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Gavin's Underground

April Gallery Stroll: USU Showcase

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2012-04-23 -
This month's Gallery Stroll marked the first one with decent weather, which brought the crowds out in droves! You can never find a bigger contrast between each Stroll than with the seasons, and spring will almost drag people from their homes to check out everything at every venue around. Most all the regular galleries were open for the public to come check out all the art that's been in hibernation until now, absolutely free.
For this month's Stroll, we headed over to Alpine Art on South Temple to check out one of the more unusual multi-artist showcases, featuring painting and drawing students from Utah State University with their final projects of the year. The entire thing was coordinated with three instructors/MFA candidates and one organizing student to bring all the work down for a limited engagement, packing the room for the entire night. Today, we chat with two of those instructors about their work and the showcase, along with posting dozens of pictures from the event for you to check out here.

Zachary Proctor, Chuck Landvatter & Clay Cavender

Gavin: Hey, guys. First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Chuck: Love my wife Chelsea and our daughter, Jude; I love outside, some sports, music, and the color green. And my friends.

Zachary: Zachary Proctor, born and raised in Salt Lake City. Graduated from the U of U with a BFA and finishing an MFA here at USU. Also lived in Helper and studied under Dave Dornan and Paul Davis for two years.
Gavin: What first got each of you interested in art, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Zachary: My Norwegian grandmother took me to a tole-painting class when I was a little kid and I really enjoyed it.

Chuck: Ma Dukes told me I was better than my kindergarten classmates and stuck me in private art classes. I believed her and went right along with it.

Gavin: You're both receiving degrees from Utah State. What made you choose USU, and what was your time like there?

Chuck: Actually, I’m currently an MFA candidate -- haven’t graduated quite yet; received my undergrad at the U. I love teaching here, and have enjoyed working with, and learning from, so many of my students, peers and professors up here. There’s a great environment and some nascent talent to keep your eyes on.

Zachary: I have not yet received my degree from USU, either, but I did come up here because I received a fellowship and it sounded like a fun adventure.
Gavin: Seeing how you both came from the same programs, did any of you interact with each other prior to joining USU as professors?

Zachary: We are only instructors here, and yes, I have known these guys for a while. They are great guys and have taught me a lot.

Chuck: Zachary and I have been friends for about 15 years -- mostly through art.

Gavin: How did the opportunity come about for each of you to sign on as instructors, and was there any hesitation to taking on the job or were you all-in at that point?

Chuck: The opportunity to teach -- again, as a grad student -- was a no-brainer. There is so much good that comes from teacher-student interactions I don’t know where to start.

Zachary: Teaching is a priority for grad students here at USU, and many people come here for that reason. It sounded interesting and challenging so I was excited to sign up.
Gavin: What's it been like for you to teach in the same program you came up in, and in a sense, give back to the school where you honed your craft?

Zachary: It is really fun to try and build up a program you are affiliated with.

Gavin: While both of you teach, you also create artwork as professional artists. What influenced each of you in your particular styles of painting or illustration?

Chuck: EVERYTHING inspires, influences and informs my work. My style is probably most notably a derivative of the academic tradition my mom started me in at age 5 in conjunction with the riffraff art of the streets and the inventive illustration work that seems to be so prevalent these days.

Zachary: I enjoy painting what I experience or witness. My thesis is about growing up in the western United States and the beauty/strangeness of suburban life. I am influenced by everything around me -- films, music, other painters and life itself.
Gavin: What's the process like for each of you in creating a new piece, from concept to final product?

Zachary: The process is as unique as one's approach to life. The way a person approaches a painting says a lot about who he/she really is. I love oil painting and discovering the various ways to tackle the medium and whatever subject I choose to paint.

Chuck: Hopefully, fluid and progressive -- ideally, my perception of the end product will continually change as the piece progresses. To follow this model is a good way to attempt to abandon formula.

Gavin: Do you tend to mess around with your designs before finishing or stick to the original vision?

Chuck: I think my last statement answers this for me, but to be clear, there are times with particular projects where it may be necessary to do it all by design. My work usually isn’t as successful when I adhere to a contrived vision, but sometimes -- occasionally -- I surprise myself.

Zachary: Just as any adventure or trip, you never know what will happen. The surprises along the way are often more fun than the original plan.
Gavin: As teachers yourselves, are there tricks you've learned on your own that you like to show students, or are there things you keep to yourself as a special skill?

Zachary: I am often criticized for giving away too much, but I figure that I have been given a lot so I should in turn share whatever I have with those starting out.

Chuck: If I’m understanding the question correctly, the answer is, of course not. If I have a tactic that works, it’s because I’ve stolen it or at least derived it from someone else, so it’s not mine to hide. Nobody should have a monopoly on executions, that’s ridiculous. Isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do, imbue their students with whatever will help them grow? On the other hand, I don’t want a bunch of Chuck protégés running around, either, so I hope they can figure things out on their own most the time -- it’s more valuable to them that way anyway.

Gavin: How is it for both of you working together at USU while being artists? Is there a sense of competition between you or is it more a matter of helping yourselves and the students grow?

Chuck: If there is competition, it’s subtle and healthy. I mean, this isn’t football, it’s art. Unless it’s in sports or sorcery, competition really isn’t my thing.

Zachary: I have never been interested in competing, and that lead me to doing art in the first place. Whenever I sense an artist getting competitive with me, I start to distance myself from them. There really is not any of those feelings between us. We all have a unique approach and respect that in each other.
Gavin: Tell us about the works you're currently showcasing for this month's Gallery Stroll.

Zachary: I am painting a series of 100 heads on 24"x 24" canvases. The painting in this show is #48 in that series.

Chuck: The only show I have this Stroll is for this show, and I’m not sure what I’ll put in yet -- maybe one of Trent or Kuhr, two artists who inspire me. I’m not sure yet; you’ll have to come and see. The best stuff is coming from the students, anyway.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on being displayed at Alpine Art and working with them for this show?

Chuck: Alpine Art has always been a very nice, very reputable venue, in my opinion. They’ve had plenty of great artists show there and I’m just happy to have the opportunity to hang.

Zachary: Alpine Art is great! I have known and worked with them for a while.
Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on the Utah art scene, both good and bad?

Zachary: The Utah art scene is an interesting discussion. Anytime one finds a strong culture, there will always exist a strong counterculture. There are great artists on both sides of the religious divide, and I respect a lot of the talent that resides here in Utah. The more I travel, the more I've come to realize how skilled so many of the painters are here Utah.

Chuck: Good – Sri Whipple still reps Utah. Bad – Jon McNaughton does, too. I would say the simple answer is that there isn’t enough art -- in the classrooms, in people’s homes, on the freeways, on people’s minds! There’s not enough attention paid to the arts, period. Really, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the outstanding individuals and institutions that are actively combating, every day, this unacceptable norm in Utah. I actually believe that these adversities push “the committed few” to greater heights, corny as it may sound. In that sense, the Utah art scene is next level.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?

Chuck: I’m not yet convinced if a radical move is the solution, or something more gradual, although I have suspicions that the latter is already happening. Places like UMOCA, The Leonardo, Peterson Art Center, Art Access, Captain Captain, Poor Yorick, 15 Bytes, City Weekly, the CUAC, USU, UMFA, BYU, Helper, Springville Museum of Art, etc. -- all are making strides to make art visible and accessible to the generally dismissive public. There are definitely committed soldiers out there working for prominence in the arts, for sure.

Zachary: I am not really interested in pushing a cause or trying to validate any art scene. My interests lie simply in finding some space and having the freedom to make paintings that I will be proud of when I am old.
Gavin: What's your opinion on Gallery Stroll today and the work being displayed each month?

Zachary: This month has some shows that I am interested in checking out. I am really interested in seeing what Trent Call and company did with the "Happy Accidents" show. I was really sad that I was unable to participate with that show due to my responsibilities with this show.

Chuck: Being that I’m in Logan, it’s hard to get down much, and when I do, I kinda cherry-pick which shows I go to, so I may not be the one to ask.

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

Chuck: If I told you, you would not believe it.

Zachary: I will finish my thesis and get back to Salt Lake. I look forward to setting up a studio and get painting.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Zachary: Nope. I just hope a ton of people come to see these students' work and that these guys get to shine.

Chuck: Wu Tang forever!


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