Art Reel Playing in Paint A video interview with Chad Crane
Some artists embrace their background. Others flee it. Chad Crane does something in between. Though he is a rural Utah boy who grew up watching Westerns and surrounded by the cowboy life, Crane hates cowboy paintings. Which is precisely why he started to paint them. These aren't the kind of cowboy paintings you're likely to find at the County fair, however. They are sardonic paintings that revel in the joy of playing with paint as well as with stereotypes.
Exhibition Spotlight: Salt Lake City The Pure Essence of Sky Regina Steberg at Finch Lane Gallery by Carol Fulton
To describe Regina Stenberg’s current work, now on exhibit at Finch Lane Gallery, as “drawings of clouds” aptly captures the “what” of her work but not the “how.” To create her contemplative cloudscapes |0| the artist works vertically, with watercolor paper suspended against the wall with a flexible (linoleum) surface behind it; she dips a variety of fabrics into loose graphite and works it both onto and into the paper. Terry cloth is best for working into the paper because the raised texture of the fabric creates a “tooth” to pull the graphite in, creating a richer effect. The process is very immediate and efficient she says. “There’s no drying time.” Still, each piece in this show took about 20 hours to complete. Each has many layers. “The piece changes as I work on it and I kind of feel like the drawing is revealed as I put the layers on.”
Stenberg has always loved making art.|1| Before coming to Utah with her family six years ago, she pursued a major in studio art, but realized that getting a paycheck would be helpful, so worked as a landscape designer with architectural firms. “Life kind of took over, we moved around a lot, I had kids. But then coming to Salt Lake was a great thing - there’s so much inspiration here. In Connecticut you see the sky, of course, but here it’s BIG sky. When I first moved here I just felt more exposed, and it wasn’t a negative experience.”
Stenberg has almost always done landscapes (in other mediums), has recently focused on cloudscapes -- “I really like things in nature that have high contrast” -- and next wants to do a series of waves.|2| The crisp white edge on her current work is deliberate. “It reminds me of the way old black and white photographs looked, and these drawings from a distance are reminiscent of old photos.” With a touch of wryness she comments that it is interesting that something that takes her such a long time could ultimately look like something that took one quick camera click. The use of graphite dictates the term “drawing,” but her work is very painterly, so it seems a pity not to call them paintings. Stenberg doesn’t want to make something other than cloud and sky out of her pieces - it’s important that it not be likened to the leisurely occupation of staring at the sky and seeing in it recognizable images like faces or animals. The pure essence of sky is everything. She views her drawings as “...quiet, sensitive drawings that take a certain patience to create.”|3| She has been working on other drawings of snow falling at night, which she finds harder to translate to an audience. “I want to continue to look for things in nature that have contrast, whether it’s light and dark, or shadow and something physical.
Stenberg also volunteers as an art teacher in the elementary school system in Salt Lake City, usually working with two classes per year. This entails corresponding with faculty and staff, creating lesson plans, finding art supplies. She found that having a studio away from her home was essential in a life in which she juggles her artwork, her volunteer work and her family life with a husband and 2 school-age children. She loves the Guthrie Building on 200 South, with its big windows and high ceilings. “I love the smell of the building as soon as you walk in ... I try to get here around 8:30 and start working - the building is quieter then.|4| Depending on my schedule I’ll stay for 3, 4 or 5 hours. I don’t always have a lot of time so the immediacy of coming and working and then just taking off my apron and walking out is a great benefit. I tried to work at home but it was frustrating - the phone would ring, the washing machine buzzer would go off, and space for my pieces was an issue.”
Stenberg feels lucky to be drawn to a subject that is infinitely varied. If she feels “stuck” on a piece, she can step away and work on any one of several other drawings she has going, then revisit the “sticker.” If she gets stuck on a bigger issue, like “what should I draw” she looks at photographs or wanders through bookstores to get a little “nudge.”
She had a show last spring at the Alpine Gallery and has exhibited at each open studio event at the Guthrie. As it is for most artists, exhibiting her work is not the most comfortable experience, but she is very grateful for it. “I listen and appreciate what people say - I’ve heard both positive and negative, and that’s okay. When I first started showing I felt more private about it, but now it’s okay. You do have to be okay with the idea that not everyone’s going to like it. It’s the same in any creative field.”
Exhibitions Spotlight: Salt Lake: When Worlds Come Together Kathleen Carricaburu at Finch Lane Gallery by Carol Fulton
To any who believe culture is in the DNA, Kathleen Carricaburu’s |0| experience may serve as an example. When, after years of exploring different mediums, she discovered metal she had an epiphany. “I felt like I had come home,” she says. Carricaburu’s heritage is half Irish and half Basque. She has been influenced by both cultures and like some historians believes the Basques and the Celts could have been one united culture at some time in the past. “Both cultures were very into metal-smithing -- the metal smith was like the monk; they were in a clerical role. There was also a deep connection to nature in both.”
At one time Carricaburu was a graphic designer, but she soon realized she wanted to be a fine artist and so pursued her bachelor degree at the University of Utah. She began as a painter, but found disciplining herself to paint was difficult and began creating 3-dimensional works. She then moved from the plastic to the poetic. “I was kind of confused. I took a poetry class with Craig Arnold, who was really receptive to what I was doing, and helped me get financing so I could spend a year studying poetry.” Still, she felt pulled by the wish to make art and thought the literary work was in conflict with her visual art. She continued to search, working in museums and as a librarian.
The literary and the visual came together when Carricaburu realized she could weld her affinity for metal with her work in poetry to create objects infused with metaphor. She decided to go to graduate school at New Mexico State University to pursue her vision. She has now completed the written portion of her thesis, and this December will reveal the installation component of her work. “It’s about metaphor in art and will use clay as well as metal and human figures. I’m doing ‘cabinets of curiosity’ in which the human body will be the cabinet. So it’s more abstract - each one will be an allegory which is like a narrative with a cast of metaphors.”
Carricaburu is currently working on the allegory of air. There will be an actual woman standing against a wall, wearing a jewelry piece, and behind her on the wall will be various objects like a fan, a kite, butterfly, air-borne seeds, and maybe even a bubble-blower. The main piece on the woman “... is about love that I could never have, that’s just like in the air .... so I knit a tiny net, cast it and the strings in silver, and there are little rose buds tied to it like a kite.” She’s also working on a head-dress that’s based on ancient Chinese ‘trembling pieces’ such as crowns that have a butterfly or flower made of kingfisher feathers in which some parts tremble. She’s planning a “trembling comb” made out of jade. Other allegories for this installation are of water, of the desert, and of the garden. “It’s all about knowledge and how we organize it. I like that in the 19th-century, although scientists were starting to go for scientific reasoning, they sometimes put things together more poetically.”
Her current work at Finch Lane Gallery, though smaller in scale and scope -- she calls it contemporary fine art jewelry -- is also filled with metaphor. There is a poetic grace, beauty and philosophy communicated with each piece. The viewer is likely to feel a bitter-sweet emotional wrench when looking at pieces such as "Reliquary for Tears"|2|, or "Reliquary for Secrets" |3|. For a more light-hearted experience, "In the Clover" evokes optimism and sheer pleasure at the exquisite manner in which the piece was wrought in metals |4-5|.
As a metalsmith Carricaburu makes a good deal of jewelry, and does well through the Sundance Gallery. She lives part of the year in Mesilla, New Mexico, |6-7| and part of the year here in Salt Lake City. She acknowledges that living in two places isn’t easy, but it has been a good adventure for her and her husband, and she feels very lucky that he has been supportive of her work. The remoteness of her home in New Mexico has been a positive influence on her art, but she doesn’t anticipate being in Mesilla permanently.
Anticipating a full-time return to Salt Lake Carricaburu is interested in helping evolve the local fine art craftwork, using her experience studying at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. ‘I think a lot of people are doing crafts here -- there’s Pioneer Craft House, and you see a lot more good crafts at the Farmer’s Market in Liberty Park now, but once you reach a certain level in contemporary craft I don’t think there are really any places people can go.” She recalls that in school she was taught that painting and sculpture were “important” -- a daunting idea when what she feels driven to do is display things where one has an interaction between the body and the work.
In summing up where she is at the present time, she says “I feel like I’ve got a solid foundation, that my work has integrity and that it’s good. My work may not be at the right moment in time, but it has strength. I can stand by it.”
Kathleen Carricaburu's work will be on view at Finch Lane Gallery through November 12.