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Kim Raff, Deseret Morning News
The Red Heifer, part of Jewish lore, is on the left in this section of Shawn Rossiter's drawing. "Tiamat" is the name of the Babylonian goddess of chaos.

Consider genetically engineered livestock, UFOs, Jewish holy days, political allegories, controversial Egyptian texts, conjoined twins, riot police, sin, evil, grace, redemption, dinosaurs, rabid dogs, human-headed salamanders. ... This is only some of the imagery encountered in "Tiamat," Shawn Rossiter's 5-by-90-foot pastel drawing at the Finch Lane Gallery through Nov. 3.

While thematically dense — the artist is dealing with religious revisionism and mythology from myriad cultures — Rossiter's horizontal stunner is brilliantly executed, as if his chalk-dusted fingers had channeled de Kooning, Chagall and Bacon.

"Tiamat is the Babylonian goddess of chaos," he said. "I was looking for a theme that would approach the style, which was kind of a chaotic style of one form dissolving into another."

While working on the drawing, Rossiter mentioned that some viewers have looked at his drawing and said their "children could do this."

Some viewers will also take umbrage with the portrayal of certain sacrosanct subjects, but metaphor is master here, and Rossiter's interpretation of events is his own, made valid by his prodigious drawing and compositional skills.

However, "Tiamat" has kept him working at a frantic pace. "I came home at 6 a.m. the other morning, after working on this all night, and I told my wife, 'You must never let me do this again."'

Rossiter's frenzied schedule is also due to his being the driving force behind the very popular "15 Bytes," an online art magazine that serves Utah art and artists. Known for its visual presence and excellent writing, "15 Bytes" has gone a long way to bring Utah art to the forefront of online art sites. And while Rossiter believes whole-heartedly in the Web site's continuance, he doesn't want it to overshadow his career as an artist.

To coincide with the drawing's revisionist theme, Rossiter decided to allow all viewers to "revise my own work by chopping it up into sections, involving them in the aesthetic process."

Some interested participants have studied the very lengthy piece with a viewfinder, holding it up to the artwork to help them determine which part of drawing they want to purchase. "It could be 12-by-36 inches, or it could be 5-by-10 feet," said Rossiter. "Whatever they want."

The price is $50 a square foot and 15 percent of "Tiamat" was sold by Sept. 25. "There's plenty left," the artist said.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, a day after the exhibit closes, Rossiter will "have a party and invite people to come in, and we'll just cut their sections out." Whatever is left over will be used for other shows.

Rossiter knows full well that what he's doing with "Tiamat" is a little gimmicky, but "I'm not so serious about it that I mind it, too much." He may or may not do another one like it.

"If I do," he said, "I think I'll leave about 5 feet undone and let other people finish it; we'll see if their 10-year-old child can do it or not."

To see more of Rossiter's work and link to "15 Bytes," visit www.shawnrossiter.com.


E-mail: gag@desnews.com