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Gavin's Underground

June Gallery Stroll: Jason Matcalf & Cara Despain

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-06-23 -

Back to the Gallery Stroll we go as we hit late June, and the art scene picks back up speed again for many reason across the state.  This month we head back to Kayo Gallery to check out a shared show. 

Jason Metcalf took over the left side of the room with his view of rebuilding and Hell.  Meanwhile, Cara Despain took over the right side showcasing her unique paintings of the nature around us.  I got a chance to interview both while taking pictures of the show.

Jason Metcalf


http://www.jasonmetcalf.com/

Gavin: Hey Jason. First thing, tell us a little about yourself.

Jason: I was born in SLC, and have always loved art. I attended Brighton High School, and then attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. I then transferred to BYU, where I am continuing my candidacy for a BFA degree. I am married to Denise Metcalf, and have a little Italian greyhound, Sadie, and a cat, Bella.

Gavin: How did you get into doing art for a living?

Jason: It’s not quite a living yet! It’s more of an expense or an investment I guess. I am not sure how I got into showing my art, I am just always involved and don't turn down opportunities, so it seems I always have at least two shows to work on at once.

Gavin: For those unfamiliar with your work, what are you most known for in the local art community?

Jason: I am not sure I am that well known, maybe I am underestimating myself, I don't know. I have shown at several spaces in SLC, the most recent being the Rio Gallery where I presented a collaborative project with Conrad Nebeker-Audioptic Art. It was a series of sound paintings, sculpture, and video that was a result of research conducted at BYU for which we received a Laycock Foundation Grant.

Gavin:  You attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for a couple years, but then came to BYU in 2005. Why the change?

Jason: I am still not exactly sure. I do know that some really good things have happened though. I met my wife, have had great exhibitions, including the opportunity to create work in New York and Miami, and am now involved in the recently founded Sego Art Center. I don't regret my stay in Boston, it was marvelous, and I learned so much in a short time about contemporary art and different things I had never before dreamed of.

Gavin: What did you think of the art programs they have at BYU? And how do they compare to others from around the country?

Jason: They have really good programs. In many ways it seems they are up to speed with the best of the best, but in other ways they could use some help. There are some really progressive professors however, that are making big changes for the better. The school allows students to explore and do pretty much whatever they want (as far as media and theory- not always imagery are concerned), but doesn't always do the best job of facilitating such exploration. The same goes for exposure to contemporary art and current practices. All this is changing however. Their visiting artist program however is the very best. They have had all sorts of amazing folk- Cory Arcangel, Jerry Saltz, Barry Maggee, Laura Hoptman, Judy Pfaff... so many others.

Gavin:  I found it interesting that you don't limit yourself to just paintings; you do 3D art, performance, and sound art as well. What was the inspiration to do all that?

Jason: I just think about a concept or form that I want to create and think to myself "what is the very best way that this will come out?", and then I execute. Sometimes ideas manifest themselves the best in performance, but sometimes in drawing, painting, or even sound. The difficult part about all this is to create a consistent body of work that transcends media and even sometimes aesthetic boundaries. That is what I am really trying to do now-to create a body of work that is conceptually consistent, even if not necessarily visually cohesive.

Gavin: What do you think about Gallery Stroll, both good and bad, and how it's evolved over the years?

Jason: I think it’s a really great program. To be honest, I haven't been since High School, as I haven't lived in the valley since that time. We have a stroll in Provo as well, which is beginning to have a really good turnout, although it is not as diverse in its demographics. I think it is great in that art lovers can expect new art every month- and enough to see to fill up an entire evening of viewing. However I think the stroll(s) is lacking in having serious venues that really investigate current global trends in contemporary art. There are other spaces that do this around the state- the Central Utah Art Center, in my opinion, do the best job at bringing in well recognized outside artists in order to educate their local community about the state of Visual Art on a national and international level. I think we at Sego are beginning to bring the same dialogue to Provo as we plan some really great upcoming shows. The Salt Lake Art Center, The BYU MOA, and the UMFA have all gained new staff/ directors which are some of the brightest minds in the entire state concerning contemporary art. I think Utah is on the cusp of greater recognition nationally and even internationally.

Gavin:  Is there anything you feel could be done to make the local art scene better?

Jason: I think an openness in mind on everyone’s behalf, whether you consider yourself a traditionalist or a postmodernist or whatever, would do the Wasatch front a lot of good. We need to all keep our minds open about what we think is good or acceptable art, and what we should value as a society or culture. Individuals should always be engaged in expanding their horizon of appreciation and understanding by questioning and learning about work they might not fully comprehend. Lastly, if we all do the most we can to better the arts in our own individual communities, much more would be happening.

Gavin: Tell us about the display you're showing at Kayo Gallery.

Jason: It’s the most recent art from a body of work I have been working on for about the past two years. It includes 12 paintings or so, a light sculpture/painting, and a performance which was done at the opening reception. The work has to do with a personal investigation of the symbols and values of our local visual culture, but also includes art historical, historical, geological, mythical, theological, linguistic, and aesthetic references. I am happy with the show as I feel it is finally a path I can continue on for a duration of time, the concepts are flexible and broad enough that a multiplicity of media can be applied and experimented with.

Gavin:  Where did the idea come from to do a shared show with Cara?

Jason: Kenny Riches, Kayo's last owner and founder, set it all up. Oddly enough, Cara and I attended the same art classes together at Brighton High Back in 2001. It has been great to see her again, and collaborate on this show.

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

Jason: I will be a part of the Proving Ground performance art festival at the Rose Wagner Black Box Theater in September. I haven't participated before, but I will be doing a short stage performance several times over a few days. I am pretty excited, and have some interesting ideas I am looking forward to executing. It will be a new experience performing on stage, as opposed to in a gallery, art fair, or street format.

Gavin:  Anything you'd like to plug?

Jason: All the great artists in Provo and Utah Valley that might be underrepresented or undervalued.
The Sego Arts Center, although I am probably being really biased, I think we are doing some really great things. We have great shows which circulate monthly. Our openings are always on the first Friday of the month, as opposed to Salt Lake's third Friday, so people can enjoy attending opening receptions in both cities. We keep our website up to date, so information about current shows can always be found there.


Cara Despain

despain.jpg
http://caradespain.com/

Gavin:  Hey Cara.  First, tell us a little about yourself.

Cara: I am from Salt Lake, will be going to Berlin for a while next month, and I do mostly paintings.  I am kind of short, kind of loud.

Gavin:  How did you get into doing art for a living?

Cara: Well the funny part about making a living off art is... most of us still have day jobs.  But I have involved myself with the art community and fellow artists enough to incur some art odd jobs.

Gavin: For those unfamiliar with your work, what are you most known for in the local art community?

Cara: Well, I don't know what the rest of those folks think for certain, but perhaps my work sticks in peoples mind because it's sort of peculiar, a little silly, and doesn't tend to get confused with anyone else's stuff--people say often that it is very me.

Gavin:  Where did the inspiration come from for pieces like "Grim Narrator" and "Genealogy"?

Cara: It's interesting to me how myths spawn, and how dogmas come to exist.  And how close, often interchangeable those two things are.  It's absolutely fascinating how facts and events can evolve into absurdity.   It all depends on how big of a shadow the teller casts.

Gavin: You occasionally do articles for City Weekly.  What got you to start doing that?

Cara: I had done some articles for 15Bytes, an online magazine focused on art in Utah.  Someone fell through on an article about a show for City Weekly, and I had been very involved in the process of the show in question, so I was recommended to write the piece from someone who knew I had been writing other art reviews/profiles.

Gavin:  You participated in the 337 Project last year.  What was the piece you did, how was the experience for you, and what was your reaction to the tear down months ago?

Cara: I painted a section, despite being in the front, and the only painting visible at night, which was largely overlooked.   It was behind the front windows, which I also drew on minimally to cast shadows on the painting inside.   In the end the subtly and the strange location became a springboard for my piece in Present Tense.

Gavin: What are your feelings on the 337 display happening at the Salt Lake Art Center, as well as the documentary on the way?

Cara: I think it is an awesome opportunity for those of us in the show to sharpen up, spend more time, and atune a piece to fit into an art space--where it isn't such a free for all.  This to me poses an interesting challenge, not a limitation.  I stepped outside my normal medium of painting and did a mixed media video installation that is very site specific. It has been exciting for me to try something new and a little uncomfortable.

Gavin:  Delving a little into state-wide stuff.  What do you think about Gallery Stroll, both good and bad, and how it's evolved over the years?

Cara: I think it's a fantastic way to get involved in the art scene in Utah--which often gets a sort of bad rap, but really is quite amazing.  I wish the traffic and enthusiasm could carry over a little more to the entire month.  But it's just great that people get out.  I think the opening of Kayo Gallery --and Kenny Riches presence in the art scene in general-- a few years back marked a significant change.  It encouraged indie galleries, and even businesses to be involved in the stroll, and made the younger art crowd more present, and ultimately more respected.

Gavin: Is there anything you feel could be done to make the local art scene it better?

Cara: I think it’s already on its way. We need to keep pushing, keep things fresh, and go away and look at art in other cities and bring that exposure in as a model.    Salt Lake has a bit to go yet to get on par with other larger cities' art districts and scenes, but I do believe it is on its way.

Gavin:  Tell us about the display you're showing at Kayo Gallery.

Cara: These are paintings I have been working on over the last year or so.  They have exposed panel, line-drawn figures, oil glazing, in some cases glitter, astroturf, and other acrylic elements.  The paintings mentioned above will be included, and the show overall is conceptually in line with how I described those.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to do a shared show with Jason?

Cara: Riches scheduled it before selling the gallery in January.  I think it turned out to be a great match, our work has a nice dialogue going, and, we both have been using glitter!

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

Cara: I will be going to Berlin next month, but will continue making art there.  Perhaps I'll have a show when I return!  And I will continue to be involved in the arts community.

Gavin: Anything you'd like to plug?

Cara: Present Tense at the Art Center, Guthrie Open Studios, all the shows on Broadway: Kayo of course, Saan's, Signed & Numbered, and Nobrow. Stephanie Dykes at Finch Lane.  Jim Despain there in January.

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