When it comes down to the end of the year, there’s a comfortable predictability to the Salt Lake City art scene. You can generally expect the Gallery Stroll openings for the months of November and December to be dedicated to group shows. Whether it’s the more secular and contemporary kind like Nox Contemporary’s Herb & Dorothy Show, or the more regional flavor at the current Utah Artist Hands holiday group show, for Salt Lake City galleries, this is the time of year for group shows of all kinds.
Being the holiday season, some of the very best shows in town pay homage to the holiday spirit with official holiday shows—and of the group shows to be found around the city, these can be among the best. Even within these special holiday shows, you can finds vast differences in what is being presented, as well as the overall character and ambiance of the show. Three exceptional holiday shows this year are each part of a holiday tradition, and offer a distinctive range of artistic specialties from the simple to the sophisticated; in fact, that’s much of their appeal.
The Salt Lake City Arts Council’s Holiday Craft Exhibit & Sale is in its 29th year, and runs through Dec. 19 at Finch Lane Gallery (54 Finch Lane, 801-596-5000, SLCGov.com/arts). The show boasts fine crafts from 72 artists, and is a feast of creativity for the holiday season. Finch Lane Gallery is transformed into a wonderland of fascinating curiosities—both practical and decorative, and all desirable—organized beautifully on round tables that visitors may meander around at their leisure.
You might find an ornately carved wooden box filled with hand-rolled wax candles, embedded with flowers of different colors and patterns, nestled in fabric. There are beautifully colored hand-glazed porcelain depictions of Santa Claus with a glowing candle lighting his way, with natural gradations of color and texture surrounded by a wooden frame. There are journals and drawing pads of many kinds, including some that have marvelous geometric multicolored hand-stitched covers. And these are just a few of the crafts to be found at Finch Lane this year. This annual exhibition is a once-a-year treat to sample the very best of the crafting creativity of the local community, the very finest of our local hand-made talent. It’s an opportunity to make the love and care put into each object a part of your holiday celebration.
Also, through Dec. 19, Art Access I and II (230 S. 500 West, 801-328-0703, AccessArt.org) are showcasing a holiday group exhibition. At this show, artists are juried, and 36 are chosen. The result is “high-quality craft and art that is at an affordable price,” says director Sheryl Gillilan.
Here, you can find treasures that are truly original and of a kind hard to find anywhere else, such as “architectural boxes.” These are fine vintage boxes of all types and shapes in stark tones and découpaged with antique architectural prints in black and white, covered with polish for an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind look. Gillilan is particularly enthusiastic about the porcelain in the exhibition, and what is on offer is exquisite: highly glazed, colored richly or with earth tones, with refined textures. Brightly colored baskets that Gillilan herself brought back from Uganda, as well as a wide assortment of hand-painted Russian nesting dolls, are also part of what makes this holiday group exhibition truly distinctive, with an international flavor that is a distinguishing characteristic of Art Access galleries. These are the kind of objets d’art that one will want to have displayed year-round, or to make a holiday tradition and display each year during the season.
The holiday group show at Phillips Gallery (444 E. 200 South, 801-364-8284, Phillips-Gallery.com) through Jan. 11 is surely one way to enjoy a “respite from other retail,” says director Meri DeCaria. Phillips’ holiday group show is a way to celebrate the holidays, but considering that it exhibits work from all of its more than 80 local artists on three floors, including new work by 20, it might be said that this is a time for Phillips to celebrate the fullness of its year, and the fullness of its achievement as an important gallery to so many artists and the community. The mood in Phillips for the show is suitably subdued, with a minimal number of candles lit to create the proper ambiance, for each piece, such as for the minimalist sculpture “Salient,” by Dan Toone. This ambiance is one of sober celebration. It is marvelous to see Phillips’ own Hadley Rampton’s “Heights” showcased with crisp, lush, minimal warmth to greet the viewer, while around the corner Randee Levine’s “Abstract #48”—with its aggressive, pulsating, emotive energy—keeps them entranced. It’s easy to assume a sameness among holiday shows, yet each is distinctive. At this time of year, it’s worth celebrating the many artists that create such a vital local arts scene.