Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2023: Found, reclaimed objects; acute appreciation of natural cycles and rhythms, confidence in mixing media highlight Artist Marketplace’s slate of 177

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 30% of the artists who applied this year 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 177 artists. 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.

Jonathan Morgan.

This year’s marketplace includes 57 who are making their first appearance at the Utah Arts Festival. There will be 101 from outside of Utah. Among the 74 Utah artists are eight who are part of the festival’s Emerging Artists program. This year’s pool included 581 applicants. The slate includes seven artists who won awards at the 2022 festival. All of the visual artist award winners for this year’s festival will be eligible for invitation to the Utah Arts Festival in 2024. Best of Show and People’s Choice Award winners also will have their booth fees waived.

Among the artists to watch this year include Vincent Mattina (Booth 112, Holladay, Utah) who was juried in 2-D mixed media and digital. He turns sketches into collages, formed from his own photographs and computer work to cease visuals that emanate from spiritual, technology and environmental concerns. Kristina Duggins (Booth 62, a Salt Lake City) works in 3-D mixed media and as her Instagram account name Flora Boneyard suggests, she takes a lighthearted approach in creating terrariums, with animal skulls and butterflies, which treat the natural cycles of life and death with equal reverence. 

Grains of Life IV, Patsy Lindamood.

From Huntsville, Texas, Patsy Lindamood (Booth 163), selected for the drawing and pastels category, uses a painterly style to create graphite drawings directly onto cradled clayboard. As she indicates in her artistic statement at her website, “I am developing a series of Texas panoramas featuring grain silos, grain elevators and disintegrating homesteads.  These vistas are comprised of a broad range of values, populated with subjects which are consummate examples of strong lines and shapes. And, when the visual language is reduced to just lines, shapes, and values, the underlying story becomes more poignant, more arresting. Absent the romance of color, working in shades of grey is like telling a short story rather than writing a novel.”

Sabrina Frey (Booths 145 and 146) works in glass to create immersive mosaics by expanding the artistic possibilities of glass beads. The Minden, Nevada artist writes, “As a nature lover, I use my beads to represent life by creating highly detailed representational art of animals, landscapes and the elements. The beading techniques I have developed allow me to create immersive and tactile mosaics that embody the DNA of each piece.” From Phoenix, Romina Paiva (Booth 175) is one of the juried artists in jewelry, fashioning intricate macrame designs that incorporate natural elements, gems and crystals.

Consideration Mandala, Bala Thiagarajan.

Cassidy Watt (Booth 172), a metalwork from Sante Fe, New Mexico, works with copper and brass, using original patinas and texturing techniques on Baltic birch,  which become contemporary totems. Bala Thiagarajan (Booth 104) is a self-taught painter from Arvada, Colorado, who celebrates Indian culture by working with traditional art motifs. As Bala describes their work, “I developed my distinctive style by applying the textures and patterns of free-hand henna through contemporary acrylics interplaying vibrant colors, rhythm, and form. I use piping bags and squeeze bottles to form dots and lines with acrylic paints on canvas. More recently, I have been doing the similar technique of slip-trailing by applying liquid clay to pottery to create one of a kind pieces.”

Eric Calvillo (Booth 130), of Las Vegas, creates surrealistic paintings of skeletons and anthropomorphic animals with handmade frames that extend beyond the substrate.

The Maestro, Michelle McDowell Smith

William Huff (Booth 55) is a Salt Lake City photographic artist who sees his work as a channel for inspiring viewers to take up the cause of valuing and protecting the wilderness. As he notes in his artistic statement, Huff writes, “The sandstone arches of southern Utah teach us that nothing in nature is permanent, so part of my work is to create a record of what was there at a moment in time. This is especially important now with environmental change, global warming, and our public lands are under attack. I hope that my work shows the value and beauty of the wilderness.”

Nick Bryant (Booth 44), describes himself as a fourth generation rockhound using found gems and stones as well as machinery and techniques passed down through his family, to create high quality bolo ties and hat bands. Robert Fehlau (Booth 164) makes solid wood bowls (ranging in size up to 24 inches in diameter), vessels and sculptures from reclaimed local trees.

Demon’s Angel. Randy Thomae.

Returning award winners include Jon Morgan (Booth 103, Sculpture, South Ogden, Utah, Best of Show Artist Marketplace Award). As noted in a 2022 feature at The Utah Review, Morgan’s bronze sculptures follow the process known as “Lost Wax,” a method that is at least 6,000 years old, in which the metal sculpture is cast from an artist’s original sculpture. This method is useful in conveying the emotions which might be evoked through the intricate details of the piece and the story it is intended to represent.

Randy Thomae (Booths 158 and 159, Photography, Boulder, Colorado, Best of Show Board of Directors Award) is a photographer who also enjoys shooting winter landscapes and ski racing. “Raw emotion, unbridled creativity, and technical excellence combine to produce original, painterly, semi-abstract landscapes,” Thomae writes in an artistic statement. “Seeing the world through a long lens inspires intimate landscapes that draw the viewer into the essence of an emotion experienced outside. The artist composes his abstract landscapes using his mastery of distortion through tools such as reflections, too much light, too little focus, and long shutter speeds.”

Rise and Shine. Veronica Sandoval.

Michelle McDowell Smith (Booth 127, 2-D Mixed Media, St. Johns, Florida, Best of Show Donor Jury Award) is a Roanoke, Virginia artist She who uses acrylic paint, mixed media materials such as paper, hand made linoleum stamps, sewing patterns, maps, old letters, pages from books, and other items. Her current series of work is titled Of Land and Sky, Whimsical and Free. The work’s focus is centered in longstanding memories, fleeting ideas, and hope for the future

Landon Hill (Booth 85, Photography, Ogden, Utah, Award of Merit, Artist Marketplace Award) counts among his role models artists such as Michael Fatali, Ansel Adams, Ben Horne, David Muench, Frank Sirona, Christopher Burkett and other large format landscape photographers. “Though digital manipulation is almost standard with today’s digital landscape photographers, I prefer to adhere to 20th century photographic techniques,” Hill explains in a statement at his website. “All my images are captured on medium- and large-format cameras with Kodak and Fujichrome Transparency FIlm, Black and White Film, and the occasional Color Negative. Although nearly gone are the days of printing in the darkroom directly from slide film to Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) (, I still employ traditional techniques to the best of my abilities, including Cibachrome on a limited number of images.” He adds, “I choose to only use materials that capture light onto light-sensitive emulsions that are then developed in chemicals, including all limited and special edition prints.”

Adam Huffman. Photo: Les Roka

Veronica Sandoval (Booth 92, Metalwork, Scottsdale and Tucson, Arizona, Award of Merit, Community and Inclusion Award) works with her own interpretation of repoussé, the European technique of embossing metal sculptures. The pieces can be crosses, contemporary designs, or representations of the Sonoran Desert.

Lee Drake (Booth 46, Jewelry, Hailey, Idaho,  Award of Merit, Donor Jury Award) creates jewelry which can be worn universally: “I hand fabricate using traditional jewelry techniques. I tell a story in texture and form, of the beauty, struggle and resilience of the human experience and the natural world. [It is] crafted in high karat gold, sterling silver and adorned with natural hand selected stones.”

Landon Hill.

Adam Hoffman (Booth, Digital, Salt Lake City, People’s Choice Award) is an engineer who is a self-taught artist who became focused on naturally occurring fractal patterns and ways to portray and represent them outside of traditionally rigid mathematical and geometrical boundaries. “I am able to use mathematic fractals to model natural fractals which allows me to create some very organic feeling scenes and structures,” Hoffman explains, adding that he follows whatever steps the creative process journey allows. “I can expand the journey into even more complex patterns and designs,” he writes, adding that lby utilizing color, a relatively flat fractal pattern can pop into an almost three-dimensional piece.”

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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