April is a busy month for the workers of the Springville Museum of Art — just as it has been for the past 93 years. Their annual Spring Salon, one of the longest running in the country, opened April 26.
Every surface of the first-floor gallery is covered with artwork. There are paintings, sculptures, concept items. You name it, they have it. But these countless forms of artistic expression have one thing in common: Every piece in the Spring Salon was created by a Utah artist.
According to Rita Wright, director of the museum, the purpose of the Spring Salon is to encourage local artists to progress in their skills.
“This is one of the longest-running salons in the country, and over the years, it has developed a really neat community aspect as many more artists have been working in Utah,” Wright said.
All of the pieces in the show were submitted by artists who have lived in Utah, worked in Utah, or studied in Utah. Assistant curator Emily Larsen said that this year the Spring Salon received almost 900 submissions.
The 2017 show jurors, William Whitaker and Kandace Steadman, are both prominent figures in Utah's art scene.
Wright explained that jurors are primarily looking for two things in the submissions: technical ability and conceptual development.
“Sometimes there are things that are well done technically, but that don’t really seem to be going any place, conceptually. We want there to be something thoughtful going on there,” said Wright.
One artist who Wright said particularly catered to both of those requirements is Howard Lyon of American Fork, whose piece “After the Dance” won first place in this year’s competition. Lyon and his wife, Shari, have pieces in the Spring Salon. Howard Lyon also won an honorable mention for his work “Ella,” a highly symbolic portrait of a young girl that Wright said was conceptually pleasing.
“It’s not just a portrait. There are concepts behind this painting, like the family dynamic and the idea of young womanhood, that can be explored,” Wright explained.
Howard Lyon said that his piece is representative of the subject’s divine nature.
The artist studied illustration at Brigham Young University, the Grand Central Atelier in New York City as well as completed personal art studies in France and Italy. He and his wife moved back to Utah a couple of years ago, and she said that a big reason for their move was to come back to the Utah art community.
“It’s definitely a rising tide. We all have different goals and ideas, but everyone comes together to lend a hand to anyone,” Shari Lyon said.
The group dynamic of Utah artists always comes as a surprise to outsiders, Wright said, because other museum directors have had to deal with artist who are competitive and exclusive. According to her, the supportive, feedback-driven community in this state always surprises other directors.
It is clear from the submission pool that Utah has a wide variety of artistic talent. Howard Lyon's focus is in 19th-century style portraiture, and he said he prefers this medium because of its accessible beauty.
“I have both a love and a lamentation for 19th-century art,” he explained. “There was a real shift in the art world from what I think is craft and skill into pure idea.”
Howard feels that 20th-century art movements brought a loss of appreciation for beauty in art. He shared that beauty in art is what motivates him, and that he strives to create art that inspires others.
“There are times where we go through life and then we hear Gershwin or enter the Sistine Chapel and we are just elevated as humans that one of our fellow people could create something like that,” Howard Lyon said of his art ideals. “Those forms of art are uplifting to me. I’m not uplifted by Duchamp’s ‘Fountain.’”
Unlike Howard Lyon, who is primarily an oil painter, Shari Lyon mainly works in encaustics.
She described encaustic art as a long process of painting with melted beeswax and damar resin into anywhere from 5-20 layers. Her business biography explains that she also incorporates pigments, oil paint, photography, gold leaf, charcoal and graphite into her pieces.
“I’ve always enjoyed encaustics because they get this ethereal background to them. It’s just different,” she said.
Shari Lyon's piece in the show features three trees on a horizon, and is titled “My Three Seeds are Growing Like Trees.” The piece was inspired by the couple’s children. She shared that she has always been drawn to the symbolism of trees in art, whether it be the tree of life or a family tree, and because each tree is so unique.
“With this (piece), I was thinking about how trees all have such a personality of their own. Our kids are all so different from each other, so I represented them with three different trees,” she said.
Unique, too, are the artists represented in the exhibition, making the judging process bittersweet every year, said Wright.
“It is like Christmas morning for us, when we get to look through all of the amazing submissions and give the artists a chance to be displayed. But it is also gut-wrenching to reject pieces, because we know how much work these artists put in,” Wright said.
Out of the 800+ submissions for the 2017 salon, the jurors and staff chose 243 pieces for the gallery, several of which were given honorable mentions by the staff, awards of merit or other prizes from the judges.
But Wright said that their show is not just about the winners.
“We aren’t just considering the competition, we mostly just want to make sure we have a really good exhibition. We want our visitors to come and just be ‘wowed’ by some of the things that Utah artists are doing,” she said.
If you go ...
What: Springville Museum of Art's "93 Annual Spring Salon"
When: April 26-July 8; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Where: Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 South, Springville
Springville Museum of Art 2017 Spring Salon Winners
1st Place Award: Howard Lyon "After the Dance"
2nd Place Award: Leslie Duke "Becoming, By and By"
3rd Place Award: Michael Workman "Helper/November"
Awards of Merit:
Casey Childs, "Tousled"
Susan Church, "Dissolution"
David Maestas "Ventana de las Sombras Perdidas"
Ron R. Richmond, "Altar"
Dennis Smith, "Flutterfly"
Clay Fred Wagstaff, "Light on the Rock No. 7"
Patric Bates, "The Wide Gates Still Wild"
Wendy Chidester, "1918 Slide Projector"
Karl Hale, "The Light and the Life"
William Kranstover, "Early Run Off on the Montana Reservation"
Howard Lyon, "Ella"
Frank McEntire, "In the Hours of Dark"
Ryan Moffett, "Starts in the Heart"
Colby Sanford, "Parade"
Tanner K. Williams, "Skin Cradle Two for Domestic Life"
Scott Yelonek, "Kodak Showtime 8"