Late spring is in full bloom at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA). The Utah Review looks at three of the latest exhibitions, including Out Loud: Stop and Smell the Roses, Razorbacks by Mitchell Barton and the works by Utah artists that are available in the 2023 Gala Art Auction.
OUT LOUD: STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES:
A wonderful lead-in to the Utah Pride celebrations in early June, Stop and Smell the Roses is one of the current exhibitions at UMOCA, featuring work by 16 young artists who completed a 12-week workshop series in the museum’s Out Loud program, which is led by Golda Ovalles.
Collectively, the works in the exhibition impress, for how these young artists explore traditional media as well as mixing media to articulate their creative intentions. During the workshops, the artists learned from professional queer artists and then decided individually how they wanted to respond to this year’s theme of Stop and Smell the Roses. It is a refreshing, optimistic counterpoint, suggesting the value of staying resilient despite recent disturbing socio-political trends that appear intent on reversing the course for securing and protecting the rights of the young LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, the artists are identified only by their first names, given that some are not yet out for fears of being ostracized by their families and friends.
The diversity of form and media in the show reflects precisely the desire for genuine diversity in the queer spectrum. Ovalles adds that each artist wrote a short artistic statement about their work. Some artists contextualized their work in prose, while several used poetry.
For example, Hang in there kid by Niko is a finely executed acrylic painting, which resembles a heavily pixelated image. For their artistic statement, Niko composed verses that are a meditation about how memories before the pandemic have become “fuzzy and discolored” and how their identity has evolved since then. Niko writes, “i feel as though/ i have aged ten years/ in the past three/ who am i/ really?/i am so many people at once/ i just want to be/at peace with myself/ and who i used to be/ i stop to smell the roses/ and see/ that they were really daisies/all along.”
Riffing on a universal literary trope, Shepard’s Experiment 7673 is a splendidly composed work of a painted vinyl disc and clay forms, which fits nicely within the exhibition’s theme of a diverse garden. Shepard’s artistic statement is a miniature metaphorical story about the creature of “Thorns” who yearns to be “free of trials and torment and lots of pain and blood.” Shepard rounds up nicely: “In the end, despite the trouble, 7673 escaped and found a field of Tulips. They are no longer a creature of Thorns, instead, 7673 is a Rose creature. They found the reason to stop and smell the Roses.”
Mazzy’s ceramic Hide-and-no-See figurine is a dynamic example of the young artist’s skilled synthesis of the exhibition theme and the broader mission of the Out Loud workshop program. Mazzy’s self-portrait “represents how I have used clothing to hide my body.” Their statement continues, “With a few folds of fabric, I could hide the way I look and protect myself from public critique and compliments.” As for the flower on top, Mazzy writes that it signifies the constructed desirable outward appearance that makes society comfortable but also is potentially unhealthy. “No one understands inner struggles by seeing the outer shell of a person,” Mazzy writes. “We hide our internal struggles in different external ways and my piece is an invitation to be conscientious of how we act and what we say to each other.”
Floriculture, which is the de facto centerpiece for the exhibition, was created by Peaches. It is a satin gown adorned with garlands of flowers. Peaches’ verses epitomize the show’s theme to the letter:
I’ve learned to grow my own flowers.
Because you don’t buy them for me often enough.
Do I not deserve bouquets and bouquets of love?
I can walk to the florist and I can garden myself.
I’ll carry roses, narcissus, wisteria, gardenia, and more.
Blossoms and blossoms of self-love that you can’t understand.
The show will close during Pride weekend. On June 3, from 1-4 p.m., there will be a closing reception, presented with What’s Ya Vibe?. The event will feature a photo booth where visitors can have their pictures taken to be included in a digital installation in the museum’s lobby for Pride month. The photo booth will feature a backdrop created by museum visitors during May’s Family Art Saturday. There also will be a DJ set by AMEA.
MITCHELL BARTON: RAZORBACKS
Mitchell Barton’s Razorbacks exhibition is a fine artistic distillation of an epistemological epiphany from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. While Ahab’s story in the novel is satisfactorily concluded, the philosophical journey of Ishmael, the first-person narrator, is far from over, after he is rescued just before the Pequod sinks to its watery grave. Ishmael eventually acknowledges the shortcomings of scientific rationalism and warms toward the poetic tradition. As critic and poet John Crowe Ransom explained about metaphysical poetry, “It is not true like history, but no poetry is true in that sense, and only a part of science. It is true in the pragmatic sense in which some of the generalizations of science are true: it accomplishes precisely the sort of representation that it means to. It suggests to us that the object is perceptually or physically remarkable, and we had better attend to it.”
This informs the labor-intense process of Barton’s works, where he manipulates physical objects through photographing, printing, scanning, drawing and photoshopping. Barton is like the contemporary Ishmael and the works elucidate the corresponding epiphany in compelling ways. His epistemological quest to know and comprehend fully, which is persistently elusive and ephemeral, is prominent. Barton prints the images on artist tape, which does not absorb the ink from the original and thus the surface shows the image as forever unstable. But, these works composed of artist tape also reflect the duality of conclusion and inconclusiveness, akin to the central characters’ stories in the Melville book. In some instances, the titles of the pieces are specific: Circle Fish, Working Title: I went to the Spouter Inn and all I got was this 4” x 6” print on 65lb Neenah Bright White, and Sad Brontosaurus. Others are unknowable or pose questions that will lead to even more questions: What is this object I’ve encountered?!, Anamorphic Skull Study, or maybe, the Ambassadors Find a Brontosaurus and Of what does a dolphin dream? Collages in Barton’s work become the vehicle to spark our own contemplative quests in connecting the personal corporeal and spiritual worlds together.
UMOCA 2023 GALA ART AUCTION
Dozens of local artists have donated artwork for the 2023 Annual Gala Art Auction Exhibition, in which auction proceeds will directly benefit artists and community members through UMOCA’s exhibitions, education, and Artist-in-Residence programs, supporting an expansive and experimental arts scene in Utah.
The 47 works are on display through June 10, when the auction will close. The list of artists include many names familiar to the Utah art community along with several first-timers to the auction.They include those whose works have been featured not only at UMOCA but also at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Ogden Contemporary Arts and many of the state’s other museums and major galleries. Those wishing to participate in the auction can visit this UMOCA page for the works and suggested bid prices.
Featured artists include Andrew Alba; Coleman Andersen; Alise Anderson; Mitchell Barton; Ed Bateman; Henry Becker; John Bell; Collin Bradford; Trent Call; Shalee Cooper; Paul Crow; Daniel Everett; Peter Everett; Nathan Florence; Nolan Flynn; Daniel George; Josh Graham; Russell Huiskamp; Janell James; Andrea Jensen; Lenka Konopasek; Dimitri Kozyrev; Jiyoun Lee-Lodge; Jared Lindsay Clark; Colour Maisch; Jason Manley; Frank McEntire; Cynthia McLoughlin; Jesse Meredith; Zachary Norman; Andrew Rice; Holly Rios; Horacio Rodriguez; Jorge Rojas; Laura Sharp Wilson; Matthew Sketch; John Sproul; Jared Steffensen; Sharon Sutton; James Talbot; Jerrin Wagstaff; Michelle Wentling; Jill Whit; Moses Williams; Josh Winegar; Jaclyn Wright.