18 May 2014
When Repertory Dance Theatre closed its “LAND” concert April 12 there was, as there always is, a certain sense of let-down. I found the concert, which featured four works inspired by the land and landscape of the Southwest, especially the incomparable red rock, alpine and salt flat sites of Utah, beautifully rendered, abstract in emotional tenor (especially “Erosion” by Israeli choreographer Zvi Gotheiner). The show was unforgettable but…gone as live dance theater is when the final curtain drops.
Fortunately, as a fundraiser, RDT has left up the art exhibit LAND 2 LAND in the lobby gallery which serves as a kind of doppelganger to the memory of the stage production that is now only on video, and in the hearts and minds of those of us lucky enough to have seen it.
I have the privilege of seeing these 20 works of art inspired by land and landscape daily since I work at The Rose Wagner where both the show lived and, through May 31, where the art show still hangs. If there is one thing in common that Utahns have it is the landscape which animates, informs and inspires all of us every day. Depressed about the news? Look up at the snow-capped, pine-covered Wasatch Range. Overwhelmed by the crowds? Escape to the salt desert out west or the red rock country of Southern Utah. Have a need to commune with nature? Head out to the Henry Mountains, a region that was of the last in the continental U.S. to be surveyed.
Within the square mileage of our otherwise square state (if it weren’t for Wyoming taking a bite out of it), there is a staggering variety of landscape and terrain. No wonder Hollywood regularly comes to the Beehive State to make its movies.
Below are some observations of the exhibit that you can see in person at The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center–138 W. Broadway (300 S.) in Salt Lake–or view (and purchase) online.
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*”For me,” says artist Joe Osraff, “paint documents the state of things, how I feel and what is at the forefront in my thinking–maybe it’s like the soup of the day”. Represented both locally by Phillips Gallery as well as in Santa Fe, Ostraff gives us a work on wood called “Ancient Collectible,” a stylized fish overlaid with what could be layers of earth that have fossilized the open-mouthed creature.
“Colorful Grove,” Dean Bradshaw’s brilliant aspens backed with a sky shattered by clouds, is a reminder of how close the aspen, Utah’s new state tree, is to urban life and that, based on its connected root systems, how it’s been deemed the largest living organism on earth.
FARM by Deborah Brinckerhoff. This textured, relatively large 3×3′ tableau is the only work in the exhibit with a human in it, but it’s abstract enough to still front the lush countryside of a Western state’s farm.
“From Amasa Back” by Nick Rees This is the backdrop to one of Utah’s classic mountain bike rides. It ascends from Kane Creek just west of Moab, climbing up onto an outcropping of rock surrounded on three sides by the Colorado River.
Friends of mine who first come to Salt Lake City can’t believe the stunning valley setting. This framed piece by Nick Rees is titled “From the Shoreline,” recalling the fact that the city sits on the ancient bed of old Lake Bonneville. Rees, for his artist’s statement, quotes the late Wallace Stegner, the great writer of the American West:
“If there is such a thing as being conditioned by climate and geography, and I think there is, it is the West that has conditioned me. It has the forms and lights and colors that I respond to in nature and in art. If there is a western speech, I speak it; if there is a western character or personality, I am some variant of it; if there is a western culture in the small-c , anthropological sense, I have not escaped it. It has to have shaped me. I may even have contributed to it in minor ways, for culture is a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.”
There are the mountains and then there are THE mountains, the majestic Uintas. Situated in the northeast corner of the state, the Uintas have the distinction of being one of the few mountain ranges in North America that run east to west rather than north to south. King’s Peak is the highest point here (and in the state), just under 14,000 ft.
With the pine trees in the background, B. Rex Stewart’s “High Uintas: Looking through the Gap” reminds us of just how high up the elevation is in this extraordinary range.
Unlike the representational art work of many of the exhibit’s pieces, Laura Sharp Wilson’s abstract, highly-detailed exploration of the repeating patterns of nature animates both of her works featured in the exhibit. This one titled “I am the Mountain” is busy, busy with the micro grains in the wood of sawn logs raining down. Wilson’s work has morphed markedly over the years into this, for now, experimental conceptual art.
“Landscape with Specimen.” This mixed media work by James Charles plays with the idea of landscape and with what looks to me like buried fossils–all in silhouette. A stunning “specimen,” to recall the title of this work, that must be seen in person to fully appreciate.
In her second exhibit piece, “Mountain Home,” artist Laura Sharp Wilson, again plays with the frenetic patterns of nature but in a stylized way that is curiously affecting. The image of a two-dimensional mountain with what looks to me like invasive trails or roads spiraling up it gives this work–a midst, again curiously grained wood pieces and logs–a kind of political bent. Is “Mountain Home” a comment about how we use / deface the land we claim to love?
“Near Capital Reef: East of the Sun” is B. Rex Stewart’s tribute to one of the state’s most stunning national parks and its environs. I recall the first time I went to Capitol Reef in the mid-80s and witnessed the extraordinary play of light over red rock accented still by the radioactive green of fruit trees in the pioneer settlement of Fruita. In this piece, though, the sheer majesty and austerity of the cliffs is vintage Canyon Country. Not so much “Oz” but The Land of Awe.
Hadley Rampton, a celebrated plein air artist, can be seen bundled to the gills even in winter up Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City and dodging moose to paint in the wide open. This work “Pineview” is of a reservoir located northeast of the capital city and is representative of the immediacy and fresh tenor of her brush strokes. Hadley, who works for Phillips Gallery, curated the LAND 2 LAND show which is a benefit for Repertory Dance Theatre where she is a board member.
Meri DeCaria’s deceptively simple paintings titled “The Road to Sun Valley #3″ (here below) and “The Road to Sun Valley #4″ (further down) uses color and bold lines to delineate not only the uplifted land against the almost blank canvas of a Western sky but perhaps the very idea of landscape we hold in our heads. Here is suggested more than represented the drift and flow, the pull and retreat of terrain, both physically along a mountain road and an internal terrain that resides within us.
Reminiscent of one of Utah’s great landscape artists, Maynard Dixon, “San Rafael, Morning Light” by Logan-based Steve Kropp takes as its subject a huge land feature known as the San Rafael Swell, 2,000 square miles of public land known for its scenic sandstone formations, deep canyons, desert streams, and expansive panoramas. My most recent visit to the Swell included old uranium mines and what the locals refer to as Little Grand Canyon, perhaps experienced best from the Wedge Overlook.
One of the abstract landscapes in the exhibit by local artist E. Tom Bettin. This along with another of his (further down) speak to a wildness and diffusion of the land and sky. Aptly named here “Spring Mist,” you can feel, standing next to this, the humidity of it.
Bettin says this about his process: “When I use a combination of techniques on a plate, I hope to create multiple dialogues with my viewing audience that enhance new ways of seeing things or inspire creative thought. My work gives me a sense of freedom within a confined space that is challenging and exciting. I strongly feel that the viewer needs to interact with my work on more than one level to have the aesthetic result I am visualizing. I feel very passionate about my work and the dialog it evokes. I will continue to push the boundaries of the Monotype format to achieve the creative flow I need in my work.”
“Take a Bow” by Lindey Carter. This delicate branch has a Japanese feel to it. Lindey is a descendant of pioneer artist C.C.A. Christensen. Her work has a serenity to it, evident here in the simple, elegant lines of a blossomed bow.
“The Road to Sun Valley #4″ by Meri DeCaria
“Timpanogos” by Ronald Clayton. This is not your grandmother’s living room painting of the famous Utah Valley Mountain. Here the mountain is seen in the distant background and through a fitted-rock ruin that seems to be a barricade.The viewer has little if any access to nature except through this framing device and constant reminder of civilization’s encroachment on nature, accented, as it is here, by the parking lot stripes, yellow-and-black–above what looks like a floor inundated with water. Still, the sunlight through the arch is brilliant, alluring.
“Wave Dynamics” by Trent Alvey. This two-tableau selection is long (48″), narrow (16″) and, as you can see, full of motion. Side-by-side the two panels form windows on a turbulent, stylized sea against an almost angry Van Gogh-ish sky.
“Winter on the Brambles,” is the second work in the exhibit by artist E. Tom Bettin.
This mellow landscape with the monochromatic sky reminds me of Utah’s famed salt flats. To me it has a sedate aura about it that is calming. Lindey Carter is the artist, and it’s titled “Without Leaving a Footprint.” You can almost hear the seagulls from the nearby Great Salt Lake.
Thanks for reading through this. Please know that while I’ve tried to do justice to this extraordinary exhibit of southwest/Utah land and landscape art that you have to see LAND 2 LAND in person to truly appreciate it.
You can view LAND 2 LAND in person through May 31, 2104 at The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South in Salt Lake City. All of the works are for sale and can be viewed and bought online at http://www.rdtutah.org/Upcoming_land2land.html#
LAND 2 LAND is a benefit for Repertory Dance Theatre which has a long-term and continuing ethic towards the community it calls its own and the environmental stewardship we all have. Each artist is donating one half of the art sale proceeds to RDT for its artistic programming and educational outreach.
Thanks to Hadley Rampton for curating this amazing show.