Artist Interview: Mike Lee

Mike Lee, UMOCA’s most recent A-I-R Space artist, spent his childhood in both rural Japan and Utah, splitting his national identity into a cultural and spiritual dichotomy. This split led Lee to attempt to reconcile this dichotomy, drawing inspiration from amassing information, both visual and non-visual, through obsessive internet searches. In 2015, he graduated with his BFA from Brigham Young University. His exhibition at UMOCA, Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness, explored Lee’s interest in artificial intelligence, Japanese culture, and the inevitable battle that will decide the fate of consciousness—will it be a unified digital world in the future? Perhaps it will become Google Earth? Lee examines how the digital world reflects our physical world and how it allows us to see ourselves digitally as well as we can see physically. Using elements of pop-culture, proto-renaissance Christian images, Japanese mythology, and videogame aesthetics, Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness asks its viewers to examine the way they view themselves and the world around them.

Lee used the fundamental mythology of Shintoism in his exhibition, with the mirror—Yata-no-Kagami—as the central focus of his work. In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu-ōmikami—the goddess of the sun—hides in a cave after her brother destroys her loom and kills one of her attendants. The other sympathetic gods realize they need her sunlight and devise a plan to coax her from the cave. “Yata-no-Kagami is basically a divine mirror that was used to show Amaterasu-omikami her own beauty to lure her out of hiding and spread light to the world,” says Lee. “I’ve been quite caught up in this story, which is one of the oldest known in Japan.” For Lee, the mirror can refer to front facing cameras, digital reflections on social media, or even the reflection of an old computer screen.

Although the internet is one way of spreading knowledge, or light, to the world—for instance, Lee mentions how Facebook is currently planning on bringing internet to places where internet is unavailable—artificial intelligence is something much more mysterious. “Artificial intelligence might already be in existence,” says Lee. “The social consciousness that used to be a vague zeitgeist is now taking form through the internet. There is concrete, albeit mostly digital, evidence of this consciousness—most recently proven by fake news spreading across Facebook during the elections.” Lee’s work ponders the questions of digital consciousness—are these trending videos and memes simply thoughts passing through a mass digital consciousness? “Tweets become synapses firing,” says Lee.

When it comes to developing his work, Lee emphasizes the need for thorough research. “[There are] periods of almost no production filled with research, writing, think-tanking,” he says, “followed by periods of production focused solely on creating work.” Lee compares his productivity to that of two sine waves: one wave being innovation and the other production. “Usually the sweet spot is where the two sine waves intersect, but it’s impossible to stay in that zone forever,” he says. “Whenever I am feeling like I’m getting down on one or the other, I just shift my focus.” The relationship between himself and Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness is no less strained. Lee describes it as “an elaborately designed dinner where I don’t meet most of the guests or receive feedback about the food. Instead, it’s carefully preserved, like the fruitcake under glass on my altar piece, Pachinko Lottery.”

As a UMOCA Artist-In-Residence, Lee had the ability to work in a studio space, participate in workshops with national artists and art professionals, and showcase his work at the museum in the A-I-R Space. Lee says of his experience at UMOCA, “The studio spaces are great. The visiting artists are great. The opportunities I have had through the A-I-R program have been great. Honestly, it helped me a lot during the year I had after I graduated with my BFA. At times, it felt like the A-I-R program was the only thing keeping my artistic credibility viable—and that includes my artwork.” Lee says he would recommend the A-I-R program “to more established artists who find value in having a space and are seeking to show in a museum setting.” Lee also has advice for future artists: “Study, study, study,” he says. “Academia has been getting a lot of bad rep recently, especially in the art world. That doesn’t mean that study is not important.” Lee emphasizes that the opportunity to study with peers and professionals in your field is priceless, and worth far more than the actual degree. “Be smart, make art,” he says.

Working as an artist can be difficult—but also rewarding. Lee hopes that, during his exhibition, his viewers took the time to Google the David Bowie quote placed on the wall of his exhibition or watched Bowie’s interview on BBC. “Seeing the potential the internet has to radically altar social and individual consciousness will hopefully lead to more unification through diversification,” says Lee. “With the interconnectivity of the internet, the capital-driven companies will eventually be overtaken by those with more of a social/democratic cause.” Lee has a goal to change how we collectively view ourselves, the world around us, and the objects we create—including the internet and artificial intelligence. His ambition will only continue to grow as he ventures further into academia. He plans on studying in an MFA program and will begin applying this year to various schools around N.Y.C. and L.A. “If those don’t work out this time around,” he says, “I’ll be heading toward more residencies and establishing my studio practice.”

You can view Lee’s work at mm-lee.com or learn more here.

Photo: James Walton

Artist Interview: Leeza Meksin

Working with fabrics such as spandex, latex and toole, artist Leeza Meksin transforms buildings into bodies, structures into architectural drag, and fabric into stark statements about the falseness of binaries. Meksin demonstrates the fragility of the gender binary—the Western idea that there are only two genders in this world: man and woman—by challenging the ways in which people view social and physical structures around them, and by confusing the lines between male and female. Meksin’s Tip Cozy covers the glass structure on top of UMOCA’s building, and in the Main Gallery, Meksin’s work is hard to miss: a giant, grainy picture of the LDS Temple, surrounded by layers of colorful ropes, mesh and toole. Entry and Tip Cozy are two pieces of UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art exhibit.

“I was already working with spandex and fabric [in grad school],” says Meksin. “I was getting feedback from my professors—surprisingly from the female professors—saying, ‘Be careful as a queer woman using fabric. It might be career suicide.’ I was concerned and stunned that a woman working with fabric in ’05, ’06, and ’07 would get that kind of feedback.” Rather than attempting to work with another material, Meksin challenged the idea of gender binaries in art and wondered what she could do with fabric that would allow her to comment on women’s work in a unique frame. “I thought about buildings,” she says. “All the adjectives I thought of when I thought ‘architecture’ were very, stereotypically male: They’re quintessentially hard and respectable. Not to mention that architecture, as a field, has long been dominated by men.” Meksin began daydreaming about ways in which she could use fabrics to dress up buildings and create a dichotomy between soft and hard, dressed and naked—the ways in which society views men and women.

“Humans, in relationship to the dwellings we build, are female,” she says. “They’re soft, vulnerable, and flexible—whereas buildings are hard, durable, and typically stay the same.”

Meksin delights in creating false binaries. Her work criticizes the ways in which society uses and trusts in binary systems—even though these systems always fail us. “We create divisions between people and put ideas into categories,” she says. “By creating this playful, dress-up situation where a building puts on a costume and transforms through clothing hints at the idea that categories are malleable and meant to be played with. Nothing is so set in stone.” The idea of making ideologies malleable reminded Meksin about the fundamental foundations of drag—a form of performance that debunks gender on a heightened and playful level. “Drag is free and smart and is given to you in this package of glitter and fabulousness,” says Meksin. “I wanted to take that attitude and bring it to this very serious domain of architecture.” Meksin’s ideas about gender began with reading adventure novels as a child—which are dominated by masculine and male lead characters—as well as using art to reclaim spaces of imagination and possibility. “As a female-bodied person, it’s really hard for me to get across my masculine qualities,” she says.

“It’s restrictive and destructive when people expect a certain kind of behavior from me. I’m seen as a ‘woman.’ I think a lot of my work stems from wanting to be viewed as a human.”

During her initial site visit to Salt Lake City for UMOCA’s exhibition, Meksin was struck by the the LDS Temple. “I felt invited everywhere in Temple Square: You could take tours, visit the Tabernacle or the Conference Center,” she says, “but the Temple is this closed body. Because I think of temples as bodies, I was thinking, ‘Oh—this is really sexual.’ I can’t enter this building unless I sign a formal document, a formal allegiance saying that I’m Mormon and seriously commit to that to gain entry. That immediately reminded me of a marriage contract and religion, where you can only have access to someone’s body if you legally bind yourself to them and inform the world through a legal document that you’re committed to being with that person.” Meksin was also interested in temple’s gothic, fairytale-like illusion regarding its architecture. “It has a theme-park quality that is both fairytale and fake,” she says. “There’s a lot of faux finishes: fake wood, fake gold, fake marble. The theatricality of it made me think about drag.”

The connection between the LDS Church, the Temple and drag performance led Meksin to having serious discourses with the community, especially young artists in SLC, about the Church’s views of the LGBTQIA community. “They don’t even know how queer they are,” says Meksin. “If they processed that, maybe it wouldn’t be such a leap to accept these people for who they are instead of punishing them and making them choose between family, their calling as artists, and their sexual orientation.” The paradox between the architecture and the ideas behind it led Meksin to creating Entry and Tip Cozy, two artworks that incorporate playfulness into an uncomfortable discourse. “I never feel in a position to lecture anyone and I’m not interested in didactic work that tells you what you should be or do,” says Meksin.

“Playfulness has a bigger potential than any kind of lecturing or finger-pointing to actually change people’s minds. As soon as you start thinking playfully about something, things open up.”

The experience of creating Entry involved a lot of changing and sitting on ideas. Meksin expected the picture of the temple to look more “degraded” than it ended up being. “I was hoping this image would look kind of crappy: I took it through a window, on a rainy day, and I’m not a photographer,” she says. “But when I put it up and really liked the picture, I was stunned. I changed my idea.” Initially, the veil was supposed to be less transparent and highlight images in the photograph that were other than the Temple—such as the buildings behind it. Instead, Meksin decided to make the fabric more transparent by using toole. “Spandex is a performance material for acrobats, athletes, and Dolly Parton,” she says. “Changing to toole makes it more princess-like and wedding-like and takes it out of this performance level.” Meksin also appreciates the help she received from UMOCA staff in making Entry a possibility. “I had the amazing help from John [Burdick] and Jared [Steffensen]. They were so helpful and great to work with. If I had a crew like this every time, I could imagine even more ambitious projects.”

Meksin is notorious for taking on big projects that seem impossible or too ambitious, and she loves the idea of a challenge. For her next great project, she wants to take on one of the greatest symbols of America: “I’ve been thinking about making a spandex burka for the Statue of Liberty,” she says. Fearless and bold, Meksin’s projects reveal her passion for pushing boundaries and creating conversations with the community. “I feel like there’s a social and communal aspect to the work,” she says. “I love how expansive ideas become when you start a discourse about it. I never limit my work to mean something specific. It’s always open to everyone’s interpretation.” It wasn’t until Meksin was twenty-five that she admitted to herself that she wanted to make her living and life’s work through art. “When I finally said I really want this to be my life and didn’t want to separate it into a little thing on the side, I felt so liberated,” she said. “Every time something bad happens, I think back to that glee I felt when I told myself, ‘I have the right to be an artist and I am the person who gets to decide that.’” Viewing art as a way to reinvent yourself and your life, Meksin is a positive figure for anyone who is thinking about taking up art as their career.

“Don’t ever give up,” Meksin says. “No one can tell you that you are not talented or that you’re not good enough to be an artist. Being an artist is something that you can choose and as long as you stick with it, you will get there.”

View Leeza Meksin’s works, Entry and Tip Cozy in UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art until December 17th. For more information, visit utahmoca.org/portfolio/objected/


More About the Artist

A New York based interdisciplinary artist, Meksin makes paintings, installations, public art and multiples. After immigrating to the U.S. with her family in 1989, she received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. in art and has exhibit her work various galleries across the nation. In 2015, Meksin was appointed to the faculty at Columbia University School of Art—but even in between her courses and in-studio works, Meksin has not stopped creating powerful, on-site installations that have reshaped and challenged people’s ideologies. View more of her work here.

Artist Interview: Tove Storch

Tove Storch | Interview (Draft)

Tove Storch is one of six artists currently displayed in UMOCA’s exhibit, Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art, which explores how visual artists use three-dimensionality as a language to reframe and expand notions of objecthood. Storch, who lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark, creates conceptually-based sculptural works that often involve visual conundrums. She transforms two-dimensional ideas into three-dimensional sculptures. Her Object[ed] sculpture, Untitled, is a layering of thin steel rails and sheets of paper, which are covered in two-dimensional drawings. Storch conflates the lines on the paper with rigid metal rods, suggesting a curious process of “thinking in images.”

Storch has been working with sculptures for over 10 years, starting with painting in art school. “I was quite interested in the physical aspects of the paintings: glossy, mat, things glued onto the surface, the painting lying on the floor,” she says. “That slowly developed into a sculptural practice. What inspires me, now, is gravity, mistakes, feelings, and attempts.” Through processes of trial and error—and believing it is possible to navigate through any subject matter with art—Storch explores possibilities in materials while creating her artwork. “I’m interested in how working with materials and physical conditions take these explorations to strange places,” she says.

One of Storch’s goals in her pieces is to convey her ideas in a specific and precise ways, thinking on this even at the start of her projects. “I pace around, trying to focus and forget at the same time,” she says. “Then, I suddenly know the direction things have to take. The rest is trying to figure out how it’s practically possible.” This preciseness has led Untitled to being one of the most curious pieces in UMOCA’s Object[ed] exhibit, leading museum-goers to desire to probe between the railings to gaze at the two-dimensional drawings on each page. “[Untitled] allowed me to make beautiful, intense, random, and spontaneous marks on paper as part of my practice and as a way to exercise my brain,” says Storch. “Going through this process of figuring stuff out made me very aware of shyness and privacy. I thought this was an interesting subject, and the drawings I was making found a purpose as building material for this introverted work.”

Storch anticipated the curiosity of her viewers and combatted the power of their gaze by decidedly placing steel-railings above and below each drawing. “The surfaces become worlds with space and volume in them,” she says. “It is as if imagination is being squashed by heavy steel when they are stacked like this. I really like emphasizing this by looking at the papers as they divide the sculpture, just enough to make the metal not touch itself—a barely voluminous piece of material.” Her sculpture lends just enough information to capture museum-goers’ attention, but ultimately it is their imagination that is needed to complete the work. Cleverly, Storch molds her viewers into a part of the artwork—three-dimensional figures surrounded by and filled with space. “You have to finish the work using your own imagination,” she says. “You make space in your head.”

Each of Untitled’s drawings are not necessarily connected or understandable; instead, the drawings are sporadic, a culmination of Storch’s thoughts turned 3D. “I ended up making peace with having shifting opinions and stored the pile of drawings like a boiling pot of unresolved matter,” she says. Ultimately, storing these visual thoughts has paid off. Her sculpture now sits in the middle of UMOCA’s Main Gallery, a part of the Object[ed] exhibit which explores how visual artists use three-dimensionality as a language to reframe and expand notions of objecthood. Storch mentions that her time at UMOCA has been a positive one. “The team at UMOCA has been extremely helpful,” she says. “It was a really great experience to work with them all the way through the process.”

Storch also has some great advice for future artists: “It is an important thing to trust oneself, to trust what you are interested in, and your feelings about things,” she says.  After all, it was trust in oneself that led Storch to creating Untitled, a vulnerable yet bold and captivating sculpture. In the future, Storch hopes to gain access to a workshop where she can weld metal and have access to materials in order to create spontaneous experiments and future gallery projects.

You can view Tove Storch’s work in UMOCA’s Main Gallery until December 17th. For more information, visit http://www.utahmoca.org/portfolio/objected/.

Artist Interview: Lizze Määttälä

Lizze Määttälä’s practice reflects the abstract flexibility of unexpected materials. She explores forms and patterns based on the fleeting fluidity of memory. As a natural rummager of salvages, junkyards and flea markets, Määttälä turns unexpected materials into stunning structures and mixed media compositions. Uphill/Both Ways, currently on display in UMOCA’s Object[ed] exhibit, is about fragments that have been left behind and the affinity Määttälä has for these intricate, interesting, thrown-aside materials.

“My strength has always been in material sensibilities and editing,” says Määttälä. “I’m drawn to materials that are not overworked and have enough potential on their own without the need to manipulate them into something else. I’m inspired by possibilities of materials beyond their traditional uses and the practice of play that is needed to reach those unexpected potentials.” Määttälä collects her materials from salvage yards, NPS, dumpsters and from people who give her objects they think she might use—but she never knows what these materials will turn into until they suddenly click together. “I know when things are working when I start to get giddy,” she says.

Määttälä began working with sculptures similar to Uphill/Both Ways about two years ago. “After graduation, I decided to completely start over,” she says. “I didn’t feel the need to tell a story. I wanted the work to be work. Art to be art.” Starting from scratch led her to using scraps, rubber, broken objects and various components to create innovative and stunning contemporary art. “I found rubber and it makes me so happy,” she says. “It’s weird and repellant, but kind of sexual and silly. I have a material driven practice, and it’s playful.” Määttälä’s relationship with her work is as challenging as it is playful: she describes it as “constantly evolving. Sometimes it’s hearts and rainbows—other times, I want a divorce.”

Although some may view her work as a representation of modern materialism, Määttälä doesn’t have a specific thematic concept in mind while creating her pieces. “I don’t feel my work is conceptually representative of anything. I am more interested in patterns, relationships between materials, and the engagement they can create with one another.” Määttälä does, however, hope that museum-goers can appreciate her and her fellow artists’ artwork. “Artists defend themselves and what they do constantly,” she says. “It can be a romanticized career path, but it’s not. I hope viewers can respect artists and anyone who is bold enough to share part of themselves and what, in my mind, is beautiful.”

Määttälä’s unending respect for other artists is one of her many admirable traits. She thanks the artists who have helped and challenged her along the way to get her to where she is now. “Three years ago, I did an eight-week show in Philly,” she says. “It was challenging because you had to work fast. That was the best thing for me. I met some amazing artists whose work was different than mine, but they were the sweetest and most encouraging people who influenced me by remaining authentic and dedicated to their work.” Among the artists she thanks are Olga Balema (another Object[ed] artist), Alyce Carrier—whose show, Old Work, is now on exhibit at UMOCA—and UMOCA’s curator, Jared Steffensen.

As a professional artist, Määttälä has some words of wisdom for future artists, including making sure you have a studio space. “I can daydream and be hit with inspiration anywhere and quite consistently,” she says, “but those are thoughts. An accessible place to put those thoughts into action is essential.” She also advises artists to not try to please anyone. Instead: “It’s good to find people who have your back but can tell you when something isn’t working. It’s invaluable.” And finally, “Try to get your hands on as many materials as possible.”

Along with Uphill/Both Ways, UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art exhibit showcases the work of six sculptors who explore how three-dimensionality can be a language that reframes and expands notions of objecthood. “It is a huge honor and awesome experience to be a part of Object[ed],” says Määttälä. “It’s a strong group of women and I’m proud of the show and how the space is utilized. It’s like navigating through a city which may or may not have been intentional, but it works—and works well. I benefit from showing work anywhere, but [UMOCA’s] Main Gallery and the company I share it with has been phenomenal and humbling.”

Määttälä’s next show is at Nox Contemporary, curated by John Sproul, in November. But her other plans involve getting out more. “I have a handful of personal projects planned and I’ll be hiking with my dogs as much as possible,” she says. “If I’m not outside, nothing gets done.” Her last words of advice to Utah audiences? “Utah finally has the potential to be a swing state,” she says. “Get out and vote!”

View Lizze Määttälä’s work, Uphill/Both Ways, along with the rest of the Object[ed] exhibit, in UMOCA’s Main Gallery until December 17th. For more information, go to utahmoca.org/portfolio/lizze-maattala/. You can also purchase her art book, Sample Sale, for only $15 at UMOCA’s Art Shop. –Alex Vermillion

Artist Interview: Alyce Carrier

I realize that nothing is ever how you imagine. A hand on your shoulder from someone you love is different than a stranger’s, but it’s not worth explaining because what we are really after is the feeling, not a story.
-Alyce Carrier

Alyce Carrier is a Salt Lake City–based artist with a background in sculpture and ceramics. In her time spent at the University of Utah, Carrier began experimenting with printmaking and stop-motion animation. Her collection at UMOCA, properly titled Old Work, is a collection of three years’ worth of her intricate creations. Her work is a sparse and delicate treatment of the mundanity of routine, reading like an intimate social encounter and lending insight to a sense of self without abusing sincerity. Her exhibition at UMOCA is available to view until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery.

Carrier’s love for ceramics began in college. “I went to school for sculpture, but then I took a ceramics class and fell in love with the medium,” she says. “I spent the rest of my career focusing on ceramics, basically making sculptures out of clay.” Once she graduated from the University, however, ceramics revealed itself to be a difficult medium for an artist without a kiln. “I didn’t have any immediate recourse to continue doing ceramic work,” says Carrier. “All of those other art forms I do—printmaking, animation, murals—all came from not being able to do ceramics, but still wanting to develop the imagery and language of the characters.” Determined to create her art, she set out to experiment with many mediums. But in every art form she’s tried, the characters stay similar and cohesive. The characters depicted in her work come from a long line of artists in Carrier’s family. “My family draws cartoons and my aunt is an animator,” says Carrier. “So I draw similarly to them. I think it’s because that’s what I saw when I was a kid. They’re kind of cartoonish, surreal characters that have turned into how I see myself in my head. These characters–they’re not gender specific, but they represent me interacting with all these different things.”

In many ways, Carrier’s work truly is an accurate representation of who she is and what surrounds her. For instance, she created the hair of her stop-motion puppets with the hair of her dogs. “I have some bits of other dogs, too, and some human hair,” she says. Carrier is nothing short of an innovator, even in her decision to create puppets as opposed to drawings for her stop-motion animation film. “My final piece for my sculpture [in school] was 20 seconds of somebody walking and they bent down—and that was it,” she says. “I was frustrated with how long it took, so wanting to experiment with animation again, I realized I could just make puppets with hinges and move them.” Her art is also inspired by her day to day routines, depicting small, intimate gestures with others—intentional or not. “These day to day activities,” she says, “when you’re at the library or checking out at the grocery store, and all of a sudden there’s this imagery of someone touching you, your eye, these weird interactions that come from routine life—I get a lot of ideas from these interactions. And also by imagining how people care about each other.”

Carrier says of the UMOCA show that it drove her to take responsibility of her work and what ideas she was giving to her viewers. “I knew I needed to stand by those ideas and feel confident about what I was putting out there,” she says. “The UMOCA show forced me to hone in on the ideas and intentions of what I wanted to say. Of all the shows I’ve done, this one is the most cohesive. It has a calm energy to it. You walk in and it feels complete.” One viewer favorite of Carrier’s collection is the fact that the screen prints on the wall were available to rip off and take home, an idea she discovered when visiting an Ann Hamilton exhibition in Seattle. “During the show, you were able to take things off of the wall,” says Carrier. “There was one room covered in beautifully photographed animals: monkeys, birds, etc. They were printed with such care and intimate moments.” The security guard told Carrier and other viewers they were allowed to take one home—any photo they like. “I looked through everything because I wanted to pick the ‘right one’ and have it for myself,” she says. “How special that, is, to be able to go up and tear it. That was a total gamechanger for me. I continually think about that—how tangible it was.” Carrier incorporated this idea into her own work, and its popularity was striking—she printed over 2,300 prints throughout the entire show, and people are still taking some home. “To have that many people have my work is super cool and really amazing,” she says. “This, overall, has been a great experience for my practice and my career.”

Carrier’s hope is to change the way people interact with artwork, especially in museums. “I feel really turned off by the atmosphere of galleries, or at least galleries in museums,” she says. “They shut off so many people and the general public just because they have a door and call it a ‘gallery.’ I lot of people won’t go in. And when you walk into a museum or gallery, for a good reason, you’re not supposed to touch the work. But having that mindset, you immediately build a wall between the viewer and the artwork.” Carrier wants to eliminate the idea that viewers must understand the artwork in order to view it or enter a gallery space. “I think it’s so important that people experience things.” She often thinks about interactions with musicians—artists in a different medium—and how she wishes artists in ceramics and painting and so on would be seen in the same light. “Obviously, you’re not going to touch the musicians,” she says, “but you can still experience the music. If you don’t know the lyrics, you can still enjoy the music or beat. You can dance or not. There’s not a curated way to enjoy that experience. I constantly try to keep that in mind when I work and try to let people experience the work I’m making in a similar way.”

For future or up-and-coming artists, Carrier has some great advice. “I’m a firm believer that you need to show up every single day,” she says. “If you have a studio space, or even if your studio space is in your apartment in a tiny corner, you have to mentally and physically show up to that space every day, even if you’re not having creative thoughts.” Carrier also feels lucky that as a kid, she grew up in an artistic-empowered family—but she realizes that not everyone has this experience. “It can be difficult for young people who want to be artists, because there’s not that outlet or immediate acceptance that being an artist is a normal and great thing to do,” she says. She mentions that you must figure out a way to encourage yourself to move forward and understand how you work without a constant support system. “The biggest thing for me is believing in the drive and the ideas that I have,” she says. “So often people think they need approval from someone else. You don’t need approval from anybody—just do it. Don’t as permission.”

Carrier hopes to take her art “on tour,” much like her musician friends, and she’s determined to figure out what that will look like. “I think that the most tangible thing would be murals,” she says, “so I’d go on a mural tour across the country.” She also hopes to work on small zines and other illustrated publications, all the while improving the way how people interact with artwork. “I think the greatest part about art is that it’s not limited,” she says. “It’s about constantly problem solving. If you can’t do one thing, try something else. Be flexible and fluid.”

You can view Alyce Carrier’s work at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery, or visit alycecarrier.com.

Tatiana Larsen’s art4ONE4all

A-I-R Space: MAR 13 – APR 4

UMOCA’s latest artist-in-residence featured in the A-I-R Space is Tatiana Svrckova Larsen and her art4ONE4all project. For Larsen, this series meant a step away from personal art toward works that would make a change—not for a general audience, but for one specific individual at a time.

The inspiration for each work in the series comes from interviews that Larsen conducts with strangers. As her interviewees reveal their unique stories, personalities, and aspirations, Larsen sets out to create visual representations of their experiences and lifestyles. Not only are the works visibly eye-catching, but they are also poignant. As Larsen manifests these real struggles and triumphs into visual narratives to which viewers can connect, the resulting artwork—and the subjects behind them—become more widely accessible and understood.

“The challenge was to decide what exactly to put into the show,” said Larsen. “In the end, I decided to pick pieces that are more involved with the community and public. The purpose of these artworks is to transform art into service for others.”

xjhYIjvU_61tXq89gdc46pDKIyK1mWx3aaQRJ_MZUKc,p7N0ab1XYxCYcczjKyl0JpKgnEM5cSUiKyABiz825PU,BErO2ph6OKzvDWIgZ0zeDFSregaB1GEE6SICrDMlc7ULarsen features three pieces in the A-I-R Space. In “Rebecca,” Larsen built a small shelter of books painted in camouflage. Rebecca—the inspiration behind the piece—lost her mother in the U.S. military. She herself joined the Army at the age of 18. Throughout her life, Rebecca’s fear kept her from realizing her desires of reading and learning. One day in military training, Rebecca lost her ability to hear—Larsen’s piece, then, manifests Rebecca’s unrealized desires.

 

 

Another piece, “Thistle,” is a site-specific art project completed in California, based on the lifestyle of a young transient hitchhiking from Chicago to Mexico. Thistle was playing music on the streets of Provo when Larsen met her. In the piece, Larsen stands resolutely in a hitchhiking pose, and her shadow is stenciled with spray paint onto the street. When a car comes and picks Larsen up, her shadow remains.

Tatiana Larsen“I hope that the people I made this art for will like these pieces. That was my goal from the start, even though along the way I quickly realized that I may be the one transformed most by their stories,” said Larsen. “Everybody’s life is full or experiences and wisdom that others can benefit from.”

Larsen received a BA in Studio Arts from Wichita State University and went on to complete an MFA in Art and Technology from Ohio State University. Larsen’s works often link her personal journey to social topics such as cultural assimilation and interpersonal relationships. In tandem with her yearlong residency at UMOCA, Larsen has led a five-week-long public workshop and worked with community artists in making site-specific performance and installation projects throughout the streets of Salt Lake City.

“The artist-in-residence program provided me with a space and community to make my art, and an opportunity to show my work to the public thanks to the A-I-R Space,” said Larsen. “I am grateful that I had this opportunity. I hope that this program will grow and last for a long time.”

Larsen’s artwork will be on display in the A-I-R Space March 13 – April 4. For more information about Larsen and her work, visit her website. To read about UMOCA’s artist-in-residence program and upcoming exhibitions, visit the museum website.

Contemporary Reactions: Contemporary Spaces

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The New Genres Gallery series Cultural Cartographies: Mapping Man-Made Interventions in Contemporary Landscapes focuses on the usage of still image and filmmaking to explore how myriad interventions (political, environmental, industrial, etcetera) inform our understanding of the social and natural environments that surround us. The New Genres Gallery series is now on its fifth and final installation Guido van der Werve’s Nummer Acht, Everything is going to be alright (2007).

Elizabeth Belle, a Utah native currently working at the Bountiful/Davis Art Center, was drawn in by both the aesthetic and message-driven aspects of Nummer Acht.

 

 

“The exhibit is exquisite,” Belle described. “It’s very moving and thought-provoking. The film’s sound engineering definitely lends to its overall message and subject matter.”

In the film, the Dutch filmmaker walks slowly on thin ice off the Gulf of Bothnia, 32 feet ahead of a moving 3,500 ton icebreaker. The 10-minute long, single shot film is both conceptually nerve-wracking yet visually calming, all while the sound of the icebreaker roars deafeningly around you. Van der Werve pulls at the sensation of something enormous and unyielding as he, though tiny and frail-looking, continues steadily on his way. The story pinpoints, in an honest manner, the dilemmas that accompany relentless progress. The artist appears fearless, but his moxie stems from a place of need at the intersection of ‘art’ and ‘catastrophe.’

For some, the film is alarming. But for others, like Belle, there’s a positive light—a sense of steadfastness—to the artist’s walk in the film.

“Being followed by an enormous ship with ice breaking behind you, but moving forward into a realization that everything is going to be okay, is very meaningful,” Belle explained.

Belle continued on to describe why she always finds her way back to UMOCA. After working for a number of years at a boutique in New York City’s Chelsea Gallery District, she was used to being surrounded by contemporary works and artists at the forefront of their generation. Now, most of the art Belle encounters is more “suburban-based” and more traditional. Smiling, Belle explained that everything about UMOCA reminds her of going in and out of the Gallery District.

“UMOCA always brings me back to that cutting-edge art,” Belle said.

Cultural Cartographies: Mapping Man-Made Interventions in Contemporary Landscapes will be on display in the New Genres Gallery through January 15, 2015.

 

Contemporary Reactions: Immersion

The Bikuben exhibition in UMOCA’s Main Gallery is coming to a close, but over these past six months, the gallery space was truly a time capsule with a twist, fostering a diverse artistic and cultural portrayal of Utah’s historical Danish population through contemporary art.
 
For Ted Phillips, a visitor from Boulder, Colorado, Bikuben was a creative and informative look into a lesser-known part of Utah’s history.
 
“Contemporary art sometimes seems to lack context, so it was interesting to see the curators link Utah’s historical Danish population with modern Danish art,” Ted explained.
 
Ted was particularly mesmerized by Shipsearching (2011), which was designed by Mie Olise to foster an all-encompassing experience of being on a ship. The massive white piece is ubiquitous in UMOCA’s Main Gallery and is reminiscent of an abandoned wooden building. The structure invites viewers to take a few adventurous steps into and up its interior. At the top is a narrow and low-ceiling space, which adds to a cramped and almost claustrophobic sensation. A blanket is laid out on the floor, and a projector displays faded video of a fluttering sail. The sound of gentle, coursing waves flows throughout.
 
“The sound from the video and the creaks of the wooden structure made for a really immersive experience,” Ted said. “Staring at the video almost made me feel like I was swaying.”
 
Like Ted, many visitors of the museum considered Shipsearching a highlight of Bikuben, not only for the installation’s grandiose size, but also for its evocative nature. Olise brings viewers aboard a ship and out to sea, but she also plays on the familiar yet intensely intimate emotions that accompany certain themes: a remembered and rediscovered past, how quickly or how slowly time passes in a moment, and the uncertainty of being on an endless journey.
 
Bikuben will be on display at the UMOCA Main Gallery through December 20, 2014—be sure to stop by soon!

Contemporary Reactions: Changing Perspectives

Contemporary art is challenging. It’s meant to be—although art doesn’t ask you to change your opinions, it does ask you to shift, and expand, your perspectives. For Anna Koelsch, a museum visitor from San Francisco, Jeppe Hein’s Rotating Mirror Object II (2013) did exactly that.

Hein’s piece is exactly how it sounds: it’s a mirror object mounted on the wall that rotates around a central axis. The object appears square, but it is actually concave and divided diagonally into two angled halves so that the surface reflects different sections of its surroundings, much like a kaleidoscope does. The piece thus creates a disjointed perception of space, perpetually reconstructing the viewer’s perspective with ever-changing reflected fragments to create new wholes.

“What was so great about Jeppe Hein’s Rotating Mirror Object II was that it was set up in a way so that it reflected two completely different pieces of art in its two panels,” Anna explained. “In one, the backdrop of my reflection was a collection of white forms scattered across the hardwood floor [Jacob Dahl Jürgensen’s Capital]. In the other, I am shown alongside a wall covered in photos of volcano calderas [Olafur Eliasson’s The volcano series]. Not only did I look different in the two mirror panels, but my surroundings change too.”

In this way, Hein’s piece forced Anna to create new ways of looking at herself and experiencing her environment. After all, as Anna put it, “Whether you like it or not, a mirror shows you what’s there. But, it only provides a single perspective.” Hein takes and bolsters our concepts of mirrors and reflection, providing viewers a necessary perspective shift and fostering brand new ways of looking, perceiving, and understanding the world we live in.

“As disappointing as it can be to admit, I often think with tunnel vision,” Anna said. “It’s difficult for me to think about a problem or situation with a different perspective once I already have decided on the lens through which to view it. Rotating Mirror Object II was a reminder of the importance of seeing all of the angles and surroundings—not just the one angle I have learned to train my eyes on.”

Bikuben will be on display at the UMOCA Main Gallery through December 20, 2014.

 

Research in 2015 by the American Alliance of Museums supports the fact that institutions like UMOCA help communities better understand and appreciate cultural diversity through art. $10 can help UMOCA continue to exhibit relevant and current art. Please schedule a donation for Love UT Give UT for March 26.
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Contemporary Reactions: Life in the Future

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A museum, just like any artwork, is experienced in different ways: collective and individual, participative and voyeuristic, and so on. Some like to take a cursory walkthrough of the museum. Others find one work to focus on. Some like to talk about their thoughts, and others can’t quite find the right words.

For a senior at Payson High School, the overall impression of UMOCA was captivating and entrancing. It wasn’t Andy Stevenson’s first visit to the museum, but this trip left the greatest imprint and quickly became his favorite. This time each of the four galleries, though distinct, fit together perfectly to elicit an immersive experience for Andy: a glimpse into a different reality.

“It was like life in the future,” Andy described.

Everywhere, Andy could feel the push-and-pull of cohesion and contrast, especially in the current Street Gallery exhibition, William Lamson’s Hydrologies. In this series, Lamson created generative works by adding and removing water from various landscapes. Set in the harsh environment of the Atacama Desert, Lamson dispersed water across flat gravel to revitalize the desert flora and documented his process using video and photography. In a parallel series, Hydrologies Archaea, Lamson dispersed the saline water of the Great Salt Lake into a variety of small glassware. After the water evaporated, the remnant salt crystals grew within and eventually enveloped the glass, leaving a remarkable and living sculpture installation.

Here, Andy discovered the multiple layers of give-and-take in Lamson’s work. To Andy, the water functions as a powerful symbol. Lamson physically intervenes by giving and taking water to and from each landscape. The works of art that result are stark and beautiful, and resonate as representations of the giving and taking of life.

“[The museum] made me feel like I was in the future!” Andy repeated, smiling. “And it had this elevated sense of society—a society that is more focused on art.” 

Written By Kathy Zhou

William Lamson: Hydrologies will be on display in the UMOCA Street Gallery through January 10, 2015.