost town of Lucin, Utah, about nine miles east of the Nevada border, the sun rose at 7:56 a.m. and set at 5:11 p.m. on December 21st. This date marked this year’s winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. For just over nine hours this desert terrain was graced with sunlight. Sunlight streaming thin and weak, sunlight without color and certainly without warmth. The type of sunlight that actually makes one yearn for the warm blanket of night, knowing that the next day’s sunrise will usher in a day that will be just a little bit longer than the last.

Lucin is the town next to Sun Tunnels, the earthwork created by artist Nancy Holt between 1973 and 1976. Sun Tunnels sits on forty acres of land purchased in 1974 by Holt the year after her husband, the artist Robert Smithson (The Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, 1970), died in a plane accident. In 1974, when Holt started to actively work on Sun Tunnels, Lucin had a population of about ten people, give or take a few. Lucin’s remains now include a bullet-ridden sign describing the former town and of course, the railroad. Lucin was the first railroad camp established in Utah by the Central Pacific Railroad as they moved east from California in their quest to meet the Union Pacific Railroad to form and join the transcontinental railroad in 1869. The train still rolls through Lucin, stopping vehicles in the absence of any other human marks on the land.

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The Sun Tunnels at the Winter Solstice