The aesthetic pleasures of Utah’s natural environment have been the subject of artistic representation for as long as the region has been inhabited, going back to cave paintings. But exhibits of local landscape artists have never really expanded the definition of the term to include some of the most surreal styles utilized by artists in the region. Welcome to Contemporary Art & Design Gallery’s Beautiful Utah.
Some of the choices for this group show’s roster aren’t exactly intuitive—but then again, that’s to be expected from an artistic venue known for adventurous, experimental tendencies in the works on its walls, many from Eastern European immigrants. Ukrainian Orest Nakonechny is known for his oils reminiscent of Salvador Dali. Michelle Condrat’s paintings of trees include impressionistic touches. In the oils/acrylics of Stephen Teuscher—perhaps the most experimental of the 11 artists represented in this collection— natural figures only occasionally emerge from splashes of color splayed across the canvas.
Terry Willis rounds out the show with stone sculptures whose material pays more direct homage to the land than their shape—but then that’s a testament to the adaptability and diversity of the place in which we have made a home. This exhibit demonstrates the uses of abstraction, surrealism and other styles that depart from strict representation—not always to rebel against naturalistic likeness, but to augment it, add to its effects and find new ways to proclaim Utah’s natural beauty.
Beautiful Utah @ Contemporary Art & Design Gallery, 127 S. Main, 801-809-6562, thru Feb 28.