Some Things We Noticed at the Spring Salon: Bryan Larsen, Kathleen Peterson, Frank McEntire, Jason Lanegan, Abraham Kimball - Artists of Utah's 15 Bytes (2024)

Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

By Geoff Wichert on May 13, 2024 ( Leave a comment )

Bryan Larsen, “Sugar and Spice,” oil on linen panel, 18 x 24 in.

In 1986, I toured a pair of museums on Trafalgar Square in London: the National Gallery, possibly the finest collection in an international field marked by many superb contenders, and the National Portrait Gallery, where I encountered a modern portrait that came to haunt me over the years. Their names are not important here, but the subject was a prominent scientist, and the painter had chosen to celebrate what was then a rare achievement by depicting her with what amounted to a cloud of moving hands that were busily manipulating a model of a molecule on her workbench. While I thrilled to the sight of a woman being acknowledged in one of the foremost venues for such recognition, and initially thought the presentation of her hands made a wonderful metaphor for dexterity, I soon came to regret how often women are celebrated for the work of their hands, as if manual labor were their only contribution. Furthermore, and far worse, I felt she’d been shown deformed, as if any woman devoting herself to a scientific endeavor must be an aberration, even a monster.

Come forward nearly 40 years, and that long-ago error has finally been corrected to my satisfaction. Bryan Larsen’s oil on panel, “Sugar and Spice,” which title he intends to both upend and give a new meaning to that disparaging phrase, depicts a young scientist for once free of gender prejudice. Behind her, a blackboard displays an array of both sophisticated and playful symbols that, among other things, clarify that what at first looks “childish” can instead be seen as “child-like.” The subject holds what can only be a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil in her left hand, reminding viewers that dominant neural patterns don’t always identify the best thinkers. And to eliminate any final ambiguity, a glint of symbolic light reflected from her glasses calls attention to the way humans, when we focus our thinking, turn our distracting eyes away in order to see better with out minds.

Of course, all this comes to us through the manual skills of Bryan Larsen, whose art is only one among a seemingly limitless assortment of things our hands enable us to do. Another of my favorite works in the 100th Spring Salon, Kathleen Peterson’s “The Quilters,” places skilled hands where they rightly belong: at the foundation of human achievements. Among those she celebrates are fabrics and their endless patterns, in the form of clothing, comfort, or to delight the eye; the design and crafting of tables and chairs; floor in endless varieties for every purpose; pots and the garden plants that fill them; and lest we forget, such tools as spools and the scissors in the center of it all. But then she takes it up a notch. After all, one person could make a quilt, yet Peterson takes delight, as she tells us here and in her statement, in the collaborative nature of life properly done. The society of women may begin in tasks, but it’s conversation, in its many forms, that makes companions of us.

******

There’s an identifiable group of artists in the West that might better be described as a family, rather than a school: three generations sharing ideas and influences some may be unaware of. The grandparents, so to speak, were Ed Kienholz and his wife, Nancy Reddin. In brief, these members of the Beat Generation assembled found materials into installations critical of modern life. Seattle, Idaho, and Germany were among the places they worked.

Utah’s Frank McEntire also uses discarded and found materials in his sculptures, which share Kienholz’s disdain for false religiosity, but focus on a powerful environmental component. “Bottle Tree,” his contribution to this year’s Salon, spins off from a project to build a tree from recycled glass bottles, which are a problem for an industry that has sought but not found a practical channel for recycling glass. Indicative of the problem, the project this “Tree” spun off from abandoned the bottle element, and while it stands as testimony to McEntire’s often-overlooked sculptural skill, leaves this outtake as witness to the impact of irreversible industries on nature.

Frank McEntire, “Bottle Tree,” 2024, mixed media

Jason Lanegan, “Relics of Childlike Wanderings,” 2024, mixed media

Two prolific Central Utah artists and art professors, Jason Lanegan and Abraham Kimball, demonstrate both the aesthetic connections and conceptual independence among these five artists, and others who are not present in the Salon. Early on, Lanegan recognized the advantage in using found objects and materials imbued with history, instead of neutral arts materials, to invoke memories of childhood, whether recalling the child’s experience or the parents’. In practice, he both sculpts and paints spaces wherein the relics exercise their power. In “Relics of Childlike Wanderings,” strings of beads, many of them displaced by emotionally plangent objects such as keys and souvenirs, hang from the model of a home. That the house is more an intention than a fact is revealed by its skin of construction patterns, while the windows are shadow boxes in which toys represent a baby, a boat, and a doll made of beads not unlike those hanging below. Every memory here exists at once as a future promise and a past fulfillment.

Abraham Kimball makes art seemingly as a reflex; apparently anything he sees can give rise to a picture or an object. That he has two works in the Salon seems only just, given that both demonstrate what he can say with wheels. “Cannot be Hidden, But maybe moved . . .” takes as subject two senses of “moving”— emotional and physical. A once-evocative image, the “city on a hill,” has gone stale in the broken-promise-filled mouths of politicians, prompting Kimball’s suggestion that if putting it on wheels fails to restore its luster, it would at least make possible rolling it out of sight. Interestingly, while his city has been newly fabricated along historical lines, its pedestal and wheels are genuine antiques, suggesting that the solution was there even before the problem arose. In “On a Roll but Not Afloat,” on the other hand, romantic anticipation is made out to be like using a wagon where a boat is called for.

Central to Surrealism, and much art that has followed, is the image of a chance meeting between two irreconcilable objects. None of these artists is a Surrealist, but they all discover insight in the haphazard survival and collision of objects from the past.

Abraham Kimball, “On a Roll but not Afloa,” 2024, lithograph

100th Annual Spring Salon, Springville Museum of Art, Springville, through July 6

Some Things We Noticed at the Spring Salon: Bryan Larsen, Kathleen Peterson, Frank McEntire, Jason Lanegan, Abraham Kimball - Artists of Utah's 15 Bytes (6)

Geoff Wichert

Geoff Wichert objects to the term critic. He would rather be thought of as a advocate on behalf of those he writes about.

Categories: Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Tagged as: Abraham Kimball, Bryan Larsen, Frank McEntire, Jason Lanegan, Kathleen Peterson

Some Things We Noticed at the Spring Salon: Bryan Larsen, Kathleen Peterson, Frank McEntire, Jason Lanegan, Abraham Kimball - Artists of Utah's 15 Bytes (2024)
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