Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2023: Be a part of the 10th 100 Artists/1 Image installation project, as Mason Fetzer puts color theory to the test

In the first year of the 100 Artists/1 Image installation at the Utah Arts Festival, the image was a Native American but since then every image has been an animal. Mason Fetzer, who has designed the project based on ideas from color theory that he has consistently tested over the years, normally prefers having those festival patrons who believe they have no skills to paint a tile because it emphasizes the project’s community spirit.

This will be the 10th time for the installation, which comprises 100 plywood tiles in the 20-foot by 20-foot mural. Visitors will be invited to paint a tile, as soon as the festival opens at noon on June 23. If past years are a reliable predictor, the installation will be completed by early evening on June 24. Once a part of the Urban Arts venue near the crescent archway of the City Library, the installation is now housed near the City-County Building on Washington Square, close to where the Art Yard is located for kids’ activities.

100 Artists/1 Image. 2021. Mason Fetzer.
Photo Credit: Les Roka.

Unfortunately, last year’s installation was cancelled because of the artist’s illness. Fetzer, however, has scrapped what he had planned for 2022 and is going with a new idea, which is targeted to be completed and revealed by Saturday (June 24) at 6:30 p.m.

The great fun for many visitors is trying to guess what the final image will be and Fetzer has managed to keep the mystery up until near the moment of its completion during a majority of the years that the project has been featured at the festival. The image selection is never a capricious process. The first year’s image was one that Fetzer had envisioned for a while as a community installation piece. Often, he selects the image after he decides what colors he likes to play with each year.

Bison 100/ONE Mural. Mason Fetzer. Utah Arts Festival 2015.

Some years have offered marvelous tests of his color theory.  One of the most tedious was a black-and-white image of a lion. Several years ago, he succeeded at stumping the crowd up until the last moment possible in back-to-back years with a bison and grizzly bear, respectively, The grizzly bear image comprised a lot of white and green panels, which threw many festival visitors off guard who were expecting to see dark-colored fur.

The bison image included lots of orange, black and white so many were incorrectly guessing that it was a tiger. Fetzer has enjoyed observing from year to year how color drives an individual’s perceptions and perspectives almost instantaneously. 

He sets parameters where the technical difficulty is challenging but not tedious and he always throws in a little curve ball with color. Some of the best projects for testing his theory involve two shades of one color. Likewise, trees and clouds are not rendered literally but as shapes of color.

Elk, 100 Artists/1 Image, Mason Fetzer, 2017, Utah Arts Festival. Photo Credit: Mason Fetzer.

The 2021 image of a majestic rooster was a winner, because the colors in some of the tiles were ideal for catching the different angles and shadows of life during the day. This year, festival goers might see a paint color that he has never used before in the project.

The project stands out especially as a cost-effective way to create a community piece of art for a public space. Over the course of the project, the cost has gone from $500 to a little bit more than $1,000. As in 2021, Fetzer is using a lighter plywood that has a finer quality which makes it easier to leave some tiles or portions of tiles unpainted and thus the negative space becomes part of the final image.

Fetzer is a long-time artist who works with painting, graphic design and photography. For Fetzer, the 10th edition of the project has added special meaning. The Fetzer clan is one of the best known and most involved families for the Utah Arts Festival and the organization. Fetzer’s son, Townes (named after the famous singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt), who is turning 12, joins the project as his father’s assistant. Previously, he painted a tile or so ever since he was old enough to hold a brush.

For more information and tickets, download the Utah Arts Festival app for free, available to Android and iOS users. There also are links to the UAF’s standard website. 

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