In the ancient world, the understanding of the universe and our place in it was framed by myths, with power figures functioning as symbols for processes of creation and destruction, life and death. Throughout the centuries, these characters have provided fertile subject matter for art. More recently, archetypal power figures have been used to critique sociopolitical power structures in society. The group exhibit Gods, Heroes & Monsters at Studio Elevn examines renderings of both classical and contemporary power figures. A portion of the proceeds generated from art sales and donations during the exhibition will benefit Equality Utah.
Curator Anne Cummings, who operated Aperture Marketing & Gallery for years with fellow photographer Heidi Gress, brings her previous experience to this show. But she is also seeking to expand her curatorial boundaries. “Social justice, critical thinking, activism and advocacy are more important than ever and, in this sense, are vital themes for exploration in and through the universal language of art,” Cummings says.
The process of curating the exhibit was an enlightening insight into the creative process and began, she says, “with me reaching out to some individuals whose work I have followed for some time to discuss the narrative concept, and engage in a conversation about various interpretations of the theme.”
Cummings documented the artists’ progress with photographs, which will also be on display. “Process is of great importance to me,” she says. “Photographs of creative process allow for a brief glimpse into the magical world of these artists, and in some sense, satisfies our voyeuristic desires to share that intimate space, if only for a moment.”
Cummings had close contact with the artists throughout their work, “visiting with these talented artists during their creative process and discussing their interpretation/reinterpretation of the concept,” she says. “There is such variation in interpretation from artist to artist that is clear when you see the work on display.”
Lisa Collett looked to Peter Paul Rubens, the Flemish baroque painter, for her oil painting “The Rape of America,” a modern-day reinterpretation of Ruben’s masterpiece “The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus.” The show’s concept, Collett says, was an opportunity to “connect to the deepest part of myself, and reminded me why I became an artist: to create work that makes people think about their belief systems while challenging my own.”
Philip Lambert’s acrylic/mixed-media painting “Oppenheimer” uses J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, as an unlikely power figure. “He was a god in his ability to get the task at hand done, he was a hero for ending the war and trying to educate on the misuse [of the atom bomb], and he was no doubt a monster to the Japanese people on the day that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by his collaborative efforts to make the atomic bomb possible,” Lambert says.
Other intriguing works include Zeke Higham’s oil painting “Saint Michael Slaying a Riot Cop” and Jon Lang’s Balinese culture-inspired painting “Primal Scream.”
Gods, Heroes & Monsters also includes longtime local favorites like oil-painting master Randall Lake, and new notables in the Salt Lake City scene like Steven Larsen and Sri Whipple. A wide variety of different media are represented, from paintings to the metalwork of Adrian Prazen.
The exhibit opening is scheduled to include performance pieces. In Jenevieve Hubbard’s “Touch,” a collaborative performance piece, Hubbart will collect fingerprints at the opening and embroider them onto a Vietnam-era silk parachute for the duration of the evening. Jorge Rojas will perform “Lucha Libre,” exploring an age-old battle between good and evil that will manifest as a wrestling match between gods, heroes and monsters using action figures and papier mÃ¢ché dolls. The Strata Fossa collective will perform music.
It stands to be one of the most provocative art openings of the year, and Cummings hopes that the exhibit will spawn more than just contemplation and dialogue. “This is deeply personal work that grapples with ideas and notions, driven by an internal need to question and act,” she says.
GODS, HEROES & MONSTERS
435 W. 400 South
May 17-June 13
Opening night Saturday, May 17, 6 p.m.
Free, donations encouraged