Some visual artists hibernate in their studios, isolating themselves from the rest of the world. Others find that working with others is highly stimulating, challenging and rewarding.
Two such artists are printmaker Royden Card and photographer John Telford. Both have recently collaborated with writers, designers, printers, publishers and others to produce two excellent books on Utah.Card provided the woodcut prints for "Dale L. Morgan's Utah," and Telford photographed colorful southern Utah canyonlands to enhance "Coyote's Canyon," a book written by Terry Tempest Williams.
These artists will be showing their creative efforts in the exhibition "Canyons." It opens April 1 in the Courtyard Gallery in downtown Salt Lake.
The book "Dale L. Morgan's Utah" was published in 1987 by the Red Butte Press at the University of Utah. It consists of excerpts from writings by the late Dale L. Morgan about Utah's many geographic attractions.
This publication was beautifully designed and hand-printed by Day Christensen.
It was Christensen who got Card involved in the project. After reading the text, Christensen felt that the book could be enhanced dramatically with an occasional strong accent of art. He told Dr. Everett Cooley, who spearheaded the project, that he knew of a Utah printmaker whose woodcuts would fit in nicely with the text.
Card said, "It wasn't long before I was presenting him with a portfolio of my work." Subsequently, he was chosen to illustrate the book.
Card's contribution consists of five original woodcuts as well as one for the prospectus.
"I also carved the word `Utah' that appears on the title page of the book," Card said.
His participation in this collaborative process took several months. He got approval for his
drawings in November 1986, started to carve the woodcuts in December and reviewed the proofs in January. The printing took place at the University of Utah's Red Butte Press in February and March of 1987.
For these landscape images, Card relied heavily on a backlog of sketches and slides. "But I did go down to Double-O Arch to make preliminary sketches for that one," he said.
When working on the scene from Zion's Canyon, Card completed the woodcut and printed it. Members of the collaborative team gave their OK because they trusted his judgment. "But I still wasn't satisfied with it, so I redid it."
The text was handset and printed on an 1846 Columbian press on dampened, handmade DeWint paper from England. The book was bound in a paper case cover with visible sewing. The handmade case paper was custom-made by Twinrocker Papermill and contains sagebrush from Utah.
A limited edition of only 75 copies was printed - and they have all sold. The governor's office recently purchased the remaining 23 unsold copies of the edition to give to recipients of the Governor's Awards in the Arts.
For this Courtyard Gallery show, Card will include not only his literal woodcut prints from "Dale Morgan's Utah" but others that are more abstract.
"I have tried to be sensitive to the abstractions found in Telford's photographs," the artist said. "In my more recent woodcuts, I have been focusing on the mystery of the desert and attempting to interpret it."
While Card searches Utah landscape for contrasts in light and dark, Telford is attracted to the rainbow of colors found therein.
Although Telford has lived in Utah all his life, it wasn't until 1972 that he made his first trip to Glen Canyon and Lake Powell. It was then he caught a glimpse of the intensity of the colors found there.
Suddenly he realized that the colors he had previously seen in reproductions of Glen Canyon were really there and not manipulated by the presses.
As he studied the scenes first-hand, he could see and feel the energy of light. "It's not the color of the canyons, but rather the color of the light that permeates the rocks and brings them to life. It's this reflected light, amplified in color with each recoil, which brings the desert to life."
Ever since his first exposure to the palette of Color Country, Telford has returned many times. And he has had a desire for his photographs to be published in a book.
He approached publisher Gibbs Smith with the idea, and response was favorable. However, Smith suggested that he look for a writer of Terry Tempest Williams' calibre to do the writing.
Telford has known Williams for a number of years. In fact, a few years before, he had talked to her about the possibility of collaborating on a book on the Great Salt Lake. They started to pursue the idea, but it never came to fruition.
Encouraged by Smith's response, Telford again approached Williams. "She showed a great deal of interest, and we started to buckle down and get a project together that would be publishable."
Work progressed well, except for a decision on the book's title.
"One day, Terry came into my office and said that she wasn't leaving until we had agreed on one title," Telford said.
During the brainstorming session, Tempest mentioned that the stories she wrote for this book were factional fiction and that maybe she and Telford should be thinking in terms of Navajo mythology. Terry said that in a way, they were dealing with the coyote figure of the Navajo - a trickster figure that represents a different sense of reality."
The word "coyote" stood out in Telford's mind. And he suggested that perhaps they could combine it with the word `canyon.' The idea appealed to both of them.
Telford said that their Coyote's Canyon is not a particular canyon - but a whole area. "It's not so much about reality as perception."
It was not until after the title had been selected that it was discovered that there is canyon named coyote in Utah, even though the name doesn't seem to appear on any map. In fact, Telford was there in 1976, took a photograph of it and titled it "Cow Canyon." It proved highly popular and has been published on posters and calendar covers.
A knowledgeable source pointed out that the photograph Telford took was not Cow Canyon but Coyote Canyon. This caused Telford to feel that perhaps the title had been inspired. And this photograph graces one of the pages of the new book.
Telford indicated that collaborating with Williams was a most enjoyable experience and one that they hope to share again.
"As I photographed for the book, I had no intention of illustrating Terry's stories - or vice versa. Our goal was not to illustrate or write one way or another.
"I initially went to my files and combed through them. Terry went through the ones I selected and responded to them. I read her stories and responded to them."
Telford said that it was relatively easy selecting the photographs that complemented the stories. "Both of us had responded to the desert in a similar fashion - yet we had done so independently."
When searching for his subject matter, Telford sees form, shape, line and texture. "Objects are not important as such, but rather as shape. Shape juxtaposed with shape becomes a found composition."
He looks beyond what rock is, at its artistic aspects. "It becomes sculpture in my mind. It's a visual interpretation of what the desert is all about. I search for the possibilities of what is there through imaginative eyes. In my mind, it becomes sculpture."
He added that the Navajo Indians looked at these rocks in a similar imaginative way. "They felt the spirit of the rock; they saw their ancestors in the rock; they imagined things in the rock that those with a cognitive sense don't see."
Both Telford and Williams will collaborate once again at 3:30 p.m. on April 1 at the Courtyard Gallery, 153 W. Pierpont Avenue. Williams will read excerpts from "Coyote's Canyon," while Telford gives a slide presentation. A reception will follow from 4-7 p.m. for Telford and Card, whose works will continue to be featured at the Courtyard Gallery through May 19. Gallery hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 363-5151.