-Two very good reasons attracted me to the University of Utah this past week. One was the slate of exceptional exhibits being featured there. Another was the fact that there was plenty of available parking, since students were enjoying an Easter break.
-For almost two months now, the animated rock art figures in "Catch Something Running" have been cavorting in the north exhibition hall of the Utah Museum of Natural History (UMNH) at the U. Visitors to the show will find, among other things, a desert bighorn playing a flute, a friendly figure waving at them and a composite bird/fish/snake/deer roaming along the pathway.These are the sculptural creations of Joe Pachak, a staff member at the White Mesa Institute of Southwest Studies at the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding.
Several years ago, Pachak got the idea of transforming two-dimensional rock art into three-dimensional sculpture. He felt that people could better identify these figures - whether they be human, animal or plant life.
But the project was triggered by an even greater concern. Pachak writes, "The exhibit relates to hunting and the concept of preservation. It's like the sands slipping through the hourglass. Culture is running away from us."
His initial idea grew in momentum until it eventually turned into a very ambitious and time-consuming proj-ect. And each time Pachak sets up this environmental installation in a new location, he makes it even bigger and better. For his Salt Lake showing, he has included 28 stylized sculptures.
To create a proper setting for these figures, Pachak hung hundreds of yards of fabric from ceiling to floor and painted it to simulate rock walls. He even dumped many wheelbarrow loads of gravel for the floor and pathways of his man-made canyon. He then recorded sounds of birds, a flute, approaching storms and other sounds. The tape plays continuously, adding dramatically to the mood of the show.
The only problem with this environmental installation is that it ends too soon. But viewers can walk through it several times, gleaning more and more enjoyment and understanding each time.
A small brochure has been prepared for viewers. On the inside pages are drawings of all the images Pachak has used, along with a brief description.
"Catch Something Running" continues at UMNH through April 14.
-Also on display in the museum is the Tenth Biennial Show of the Mary M. Atwater Weavers Guild of Utah. It can be seen on the main floor in the recently renovated space that formerly housed the administrative offices.
In this attractive room, 26 fiber artists from Utah exhibit a wide range of beautifully woven pieces - clothing, wall hangings, pillow covers, rugs, place mats and basketry.
The artists made an extra effort to stick close to the show's theme: a tribute to the natural world. They drew inspiration from exhibits and collections at the UMNH.
Maggie Harrison was inspired by the lines of the zebra as she combined handmade pieces of black-and-white felt. Renee Page was attracted to the reflections of crystallized color, resulting in an attractive hand-woven jacket of silk, linen, acrylic and cotton. Kathy Kankainen was inspired by rock art for her hand-woven, warp-painted cotton wall pieces. In fact, Kankainen won first place and best of show for "Great Gallery," a reproduction of pictographs at Barrier Canyon.
The people's choice award, however, went to Bettina Schultz's hand-woven wool tapestry "In Cohab Canyon." On display below the weaving is a color photograph that served as a springboard to Schultz's colorful weaving.
The show is not only aesthetic but highly educational as well. Scattered among the fiber arts are looms and photographs. Informative plaques list the artists' names, describe their works and identify their source of inspiration.
The show continues through April 16 at the University of Utah's UMNH. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children 3-14 and senior citizens and free for U. faculty and students. For more information, call 581-4303.