The latest main-floor exhibit at Phillips Gallery features a couple of case studies on the effect of experience on the work of artists with two very different senses of place. Consider Joe Ostraff, who grew up in Southern California in the middle of the surf culture and beach life, then later married an ethnobotanist, whose studies have enabled them to travel the world and gain perspectives on other cultures. The BYU professor’s mixed-media paintings (“Conversations #003,” pictured) are all about communication and the transmigration language has to undergo to make the leap between people in the world today.
Then, take a look at the sculptures of Dan Toone. Raised on a farm outside Spokane, Wash., with an affection for nature, Toone eventually took a job welding metal in Salt Lake City. The resulting works evolved from furniture into sculptures that retain the appearance of being obliquely functional, like their contours might be turned by the wind; their roughhewn, rusty-yet-clean lines are a product of the simple efficiency of farm life. It’s a place where culture has been shaped by the earth’s natural rhythms to create its own elegance.
A trip to Phillips Gallery is always an adventure—wandering upstairs to look at the more-or-less permanent works whose display is circulated periodically, as well as the rooftop sculpture garden. Nude photographs by Bill Patterson in the basement Dibble Gallery complete the odyssey to this fixture on the local art scene that’s almost like a mini gallery stroll in itself.