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Gavin's Underground

Utah Photographic Arts Council: Becoming The Machine

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-05-07 -

Sidestepping the normal galleries and stroll events this month, a university program is looking to put a new spin on photography.
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  Running out of a building in Sugarhouse, the Utah Photographic Arts Council will be putting on a showing of unconventional photography entitled “Becoming The Machine.” A display of different techniques and visual formats all focused around the inspirations that came from a specific art class and a quote from Sol Lewitt. I got a chance to chat with the UPAC President Mallory Qualls about the organization and what it does, the upcoming show, thoughts on the art scene and a few other topics. Not to mention some previews below which are only a small sampling of what will be on display.

Mallory Qualls
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http://www.utah-pac.com

Gavin: Hey Mallory, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mallory: There isn’t too much to say. I graduate from the University of Utah this Friday! I’ll be getting my BFA in Photography, which I’m pretty stoked about. Aside from that, currently all I consist of is an overwhelming fear of life after graduation…

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is UPAC?

Mallory: UPAC stands for the Utah Photographic Arts Council. It’s a student run group that’s main purpose is to help students engage with the local art community. We’re funded by the University of Utah, I’d probably get in trouble if I didn’t mention that somewhere in this interview.
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Gavin: How did the idea come about to start it up?

Mallory: As undergrads, we learn a lot of techniques and a lot of art history. Aside from preparing a portfolio, we don’t get much experience preparing and being in exhibitions. We decided to start the UPAC so we could gain experience in creating shows, as well as being able to expose ourselves to the local art community.

Gavin: What photographers do you currently have on board with the program?

Mallory: We have a lot of really great artists involved with UPAC this year. We have had the chance to work with students both in and out of the college of art, which has been really fun. The artists participating in “Becoming The Machine” include Savana Jones (Vice President), Miranda Whitlock (Secreatary), Maureen Minson (Treasurer), Tyler Lynch, Van Chu, Colin Roe Ledbetter, Angela Edstrom, Dianne Sanchez, Lewis Crawford, Jordan Huntington, and myself (President).
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Gavin: What kind of exhibits have you done in the past?

Mallory: Aside from “Becoming The Machine,” we’ve had two other shows in the past couple of years. Last spring we had a show at Gallery UAF (Equinox) and this past fall we were at The Alvin Gittin’s Gallery (Mirrors and Windows). Both exhibitions were traditional for the most part.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from for “Becoming The Machine”?

Mallory: Last fall of the presidency took an incredible modern art history class that filled our heads with crazy ideas. Among other things we were inspired to write manifestos, create a group similar to Fluxus, and create shows based on artists that we found to be inspiring. “Becoming The Machine” is specifically based on the quote by Sol Lewitt’s “The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”
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Gavin: Why did you choose the Sugarhouse location instead of a regular gallery?

Mallory: We wanted to try and do something different and explore non-traditional venues. The space that we have found is really bizarre, which is what we love about it. It’s literally a random door in the middle of an unpaved street. Inside it only gets better. Random writings on the wall, crazy wooden hooks coming from the ceiling…Its amazing!

Gavin: What kind of displays will people be able to see?

Mallory: People will be able to see a little bit of everything. There will be video installation, performance, projection, and alternative process photography. I’m really excited about the work in this show. It’s both technically incredible and conceptually solid.
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Gavin: For some of the non-traditional material, will it be put up somewhere for display after the showing?

Mallory: Besides the opening on May 8th, we will be having weekly happenings on the weekends or people can schedule to come see the exhibition by scheduling an appointment.

Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Mallory: There has been a lot of growth and people are definitely starting to care more about local artists, which is awesome! I really enjoy Gallery Stroll, there are some really terrific galleries around SLC. The Salt Lake Arts Center is great too. It’s always blowing my mind with the art that it brings in. Did you see the Jenny Holzer pieces they had a couple of months ago? Incredible. As far as drawbacks are concerned the only thing I can think of is the separation we often see as students from the university environment to the gallery setting. I feel like there is a real disconnect between what we learn, and know to be fine art versus what we actually see in galleries. When you’re in the classroom making work I don’t think you’re as limited, you don’t have to think “Will this sell? Will such and such gallery show this piece?” Etc.
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Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Mallory: I think that Salt Lake City is headed in a great direction. It’s really small compared to other cities, but I think as time goes on, and as we all grow, the work will only get stronger. As long as people care about art, and care about it’s progression, it can only move up.

Gavin: What you think of Gallery Stroll and how its done over the years?

Mallory: I really like the Gallery Stroll. It’s a great way to invite people to come out and view art that otherwise wouldn’t. As an artist it’s really fun too. It’s always great to go out to the stroll and see friends who you haven’t seen for a long time. Friends Art always equals good times.
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Gavin: What's your take on the Utah Arts Festival, and will you guys be doing anything with it this year?

Mallory: We won’t be doing anything with the Utah Arts Festival, but UAF has definitely been a supporter of ours. We had our very first show there! So long ago… oh, the memories!

Gavin: What can we expect from you and UPAC the rest of the year?

Mallory: Unfortunately since the school year is ending that means that UPAC’s festivities are too, for this school year anyway. I’m sure there will be plenty of events next year though. The incoming presidency is pretty awesome, and I’m sure they’ll have great ideas for the future of UPAC.
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Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Mallory: I’ve been talking with one of our members, Colin, about this question and all we’ve been able to come up with is gratuitous self-promotion, or possibly promoting our day jobs in the hopes of getting a raise.. I guess I sort of just plugged him.. Colin Roe Ledbetter, He’s a cool dude.

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