Devin McPolin exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery.

Contemporary Reactions: Art is Not Always Pretty

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work, a recent exhibit at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, has caught the attention and curiosity of visitors. One local, Devin McPolin, heard of the museum’s existence and came to see what it held inside. He states that he rarely goes to art museums, but he was interested due to his significant other’s recommendation of UMOCA. McPolin, a college student, wandered around and came upon Carrier’s exhibit. “It can turn you away or grab your attention,” he says.

The artist’s style drew him in because it is “odd” and “not pretty.” McPolin explains that the exhibition’s art doesn’t fit the standard mold of other art styles. The people drawn in Carrier’s Old Work are shaped abnormally and portrayed in blacks, whites and browns. “The people drawn here aren’t normal people,” McPolin says.

“They are odd-shaped; it looks like a young kid’s drawing—like someone’s first drawing—but you know it’s not. It’s purposely done that way to depict these odd shapes. Even though you know it’s a human figure, it’s not depicted as a normal human being would be drawn.”

He talked about his fascination with non-traditional art style—or, as he likes to describe it, odd. McPolin is intrigued by Carrier’s wall art and her other artwork, such as her ceramics. Amused by the asymmetrical pottery, he describes how imperfect the pottery is, especially if it were sliced in half. Everything intrigued him, from the divots to the unique crookedness of it all. McPolin understood the exhibit through reading the artist’s description as well as understanding daily life. The emotion he felt was a strangeness due to the differences in each artwork, yet he related with them on an empathic level. “Like the artist said: ‘A hand on the shoulder depicts a different feeling if it’s from someone you love or a stranger,’” he says.

Alyce Carrier | VideoThe video, in particular, held his interest. He describes the characters in the video as acting out mundane daily tasks, but they portray these tasks from a different view—almost a little disgusting. The video invokes the emotions McPolin experienced in the exhibit, and he related the video to the mural on the wall. In the mural, the person drawn in black simply walks in without checking what the tiny circles are and panics at the last minute when they are waist deep in circles, whereas the person drawn in white investigates the tiny circles and wonders what they are before walking in. McPolin compares this dynamic to how people are when it comes to our daily routines. Some simply continue their lives without paying attention to what’s around them;  others are always curious, always looking, and notice what’s around them. “It’s strange—like the stranger’s hand on your shoulder—but not enough to make you freak out and run away,” he says. “It’s odd enough to make you ponder and wonder what’s going on and take a closer look.”

View Alyce Carrier’s Old Work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit –Krystal Linares

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery

Contemporary Reactions: Mundane Intimacy

Alyce Carrier’s exhibit, Old Work, in the Projects Gallery has received an array of reactions, but the majority of patrons’ comments reflect on how clever and profound her work can be. By incorporating 3-D sculptures, prints, and a stop-animation film, Carrier is able to speak to viewers on many different levels.

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects GalleryJodi, a visitor to Salt Lake City from Albuquerque, shared her insight on Carrier’s work, specifically her feelings and thoughts regarding the stop-animation film. Her initial reactions to the film were that it is charming and invites you to watch the story unfold.

“There are things that the characters are doing—things you [might] be doing—without expecting to have an observer,” says Jodi. “It’s intimate.”

Carrier’s work, although illuminating mundane activities, has the ability to connect with the viewer at a deeper and, as Jodi mentioned, a more intimate level. It shows all of us, at the root, are human and we have emotions that are displayed in various manners.  We do daily tasks that are mundane, but they are part of life’s existence.

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work is nicely juxtaposed with the other exhibits at UMOCA. Her work is charming, humbling, and—for many—a warming experience. Carrier does a fine job of displaying human nature through her craft. View Alyce Carrier’s work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit –Alexa Rawl

Contemporary Reactions: a Sense of Leeriness

Visitor Services Intern Hannah Sandorf relays an in-museum interaction with guest Tyler Hall regarding Jennifer Seely’s “Supporting Elements”
Picture1Jennifer Seely’s Supporting Elements has inspired some profound insights from visitors to the museum. One patron in particular who was struck by the ideas presented by Seely’s exhibition is Tyler Hall. He is a student at Weber State University who came to visit UMOCA for the first time with his class for a field trip. Along with his interest in art, Tyler is also a veteran who was stationed in Hawaii. His assignment was to keep the US military postal services open for soldiers. During that time, he traveled all over the Pacific Command- visiting Thailand, Hong Kong, China, other Southeast Asian countries, and many locations in the United States.

From his trip to UMOCA, Tyler was particularly interested in the Seely exhibit which focuses on elements that are essential to construction, but are not often seen by those who are visiting public spaces. One of the striking features of her exhibit is the exposure of a crawl space filled with binders and boxes of museum. “I like that the gallery is an integral and important part in her work. Usually the gallery tends to fade out when an artist installs their work, but with this one, you literally get to see the behind-the-scenes of the gallery.” A feature that Tyler noticed is that one opening into the crawl space is partially covered with cork board. He liked this because of the “raw” feeling of natural decay rather than totally man-made destruction.

Seely’s work emphasizes her knowledge of forensic architecture. She has worked in many cities across the United States, diagnosing and developing structures to aid buildings against the forces of water and time. Her profession is all about providing security, safety, and structural longevity. In her exhibition, Seely explores the elements that make a gallery space safe and how, through exposure, these same components can become dangerous. Seely demonstrates structural elements as potential threats through an entire wall covered with protruding screws.J Seely-Install-027-300dpi

“The screw wall is decidedly off-putting,” Tyler stated “It gives me a sense of leeriness. Like I definitely don’t want to touch it. Sometimes, with other works, I really want to see what they feel like, but with this one I definitely wouldn’t touch it because it looks like it could hurt. I think that really brings out the whole safety aspect. It’s a really subtle way to evoke a sense of derelict buildings and unsafe places in a museum, which we generally think of as very safe places.”

Through Supporting Elements Seely poses questions about what it means to construct a safe architectural structure, the many unseen factors that go into creating public spaces, and our personal relationship to space and construction.

Contemporary Reactions: Confront Yourself / Corrupt.Yourself

Currently in UMOCA’s Codec Gallery, visitors can find three pieces by Paris-based artist Ben Gaulon. His installation, Corrupt.Yourself, confronts a societal “glitch” in which we all participate: planned obsolescence and consumerism in a disposable society.


IMG_5999Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by the titular work, a center projection titled Corrupt.Yourself. Referencing Glitch Art software, which aestheticizes digital errors, Corrupt.Yourself shows malfunctioning webcam images submitted by participants on This glitched, voluntary interaction by consenting participants reflects our own participation in the societal malfunction that produces e-waste. It shows the average person participating in a glitched moment by their own choice, on their own accord. While the two other pieces in the exhibition are literal re-purposed e-waste, here we have webcam uploads, created in a private sphere (the viewer’s home), and re-purposed into Glitch Art in a public space (a museum exhibition). This confronts the general public’s participation in a malfunction that Gaulon has taken out of context and aestheticized for a gallery space.


IMG_5989ReFunct Modular, a kinetic piece on the viewer’s left, also confronts the audience’s relationship to technology and e-waste. While Corrupt.Yourself is a past interaction, ReFunct Modular is a live one. The collection of stripped-down, outdated technologies share power, audio signal and video signal. The sculpture is fully operative, nd moves and reacts to itself and the viewer. The layout and interconnectivity of the re-purposed but defunct technologies are reminiscent of the complex and deeply rooted web of consumerism and disposability in our culture. Three stripped-down monitors mirror the viewer’s glitched image when approached. While Corrupt.Yourself may confront the general public’s participation in a disposable society, ReFunct Modular asks the viewer to look at themselves.


On the wall to the right of the entryway are 18 outdated kindles, mounted in a line. The first kindle is displayed with the back facing the viewer. The artist has printed and signed his name in a place typically occupied by a brand name. Although the rest of the kindle screens are facing us, we assume that all of them have a “Ben Gaulon” brand and signature printed on the back. Each kindle screen displays a glitched image of a book page, comic, or ad, and most of them display the words, “Slide and release the power switch to wake.”  The viewer is compelled to ask, “Wake from what?”  Is this phrase meant to confront the viewer?  Wake from being oblivious and apathetic toward our participation in a disposable society where these kindles, though potentially functional, are considered obsolete?  What is our relationship to these technologies?


KindleGlitched, ongoing. Courtesy of Ben Gaulon.


Similarly to how Glitch Art does not offer a solution to a malfunction but rather aestheticizes it, Ben Gaulon hasn’t provided an answer to e-waste or consumerism. He has, however, confronted the glitch and therefore the viewer, asking us to think about our participation in a disposable society and analyze our relationship to fleeting technologies. The comparatively miniscule amount of e-waste Gaulon has re-purposed inspires an anxiety over the mass amount of e-waste actually in existence. Corrupt.Yourself explores a not yet confronted glitch in our modern society.


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Written and photographed by Visitor Services and Specia Events Intern Madison Donnelly

Contemporary Reactions: Sometimes Art Says It Better Than Words


Jeffrey Wattles an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University, where he wrote his first book, The Golden Rule (Oxford University Press), and has a second book, Living in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness (Cascade Books) forthcoming. Last month, he visited Salt Lake City to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions conference, and made his way to UMOCA. He found himself so moved by the exhibitions that he felt compelled to share his thoughts:


“What was so different about my experience at UMOCA was that for the first time I got modern art in a new breakthrough way. I had appreciated this and that here and there, even passionately, but I was ready for my mind to be expanded about the work of a whole generation of artists, and UMOCA delivered, by the quality of the artists they had chosen. I now understand why I have long thought of philosophy and art as partners.”

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Contemporary Reactions: “Hold Your Breath”

Not only is the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art a wonderful place to visit while traveling to Salt Lake City, but it is also a great place for locals to immerse themselves in an open, calming, and expressive space to escape from bustle of city life. Westminster College senior Joey Johnston enjoys breaking away from his schoolwork to tour through the museum’s shifting exhibits. As Johnston continues working toward his English degree, he recognizes UMOCA as a place where he can break away from the stressors of modern life, find inspiration in the artists’ works, and regain motivation for his own studies and artistic ventures.

On his most recent visit to UMOCA, Johnston became enamored with Kate Ericson & Mel Ziegler, and Mel Ziegler’s exhibition, Grandma’s Cupboard. One of the pieces that stood out most to Johnston was Ziegler’s installation, titled “Hold Your Breath.” For this piece, Ziegler took air from eight different locations that are associated with death in the state of Texas. Then, they enlisted the help of a balloon artist (who in this case, was UMOCA’s Executive Director, Kristian Anderson) to use the compressed air to fill up multicolored latex balloons and tied them up into different polygonal shapes and hats, which twist and stretch along the walls.  As these dozen or so balloons surround the viewer, the large, blue compressor sits in the center of the piece, humming as it lets out air with its listed locations painted in stark white in the center of the machine.

Johnston’s initial response to the piece was to focus on its visual and compositional qualities, perceiving the cold, industrial gauntness of the air compressor juxtaposed against the innocent and childlike yet splayed and transient nature of the colorful balloons. The physical simultaneity of these items’ presence, for Johnston, created dark irony by relating these childlike and industrial features together under the blanketing theme of death. While exploring the space, one constant on Johnston’s mind was how ethereal the piece felt as it explored concepts of death and reminded us that we consume air to live: “The shapes of the hallowed air take place in this latex environment, creating a physical and sensory manifestation of death.”

Air becomes an important recognizing factor of any place or locale. When that air is taken and moved into a new place where the air doesn’t belong, the environment changes, even if it is in an imperceptible way. For Johnston, the piece felt elegiac and mournful with the death-ridden air being let out into the gallery space from the compressor and balloons. Additionally, the idea of breathing that so-called “death air” was eerily jarring to him.


As a whole, Johnston said, Ericson and Ziegler’s work is interesting in the way that it treats American history, heritage, and culture with both searing criticism and a sort of proud sentimentalism. Johnston wondered if this tensional relationship was due to Ericson and Ziegler’s feelings towards Americana, or rather a statement on the general attitude of American citizenship.  Either way, it made Johnston wonder about his status as an American.


Written and Photographed by Kevin Lucey
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We love hearing your thoughts and seeing your pictures from and interactions with our exhibitions. Share them with @utahmoca and #UMOCA.

Our exhibition programming—which includes artist visits, lectures, workshops, and more—are made possible with your generous support.
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Contemporary Reactions: Shawn Porter’s “Into the Ether”

Sketches are often mindless beginnings of a thought or idea. It is the first step in creation. Shawn Porter’s Into the Ether, currently on display in UMOCA’s A-I-R Space, is a three-dimensional sketch using a variety of organic materials to create an effortless, playful piece that is open to interpretation. This openness leaves the materials, textures, and juxtapositions for the viewer to focus on.

The viewer first notices solid logs cut into sections lying on the floor. The heavy stumps are broken into pieces, but Porter attempts to reorganize them into lines, like those of their original structure. The texture of the bark is rough and rustic. At times, the bark is mutilated and cut at—exposing the raw wood underneath. Naked. The stumps feel lifeless and dead.

Slowly, another material is introduced: twine. Coarse twine is used here and there, connecting the broken pieces and filling in the gaps, almost as a bandage to mend the fragments together. The bristly twine becomes a fundamental part of reassembling and transforming the structure from what it once was to what it is trying to be.

The logs, with the help of the twine, eventually flow into long, thin strips of pliable wood. Somewhat smooth, light, and elegant, the strips flow with natural ease out of the stumps. The thin strips crawl up the walls as if they are alive, reaching out toward the viewer, searching for light and space, vine-like. The walls are an array of chaos and fluidity. Perhaps these strips act as a freeform sculpture of branches flowing in the wind.

The gallery space lighting is stark. A few bright lights harshly illuminate parts of this natural sketch. The rest of the room is dim, casting shadows onto the floor and walls. The shadows from the thin strips of wood add another playful element to Into the Ether. The dark patterns of lines on the white walls add to the three-dimensional life of this sketch, giving it solidity and surprising mystery.

The exhibition as a whole is imaginative and unexpected. At first glance, Into the Ether appears to be the assembled puzzle pieces of a tree—but not quite. To some, it may verge on whimsical and dreamlike. To others, the organic flow will remind them of medical biology and the flow of the musculoskeletal system. Or perhaps still, Into the Ether is just a collection of objects in a room, highlighting space and volume. Perhaps it is none of these things. The viewer must decide on their own as they engage with the piece. No matter the interpretation, Porter’s mere sketch will leave the viewer wanting more.


Written and Photographed by Jill Lingwall

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Contemporary Reactions: Sometimes, Once Is Never Enough

IMG_5771While in Salt Lake for a work trip, Ami Fatherree—who currently resides in Tacoma, Washington and is originally from Houston, Texas—made her way to UMOCA on a day off after realizing that the museum was right around the corner from her hotel. Good timing, too, because Ami was able to see Grandma’s Cupboard right when it opened and explore the vibrant and thought-provoking works from Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler’s 1989-1995 collaboration, as well as from Ziegler’s solo career.


As Ami first entered the Main Gallery, the pieces that immediately caught her attention were the visually striking jars on either side of the space—the antique glass jars filled with collected air in the eponymous “Grandma’s Cupboard,” and the 173 jars filled with paint to map out D.C.’s many buildings in “Dark On That Whiteness.” Ami continued through to inspect the large-scale, Americana-focused installations, marveling at the thickly drawn, cray pas lines of Ziegler’s National Park Drawings—which were especially impressive to her, as someone who loves to photograph landscapes—before turning the corner to find colorful balloon hats, a heavy-looking blue air compressor tank, and on the wall, large text reading: “HOLD YOUR BREATH.”


“I felt an immediate connection to this piece, since I’m from Texas,” explained Ami. The air tank is imprinted with the names of various locations in Texas (Ziegler’s home state) that are associated with death, such as Alamo and Cherokee County. “When I saw that Huntsville was one of the locations listed on the air tank, I immediately made the association: We have a particularly high rate of death penalties in Texas, and it’s something that I’ve spoken about and fought against.”



From Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler’s Dianna Drawings (1995).


Ami continued to work her way through the collection before stopping at the Dianna Drawings, which comprises Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler’s doodles and notes on 24 napkins, each tiny piece of soft paper touting plans for future projects and works of art. By 1995, Ericson was too sick to begin any major public projects, so as part of their daily routine, the artists would go to their local diner in Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania—Dianna’s Place—to sketch and plan new endeavors.


“Even talking about the piece, I feel emotional. It just felt so personal,” said Ami. “I have a very close relationship with loss and suffering, and when I approached the piece, I felt overwhelmed with the emotion of Mel’s grief. Reading that [Kate Ericson] had passed on, and realizing that these were probably sketches and ideas of work that they never actually got to accomplish—I’m not even sure if that’s accurate, but that’s what I felt—there’s something so raw and personal there that truly spoke to me.”


Ziegler discusses "To Carry a Big Stick." Photo by Ami Fatherree.

Mel Ziegler discusses “To Carry a Big Stick.” Photo by Ami Fatherree.


After having such a remarkable and poignant experience with the works in Grandma’s Cupboard, Ami made sure to come back the next evening for the official opening reception and was able to catch Ziegler as he led a widely attended walkthrough of Grandma’s Cupboard. “When [Ziegler] was talking about ‘Hold Your Breath,’ he caught me smirking at a comment about Huntsville that no one else would understand, because why would someone in Utah understand a joke about Texas?” grinned Ami. After meeting the artist, and then surveying and experiencing each of the works for the second time—because sometimes, once is never enough—Ami left the museum feeling lighter than air.


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We love hearing your thoughts and seeing your pictures from and interactions with our exhibitions. Share them with @utahmoca and #UMOCA.

Our exhibition programming—which includes artist visits, lectures, workshops, and more—are made possible with your generous support.
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Contemporary Reactions: MISSILEBLOWER (And the Selected Good)

MissileblowerUsually when the weather is damp and dark, people tend to gravitate toward indoor entertainment. Luckily for us on a rainy Tuesday evening, Steve Talbert did just that. The local Californian—in town visiting an old friend—decided to visit UMOCA, and after touring the museum, he had some interesting thoughts to share.

As we discussed the exhibitions, Talbert spoke of the recurring themes of surveillance that are so prevalent in UMOCA’s Main Gallery exhibition, Panopticon. The piece that truly caught his attention, however, was local artist Brian Charles Patterson’s film installation, Missileblower (And the Selected Good).

Missileblower combines documentary-style footage with a guided meditation. As viewers sit on floor pillows in the darkened Codec Gallery, they become immersed in Missileblower’s tranquil qualities. There are screens on each side of the room—two with images of monkeys, one with altered surveillance footage, and the largest with a series of footage and a calming—yet unsettling—voice over. The exhibition plays with opposing themes, juxtaposing ideas of serenity and chaos, affluence and scarcity, and so on. Overall, the film compels viewers the possibility of a dystopian future.

Missileblower became a favorite of Talbert’s, due to the exhibition’s ambiguity. In his opinion, although it is clear that the artist is making a statement in the installation, the film doesn’t necessarily “preach” a certain meaning. Rather, the meaning was left to the spectator to develop for him or herself.


For Talbert, the video seemed to be a comment on environmental issues. He also thought that, although the video gave off “cynical and moody vibes,” it didn’t necessarily disrupt the viewer, but only evoked further interest. Overall, what Talbert enjoyed most about this work of art was its ability to allow the viewer an independent interpretation, as opposed to forcing a message. He concluded our discussion by giving a small piece of advice to those who may visit UMOCA in the future: “You must watch Patterson’s video through, multiple times, in order to obtain full understanding and develop meaning.”

Written by Emma Siddoway

Missileblower (And the Selected Good) will be on exhibition in UMOCA’s Codec Gallery through June 20.
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Contemporary Reactions: Pam Bowman’s “Aggregation”

As a viewer, it is often difficult and challenging to understand a work of contemporary art. However, being able to appreciate the time and effort that has been put into a piece often helps the viewer appreciate a work of art more. When Leah Andrews—a recent addition to the Salt Lake community—visited UMOCA, she admired the extensive detail of Pam Bowman’s intricate installation, Aggregation, currently on display in the Projects Gallery.

“It is amazing that she sewed all of the pieces individually,” Andrews says. She continues to admire how the thread from the individual portraits then “comes off like paint on a painting” to collect onto the spools. “I can really appreciate the work and the time that goes into making the detailed expressions on each of their faces.”

Using thread and textiles, Bowman traces the familiar faces of people from her own neighborhood. A quilt-like tableau portrays a plethora of individual faces sewn with copper and cream thread. The copper and cream-colored threads extend out to four turquoise spools that are held in place by two black, rusty poles. The extension of the threads draws viewer into observing the detail of each singular portrait.

The resulting installation highlights Bowman’s surroundings and friendships. Aggregation portrays and unites the many individuals that form a community. For Andrews, this work related to her own experience of moving to Salt Lake and reminded of the importance of settling in and becoming part of a community.

Written by Abby Martin

Pam Bowman: Aggregation will be on display in the UMOCA Projects Gallery through March 28, 2015.

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