This is the 86th annual Spring Salon at the Springville Museum of Art — the 86th time the museum has invited artists statewide to submit their best and brightest works so that the museum could show off state-of-art art of the state.
This year, some 1,062 works were entered; those were juried down to 218. That's the second highest number on record, says museum director Vern Swanson. The exhibition fills every gallery on the main floor, and it is the best ever, he says.
If he says that every year, well, he should, because more than any other exhibition this one represents the best of Utah art, he says, and that best keeps getting better.
"This exhibition shows the breadth and depth of Utah art. It shows Utah ranks as a powerful source of art, that we are one of the strongest states — certainly per capita — for fine arts in the region."
There were more pieces in last year's show, he admits, "but this year we have half again more in terms of square footage. We have a lot of very big pieces this year. Now, big doesn't necessarily mean better, but in this case, these are great, big, wonderful works. It's just a fabulous show."
The thing that delights him every year is that they get a lot of submissions from the well-established, well-known artists in the state, many of whom are on the list of "100 most recognized artists," and people like Linda Curley Christensen, J. Kirk Richards, Aaron Brent Harker and Ed Fraughton, "who are long-term providers of great art."
But every single year, he says, "we also have some 'finds,' works by artists that I've never heard of until now."
And that's saying something. "We have addresses for 8,500 living Utah artists. There are more that we don't have addresses for, or that have moved. I'd say there are about 3,000 names that I know pretty well. To have new ones come each year is very exciting."
The thing that is stressful every year, he says, "is that we have so many good pieces that we don't get to hang. But we do have a finite amount of space."
Jurors for this year's show were Micah Christensen, a curator at Anthony's Fine Art in Salt Lake City, and Jill Dawsey, acting chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
"Micah covered the novo realism side of the equation," Swanson says, "and Jill is strong on modern and post-modern work. They come from totally different aesthetic backgrounds, have different paradigms. But they both knew what they wanted and both had strong and enlightened views."
So, at the same time, Swanson says, "the show has more theoretical work and more traditional works, which are poles apart."
There's such great diversity in the show, he says. There's a "visionary room," with works that are post-modern, surreal, allegorical, metaphysical and fantasy. "I'm really pleased with what's here," he says.
There's also a Western room, an Academic room, a photo and print room "and then our Step-Down Gallery, which is our major award room and has some of everything."
Over the years, Swanson has enjoyed not only the art but also watching the development of the artists at the Spring Salon. "It's something so heartwarming. This year we had an artist who has been juried out of the show for 15 straight years, and he finally made it in with a magnificent watercolor."
And there are some artists, "like Aaron Bushnell, Cory Dangerfield, Brad Aldridge, Bryan Larsen, who have exhibited with us before but have really breakthrough pieces this year, ones that make you stop and say, 'Wow!' "
Bryan Larsen's "Muse and Medium," for example, "not only says something about modern life, it says something about classical realism in Utah, which has been dominated by 'one-figure wonders.' Aaron Bushnell always has a lot to say about modern life as well. Brad Aldridge's 'Liberty' is a masterpiece." Cory Dangerfield's "Standbury Island (With Cow)" is done in a photo-realism style, Swanson says. "The sweep and barrenness is amazing. And can you find the cow?"
But everywhere Swanson looks he finds something to excite his interest.
"Casey Childs has a portrait with wonderful design and real attitude," he says, "Brad Teare is a printmaker turned landscape artist who continues to soar. Frank Magleby is an older artist doing his best work. Rob Adamson is one of the few artists who have two pieces in the show. Both are very original and powerful: original composition, original paint application; he paints by temperature, warm to cool."
It doesn't get any more iconic that Gary Smith's red barn, saws Swanson. Scott Rogers' "The Portage" is both Western and expressionistic. Craig Hone's rooster, "The Matador," is a magnificent sculpture. "So much detail; the closer you look, the more you see."
He could go on and on. But it's better if you come see for yourself, he says. You will see such diversity. At the very least, you will say it is eclectic, he says. But it is a true snapshot of what's happening in the state, a prime example of the many ways that art can touch us, make us think, let us feel.
"There is so much of us in this show," he says, "so much that we can relate to and be challenged by."
If you go...
What: 86th annual Spring Salon
Where: Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 South, Springville
When: through July 3; days and times vary
How much: free
e-mail: [email protected]