Backstage at the 2024 Utah Arts Festival: Meet some of the artists in the Artist Marketplace — Part 2

Found, reclaimed and upcycled materials, the confidence of flexing and fusing traditional and digital media and an acute sensitivity for representing nature, its  cycles and rhythms are just some observations about this year’s Utah Arts Festival’s Artist Marketplace

Approximately 32% of the artists who applied this year for the festival were accepted. With a jury composed of experts and community members, led by coordinators Matt Jacobson and his assistant Sarah Baker Taylor, the group recommended the slate of 187 artist booths . (171 artists plus six emerging artists; 16 double booths). Jurors based their decisions on technical considerations such as details and quality of composition or on aspects of color and texture. But, they also considered meaning and themes that evoke or echo stories, history, nature, emotions and unique appeal to audiences and potential buyers.

This year’s marketplace includes 54 who are making their first appearance at the Utah Arts Festival. There will be 103 from outside of Utah. Among the 73 Utah artists are six who are part of the festival’s Emerging Artists program. This year’s pool included 592 applicants. The slate includes several artists who won awards at the 2023 festival. All of the visual artist award winners for this year’s festival will be eligible for invitation to the Utah Arts Festival in 2025. Best of Show and People’s Choice Award winners also will have their booth fees waived.

Based on recommendations from Jacobson and Taylor, The Utah Review asked some of the artists to answer some questions about their upcoming shows at the festival. For the next few days, The Utah Review will offer a selection from the Meet the Artists Series

The questions were:

1. How have you used art media forms in helping to create an holistic body of artistic work that searches for a more complete expression of your own innermost and most powerful states of emotion, inspiration, contemplation, and self-identity?

2. What is your training as an artist? Who do you consider your most significant influences and inspirations? Do these influences shift as you progress both in your work and life?

3. Do you work full-time exclusively as an artist? Or, how do you augment your work as an artist?

4.  Do you find it easy or difficult to start new work? And, typically, how do you prepare yourself to handle both the creative and physical demands of creating your art? 

5. With regard to participating in the Utah Arts Festival, please share your feelings about being a part of this enterprise? Have you been in other festivals and do you plan to explore other festival venues?

Betty Q. Le, Dakatta Jewelry, Jewelry, West Valley, Utah (Booth 78)

  1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS:As a jewelry artist, my inspiration is drawn from symbols of wisdom found in nature and my curiosity with nature’s connection to the human experience. As I learn and evolve from my own experiences, creating jewelry is a meaningful way for me to explore those symbols in nature, recreate the metaphors I feel in jewelry form, and be reminded of their meanings when wearing them. Each piece I create reflects the thoughts and feelings that empower me to have the courage to keep growing and comfort me when life is being life – full of unexpected changes, lessons, and emotions. I want to share this experience with others. I hope wearing my jewelry reminds them of their personal truths, their strengths, and like nature’s infinite beauty, how uniquely beautiful they truly are too. 
  2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST:In 2015, I started learning metalsmithing at the Salt Lake Community College, where I took a metalsmithing course and met my professor and now mentor, Lorin Thunell. I went on to do an internship at America’s first museum of modern art, The Phillip’s Collection Museum in DC, in their art education department. In 2022, I graduated from B Golden Jewelry School’s business certification program. My most significant influences are from all the people and situations I’ve encountered in life and the pain, regrets, joy, or love I’ve felt from those experiences. It inspires me to explore the constructs of my inner reality, and how the inner affects the outer reality. I create stories with what I learn from my explorations, and translate them into my artwork. What influences me as an artist continues to change as I gain life experiences and discover or revisit different parts of my inner world.
  3. CAREER TIME: When I quit my corporate job in 2022 to pursue art, I wanted to give myself a few years to fully focus living my art and hone in on my artistic voice/vision. I’m open to all the possibilities of how things evolve and where life’s going to lead me in the future. Art is always going to remain a huge part of my life regardless if it’s full-time or not.  
  4. STARTING NEW WORK: I work intuitively when it comes to my creative process. If I feel a ton of emotional and mental resistance to something, I remind myself to pause, reflect on what might be causing it, and in the meantime, focus on other projects or ideas I’m excited about until I’m ready to come back to it. This is actually how I discovered my love of working with feathers and how my “Free to Be” jewelry collection came to be. Knowing how to best prepare for the physical and creative demands of art is an active learning process of reflecting on past experiences, recognizing my limits, and assessing where I am at within my emotional, mental, and physical capabilities. It’s important for me to honor my creative pace and figure out what healthy boundaries I need in place for myself. Learning when to say no to ensure I’m not putting myself at risk of burning both ends of the candles or feel resentful about anything. I want the pieces I create to remain authentic with my values, work ethic, and artistic vision. 
  5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: I had the opportunity of being in UAF’s Emerging artist program last year and it was the first time I experienced an art festival this size. As an artist, showcasing essentially what’s in your heart to complete strangers can be a very vulnerable experience. The UAF team, the volunteers, and the collection of amazing artists who showcase at the festival creates this colorful, supportive energy that draws in an open-minded crowd that I love. People are curious, take the time to be open-minded, ask questions, and want to find ways to personally connect with the artist and work. It truly makes all the difference. I feel super blessed to be able to experience all of that again this year. I’m looking forward to participating in the Urban Arts Festival for the first time at the end of July. As my art journey progresses, I would love to participate in other large local art festivals like the Kimball Arts Festival in Park City or ones out-of-state in the future. We’ll see! I’ll go wherever my art goes! 

Uli Kirchler, Wood, Cornelius Oregon (Booth 147)

  1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS: Inspiration comes from the places I traveled all over the world, the castles I was surrounded with growing up in the Italian alps and the happiness I’m able to create with anyone getting surprised and blown away when they see the little buildings popping out of a piece of wood.
  2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST: No formal training: relying instead on my imagination and my fascination with the beauty of wood as a means of honing my skills. 
  3. CAREER TIME: I always was an artist. I traveled the world as a one man band in my 20ties, then became a woodworker 
  4. STARTING NEW WORK: I disappear in my shop and let the magic happen and after so many years I completely trust the process 
  5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: I showed my work at the Utah arts festival 15 years ago and I’m really excited to return and show off my pop up castles. The reaction especially because it is the first time generally is amazing.

Chris Wheeler, 2-D Mixed Media, Fort Collins, Colorado (Booths 48 and 49)

  1. USING ART MEDIA FORMS: For as long as I could remember I always wanted to be an artist, however I couldn’t find a medium that spoke to me.  While I was in the studio stretching my wife’s paintings onto scrolls and screens I was seeing ideas in her scraps and trimmings. With what was available around me I started texturing paper with her watercolors and eventually acrylics to achieve the striations and color variations that I was looking for.  Using the materials and wheat paste that is traditionally for scrolls and screens I started laying down my first set of collages. The effect was a symphony of geometrics, texture and color that alluded to a modern mid-century aesthetic.  It was finally the unique artform that I was looking for. I was not particularly drawn to the traditional mediums of drawing and painting.  I felt that they were more reliant on technique and not in my belief that art is more about the idea.  I felt limited in a sense of traditional artforms  being very 2 dimensional.   I felt connected to this artform since I approach it as a combination of drawing, painting and sculpting. The imagery comes from long-standing commitments to modernist conventions. The simplistic forms are an attempt to tap into the memories and ideas we all share.  I’ve found my minimalist designs appeal to people on a primitive level.
  2. TRAINING AS AN ARTIST: While living in Taiwan I apprenticed under Master Huang to learn the traditional method of flattening and mounting Chinese paper screens and scrolls.  It was during that time that I found my medium while mounting my wife’s ink and watercolor paintings.Some of my favorite artists became well known in the middle of the 20th century, most notably Picasso and Matisse.  Matisse called his technique “drawing with scissors” in which i can whole heartedly relate to.  As a working artist who has now done it for two decades I am constantly influenced by the changing times, whether it be pantone’s color of the year or new experiences that I’ve had.  I think it’s important to walk with your eyes open and maintain that sense of childlike wonder and curiosity.  
  3. CAREER TIME: I am a full time artist and support my family and I solely through art.  I knew that if I wanted to live off of my artwork I would have to treat it like a job and go into the studio everyday and create whether I felt like it or not.   Sometimes there were breakthroughs and sometimes not, however I would never know unless I showed up.  My philosophy regarding art creation is not about creating the perfect piece but the artwork reflecting your thought process and skill level at that very moment.  It’s like a snapshot in time.
  4. STARTING NEW WORK: Usually by the time I start a new piece it has already lived in my head for a long time.  The process of creating is just a means of letting it out.   As I’ve aged with my career so has my body.  I’ve learned and still trying to be aware of what my body can physically handle.  Floor padding,  orthotic shoes and working out to deal with the rigors of the physicality of this job is always something that I have to be mindful of.  It’s not usually the mind that goes first it’s usually the body.  The creative process is the best exercise for the brain.  
  5. BEING PART OF THE UTAH ARTS FESTIVAL: I have known about the Utah Arts Festival for over a decade however have not had the opportunity to participate.  I’m very excited about being a part of the festival this year.  I usually try to do the top 15 art festivals in the country and glad that I’m able to add the Utah Arts Festival to my show calendar this year.

1 thought on “Backstage at the 2024 Utah Arts Festival: Meet some of the artists in the Artist Marketplace — Part 2”

  1. I’m so proud to know and work with Betty Le. We’ve shared our love of stones, metal working and storytelling. To feel deeply about creative ideas, then see those ideas come to life in a finished product is extremely satisfying and rewarding. Betty is a designer first and foremost. Her passion for life and a drive to create works of art that are wearable is inspiring. When you see how people react to wearing her work, it gives me joy inside. Art is about sharing our ideas, our vision and the joy we as artists feel when we see our creations get a good home. I think That Betty Le will be recognized by the art community as a creative force. I hope the people who attend the art festival will take the time to seek out Betty’s booth and visit with her. It’s one thing to buy jewelry or artwork, but it’s another thing to talk to the artist and ask questions about their work or how it’s made. The artist and the patron both benefit greatly from this kind of exchange. I wish Betty much success now and in the future as she develops her artistic voice and skills. Go get em Betty.


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