Eric Overton | Wild America: Process and Preservation

We were so happy with the reception for Eric Overton’s show, Wild America: Process and Preservation, with his stunning ambrotype landscapes of the American West. Overton is a photographer, sculptor, and physician who earned his medical degree in 2013, but has been perfecting his craft of photography for over twenty years. Overton has had impressive professional exposure ranging from his time working for photographic publications like Rolling Stone Magazine, debuting his photographic work in Malaga, Spain, and opening his own gallery.

Overton noted in a recent interview with LensWork magazine that his goal in photographing these landscapes was one of personal exposure and involvement. He wanted to "experience these places anew; to exist in space and...experience the natural world.”

For Overton, experiencing the land anew was achievable by slowing the photographic process and restoring it to a time before it was mediated by technology.

“One particular component to this work originated from a fundamental idea I felt is becoming less important in our modern world. That is, the value of touch; to physically connect.  As we go through our days, how necessary is it to actually touch things? For example, as photographers we no longer require the dexterity needed to load and process sheets of film in total darkness. Images are captured via methods few understand and stored as pixels on cards, clouds, and drives. Portfolios are often viewed on computer screens, blogs, websites, phones and on and on.."

This is why Overton feels such a connection to a nearly 200 year old photographic process that relies upon and materializes these concepts of tactility, patience, and exploration.

Overton starts by coating a viscous solution known as collodion onto a clean 8x10 inch plate of black glass. The plate is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate followed by transferring it into a plate holder, which fits into the back of the camera. The exposure is made without the use of light metering.  After the plate is exposed it is then taken back to the darkroom in the back of his truck for development with an iron-based solution. The resulting ambrotype is a positive image when captured on a black surface and is the original image.

Click to watch Overton talk more about his process.

Each ambrotype is unique and is reproduced by using a high-resolution flatbed scanner to then produce a large format pigment print. The Diasec mounting method permanently joins together transparent acrylic glass and print backed by an aluminum sheet. The result is a completely flat mounted image that visually speaks to the original ambrotype process. It is resistant to UV light and fading and the combined back mounting on aluminum maintains the integrity of the photograph. The truly archival work is then crated and shipped to MWFA from Scandinavia.

Overton sees this anachronistic process as an effort to reconnect himself physically to the world and the land itself.

Initially, Overton did not start this series with a specific environmental agenda. It was during the intimate process of exploring the landscape personally for four years while shooting that he says he “came alive with passion” and felt deeply connected to his own American heritage.

"It is majestic but it is also delicate. It is in this awe-inspiring magnificence of the American landscape I am most free.”

Ultimately, Overton found that this slowed process rejuvenates him and has inspired him to contribute to the fight for land preservation.

“I now believe that our land not only affords us the opportunity to connect with the earth — but to our nation, to each other, and to ourselves.”

Stop by the gallery to view the original ambrotypes and archival pigment prints in person, Tuesday - Saturday 11 - 6 p.m. 

J. Vehar-Evanoff Artist Interview

We took a minute to sit down with local artist, John Vehar-Evanoff, to talk about his new body of work, "Submerged Reflection," now on display in the front gallery through July 15, 2017. We are featuring his abstracted series of paintings that foreground texture and weight, making visible Vehar's intricate process of layering and removing paint with varying sizes of squeegees.

Can you explain the impetus behind this shift to a more abstracted, ethereal, and atmospheric body of work?

It's natural, I think, for artists to gravitate toward abstraction as time and career move forward. Early in your career it's all about not making mistakes, and later it's about allowing for the right ones. I'm forty-five, so I'm just now starting down the path of trusting my intuition fully. However, for me, my earlier work is not so disconnected from my current work. In both, I try to balance innovation, skill, and design, allowing for randomness and mistakes without abandoning all foundation. I think the earlier pieces are stepping stones to pure and free expression, free of "objects" and cumbersome ideas. I think that is the goal, and it's why abstract painting will always be, for me, the highest form of expression, much like poetry will always be the purest form of writing. It's a progression I'm getting comfortable and familiar with. I'm not the type of person to repeat the same work over and over again. That being said, I think you can see the "Vehar" in a "Vehar," even if the subjects are different. Only time will tell.

These pieces have a fascinating layering and textured effect in the horizontal bands across the canvas. Can you explain your process of applying and removing the paint?

Very thin paint is applied to a very weak size, maybe only one or two coats, allowing for an absorption of a certain amount of paint into the canvas, and a certain amount on the surface. This creates a very "dry" looking surface, much flatter than it appears. This took years of experimentation to know what paint does in various situations, and on various surfaces. 

Squeegees are used to push, rags used to blend, and additional layers are applied as needed until a balance is achieved. Drips are allowed in the composition and not wiped off. The hardest part is knowing when to intuitively stop and let go. Working with a difficult surface forces you to deal with what you have created and make it work. 

What was the transition for you in painting your darker pieces, arguably the most abstracted of the works in your show? Light, shadow, and line seem to be the primary compositional elements. Can you also speak to the use of mixed media in these works?

I've been searching for a long time to find a way to incorporate simple line and form into my work. This was the first time I achieved it in a way that was satisfactory to me. Half-way through them I realized that what I really wanted to do here is express rhythm, and I got very excited about that. All these marks and scribbles come down to is the rhythm of my hand across the surface, like light bouncing off moving water. But you've seen a "scribble" many, many times before, and I knew I had to find a way to get the viewer to accept my version of what humans have been doing for centuries. I had to ask the viewer to see an old thing as new again. So, in order to achieve that, I had to reverse an age-old artistic process. Normally we go charcoal, then paint. I simply went paint, then charcoal.

For you, what is it about the landscape of red rock and water that inspires these abstracted vistas?

I spent a lot of time at lakes and reservoirs as a child, and I think those memories just came through my body onto the canvas. For me, it's the soft-hard-soft that make these environments work. The jagged, solid surface of a stone merged with the softness of a cloud is fascinating to me, as is how theses elements interact with or touch each other. Also, the reflection of the stone or solid material in water seems to soften and cool the body.

The show's title sparked a lot of interest at your opening. Can you explain the vocabulary and compositional choices for Submerged Reflection?

Honestly, the title came about near the end of the show, and was a collaborative effort between gallery and artist, but seemed very appropriate and matched the overall goal of the work. The darker abstractions are very purposefully designed to get the viewer to accept the simplest and purest form of self expression; the simple "mark."

Often a complex, well-constructed ground, especially if it contains a sense of mystery, will hold a person’s attention long enough to get them to recognize the true expression, the movement of the primitive hand, so to say, on top of that ground. It's the combination of informed and uninformed that makes these compositions work.

Please stop by the gallery to view "Submerged Reflection," by J. Vehar Evanoff through July 15, 2017.

Petecia Le Fawnhawk | Desert Elements

Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg

We are so thrilled to be featuring newly represented artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk's Desert Elements in our front gallery from May 17 - June 10th, 2017.  Le Fawnhawk is a multimedia artist whose body of work consists of sculptural and video installation, land art and drawings.  We are featuring a series of graphite drawings on paper that are dense with skilled detailed and leave the viewer inspired and surprised that she is completely self taught. 

Divine Doe Skull Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFAjpg

Le Fawnhawk comes from Irish, German and Cherokee descent, her work is deeply informed by her roots.  Her interest in nature stems from her early childhood where she would often explore abandoned spaces and would polish scavenged rocks and stones. She found inspiration in discarded relics that left an imprint early on and continues to influence her work.  

Dark Stone of White Wash Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA

"I have an overwhelming urge to pick up a certain stick, stone or bone because of some undefined beauty or unique character and take it home with me. I want to understand what it is that I find beautiful about these natural objects. Why do they hold such a place of honor? If I studied them closely enough, analyzing their structure and anatomy of existence out of context, and draw them big enough, I might understand my spiritual connection and relationship to something beyond them."

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Le Fawnhawk's ability to portray her subjects stripped from their inessential elements with such microscopic detail on a macroscopic scale leaves you wanting more. In fact when we received her 40 x 30 inch drawings we asked if she had ever worked in a larger format. When she said that she had thought about it but, had not approached a larger scale yet we asked her to consider premiering her largest piece yet in her first solo show with us at Modern West Fine Art.

Fibonacci's Flower Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFAjpg
Twisting Juniper Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg

Petecia Le Fawnhawk delivered Old Coyote Spirit, 64 x 44 inches. We were completely blown away and honored that she took upon herself the challenge to work larger. Desert Elements will be on view through June 10th and is an exhibition you will not want to miss, a must see in person.

Old Coyote Spirit Petecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg
Old Coyote SpiritPetecia Le Fawnhawk Desert Elements at MWFA.jpg

50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album and the cover's co-creator Jann Haworth

Jann Haworth SLC PEPPER mural | photo by Chad Kirkland

Jann Haworth SLC PEPPER mural | photo by Chad Kirkland

With the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album's release we celebrate Modern West - represented artist  Jann Haworth as the co-creator of the cover of the album. Haworth is finally getting her due credit as the co-creator and directing her interviews on how that work has inspired other works including the SLC PEPPER mural and her most recent project Work In Progress.

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Work in Progress is a collaborative mural that has traveled worldwide and is currently featured at the BYU MOA, Provo and in the Woman/Women show at the Leonardo in Salt Lake City. 

Rebecca Campbell Artist Discussion

Rebecca Campbell Artist Discussion

We had the honor of hosting Rebecca Campbell, a California-based contemporary artist, who spoke to us about creating her works that were inspired by her family history. Rebecca's roots in Utah and the West were revealed in her compelling artist discussion. Below are a few highlights from the night.

Rebecca Campbell new works discussion artist modern west fine art
rebecca campbell artist modern west fine art new works

Throughout the discussion you referred to your works being constructs of the mind and the body. Can you expand on those concepts?

Going back to the first piece of art I created I recall thinking about my mother teaching me how to make a cake. I was thinking about holding the ingredients, the feel those ingredients mixings…and all of those things being incredibly important fundamentally, aesthetically, and as part of the intellectual experience. The memories and thoughts generated and recalled are an expression of the mind.

I have painted works that are all body; they’re the intellect of the hand, the eye, and breath. I try to push those polls around to emphasize their relationships. All of these forces working together end up giving you something you didn’t know you were going to get. To me that is a very important experience of being human. What I love about painting is that it ends up being a kind of artifact of the relationship between the brain and the body.

rebecca campbell new work modern west fine art

Many of the works give us a glimpse into your family’s history. What is it that you find interesting about this subject matter?

My black and white [paintings] are based on old family photographs and the family photographs are true, in a way. They are a document of the actual experience that my family lived. And yet, what I think is interesting is that they lived completely different experiences then what was captured and what we’ve been told. My paintings cross the blurred boundary between memory and imagination. 

rebecca campbell modern west new works
aunt dee rebecca campbell modern west fine art

What do you think is the greatest challenge an artist faces when producing bodies of work?

I think there is a real cleave between the brain and the body, a lot of artists don’t make their work. They see their idea as being the pinnacle of their art experience and the object as almost a tangent to that experience. The interesting thing about being and artist is that you come up with an idea, and if you are a painter, you have to throw the idea through the body and the body has its way with it. It changes your idea and it might not be what you expected.

rebecca campbell opening modern west new works
rebecca campbell modern west opening exhibition new work
rebecca campbell modern west fine art opening new works

To view all the works featured in the exhibition check out our Artsy page or stop by Tuesday through Saturday 11-6p.m. 

Artist Interview with Woody Shepherd

Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to feature new works by Woody Shepherd. The exhibition is currently on display until March 11, 2017. Woody Shepherd's bold landscapes demand presence in not only their scale but also their execution. His dramatic technique of layering and removing paint creates depth, texture and compelling composition in his work. We took a moment to ask Woody about his newest works...

Your captivating compositions engage the viewer to take a closer look. The bold colors through out your works are balanced with the serene subject matter. What inspired you to focus on creating pieces that were inspired by the wilderness with such a vibrant palette?

When bold colors interact and/or clash on the eye, it excites our senses. That is what I am trying to do not only with color but with texture as well. Instead of mixing every color in paint down to a "local color," I employ optical mixtures of vibrant colors next to each other in which are mixed on the eye rather than in paint. I find this effect to be interactive and exciting. The wilderness is a similar situation. There is light, color, texture being chopped up in all ways.  I am trying to simulate the same feeling and excitement in my paintings that I experience in real life.

You have been exhibiting your paintings with Modern West Fine Art since we opened three years ago. Our collectors love the large scale in which you work but some ask if you paint smaller. This is often due to the fact they don't have the space to feature your work. In your latest exhibition you provided us with new works that were smaller in scale. What influences the format in which you work in? Was it challenging for you to work in a smaller format? What draws you to paint in a larger format? 

I have been scaling down my paintings for the time being (but not abandoning the large scale ones). Ive been slowly tricking myself into being "Okay" with painting smaller by gradually scaling down over the past year or two. The demand for smaller works from collectors has finally caught up to me. For a long time I would not work under six foot in the smallest dimension. I am aiming to stay in a smaller format for a while, but am excited for the days to work larger again. Lately I have been particularly drawn back to the square or "close to square" format.  Square is a difficult format to work in, but when it is done well, it is a powerful shape.

Many of your works have incredible texture created by the building up and taking away layers of paint. Can you tell us more about your process and how you create such dynamic paintings.

Just like color, I like to interact and clash texture in my paintings. I find that it adds a whole extra dimension to my work. Just as you can witness colors as sensations, texture activates another sensation. I also like to confuse the relief of the surface texture with the illusion. Often the deepest space in the illusion is sticking the furthest out of the painting surface. The textures are created by many processes.

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Often I throw thick painting onto the surface, use a press, add textured mediums, use pallet knives, masking, and many more techinques.  I find texture, mark, speed, and movement to all be very expressional elements. I make paintings, not pictures, therefore I like to keep the paint gritty and remind the viewer that a painting is made by a human with a soul.

Stop by to view Woody Shepherd's newest works  on display through March 11, 2017.