A true art patron causes art to be made that would not otherwise exist, directly influencing the content of the piece.
"Besides money," said Dutch artist and thinker Karl Zipser, "an art patron must have a good idea of what the artwork should be about, discernment to select the best artist for the job, patience and persistence to deal with problems, delays and drama that accompany any serious artistic project."
Today, being an art patron in the visual arts is a rarity in Utah. Therefore, in its continuing effort to combine patrons with artists, the Salt Lake Art Center has put together "Not Just Another Pretty Face" in its Street Gallery through July 24.
In its exhibition brochure, the Art Center frankly expresses its concern that Utah does not have enough collectors of contemporary art to support the artists working here. Economic pressures have forced many artists to move to New York or Los Angeles in order to make a living.
"Although the decision of any individual artist to leave has only a small impact, in the aggregate these choices create a slow but steady drain on the creative life of our community, sapping it of the kind of artistic presence that is the birthright of all great cities."
Potential patrons were introduced to "Not Just Another Pretty Face" and its participating artists at a series of nine salons hosted at the homes of trustees and friends of the Art Center. Once selected, artists and patrons were encouraged to create a work based on the concept of a portrait, whether a figurative likeness or an abstracted or symbolic image representing the personality or mood of an individual in a portrait.
"This is my first year participating in this event," said artist Lucia Heffernan. "I got invited to two salons. It's a great way for the patrons and the artists to meet face to face. I brought some examples of my works to the salons and was able to sell some pieces and get some commissions."
"I happened to be out painting en plein air when I received a call inviting me to participate," Jeff Pugh said. "The salons are a wonderful way to give potential patrons a snapshot of each artist's work. It gave me a chance to talk with those that had questions about my process and to expand on how I view my work. It was only days (after hearing about this show) that one of the patrons saw my name on the list and contacted me. I was already scheduled for a commission before the salons even started."
When an artist works for a patron, the goal is to please the patron and then receive the money agreed upon for the work. On the other hand, artworks created for a gallery are made for no one in particular, except, perhaps, the artist. It's guesswork as to who might purchase the art, or if it will sell at all.
"NJAPF is a unique idea that is very helpful for both the Art Center and the artists involved," said Paul Heath, another participating artist. "It takes coordination to link artists with potential patrons, and I appreciate all that the Art Center has done for me."
Heath believes most artists are like him in that they tend to have a tough time marketing themselves without outside help. "Our dream is to follow our bliss and do our inner work in our studios and have the outside world find us." Heath's three exhibition pieces in "Not Just Another Pretty Face" are paeans to local pop culture, three energetic paintings that treat both the eye and mind.
Silvia Davis' "Flash," a preening cat carved from multicolored woods, is another fine piece in the show. With its emphasis on figurative detail, it reinforces Davis' long and successful career as a pre-eminent Utah sculptor.
Another notable Utah sculptor, Cordell Taylor, has several artworks in the exhibition. His mixed-media assemblage, "Impact," a bicycle and helmet smashed on the road, will make — depending on your political convictions concerning the rights of bicyclists — you either chuckle with vindication or groan in commiseration.
The large abstract expressionist painting, "Inland Shore," by Hyunmee Lee is imbued with figure/space nuance, and the tightly cropped, impeccably rendered portraits of the Aoki family (patrons) by Lucia Heffernan prove that less is indeed more.
Other works that stand out are Jean Arnold's "Mississippi Crosstown: Aurora," Wendy Chidester's "Keuffel & Esser 5076 Transit," Peter Everett's "Rapture" and Jeff Pugh's "Alec & Mick." The exhibition includes paintings, a print, collage, sculpture and drawings. (See accompanying box for a complete listing of participating artists.)
As is the case with many exhibits, there are a few pieces that weaken the show's overall excellence; however, there is enough thought-provoking and well-crafted work on display in "Not Just Another Pretty Face" in order to allow gallery visitors to feel satisfied and encouraged about the prospect of increasing the number of art patrons in Utah.
"We are fortunate," Heath said, "to have a growing appreciation of the visual arts in Utah, and we have exceptionally talented artists here. I have visited galleries in bigger markets, and I believe our artists are equally talented and sophisticated across multiple disciplines and media."
With an increase in art patrons who are willing to purchase contemporary artwork by local artists, the art scene in Salt Lake City, and other major cities throughout the state, will continue to grow and remain a vital part of our cultural heritage.
If you go …
What: "Not Just Another Pretty Face"
Where: Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple
When: Tuesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., through July 24
How much: free
e-mail: [email protected]