True Calling 

Local artist Trent Call gets grounded at Tres Flores.

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It’s hard to keep up with Trent Call. The local artist is constantly en route to teach, draw, drink beer, draw and, occasionally, sleep. Allergic to themes and routine, he juggles several projects at once, cycling through different mediums to keep things fresh and fluid. One week, he might complete a commissioned portrait; the next, paint an imaginative scene of a female nude with reptilian head perched atop the LDS Church Office Building.


Call also makes time to design gig posters for bands like Form of Rocket and Vile Blue Shades. He’d rather promote their shows than get rich off commissions. It’s more fun, he says, and the outcome is more rewarding. Would he ever specialize in poster art? Probably not. He has too many plans to pursue.


For Call, movement equals progress. It’s not enough to land a coveted booth at the Utah Arts Festival or display work at six different shows for last month’s gallery stroll. It’s only par for the course to release Swinj, the ’zine he started with three friends “because I could. There was nothing stopping me,” he says. “Now, it’s become a portable little book of art.”


Little book? More like an impressive tome. The sixth edition packs contributions by more than 20 artists into 150 pages of daring, random beauty. Ruby Johnson’s kissing-couples photo series precedes Call’s collection of cartoon figures stuck in mechanized children’s rides: a miniature speedboat, Corvette, train and school bus. Patrick Eddington’s somewhat sinister-looking cat profiles creep behind Sri Whipple and Call’s collaborative comic A Taxi Ride to Sabbathon.


There are also snapshots of an anonymous graffiti artist’s finger-pointing logo affixed to brick walls and skyscraping cranes. Call started his career in spray paint: “[In school] I learned how to paint the figure and do oil paintings in the traditional way'that was really fun but I still had that graffiti sensibility. I couldn’t really get rid of it.nn

But he lost that loving feeling when mural after mural lost out to “the man.” “It’s almost like the system won me over,” he recalls. “Why? Because I would paint one thing and then they’d paint over it. I’d do it enough times and, finally, I got sick of it. … Unlike other cities, it [graffiti art] just gets buffed really quick. There aren’t the areas where it can grow onto the building.nn

And Call’s all about growth. He recently purchased two vintage cigarette vending machines to further expand his repertoire. For 50 cents or $1, the retro receptacles return not nicotine but art fixes in the form of cassette-size cards; collect all six to complete the hidden picture. One “Swinj-O-Matic” is located at Nobrow Coffee & Tea Co. on 300 South; the other will be available for use at the grand unveiling of Tres Flores, a new studio housing Call and 13 other artists, including Whipple, Steven Larson, Chase Leslie, Tom Mulder, Trent Thursby Alvey, Tessa Lindsey, The Mandate Press, Lance Clayton, Diane Borg, Emily Allen, Jenny AA Hambleton, Sue Ann Smith and Janet Hazel White.


The west-side warehouse is long and slim with high ceilings and giant windows casting light on works in progress. Outside, a small courtyard/parking lot filled with colorful patio chairs provides residents with a spot to reflect, smoke or bounce ideas off each other. Three weeks before Tres Flores opens, Call sits under the autumn sun grateful for a place to call home. “For a month, I didn’t have a space, and I was painting in Sri’s studio in the Guthrie,” he says, referring to the aftermath of Poor Yorick’s demise. “It was kind of horrible. I’d get off work from teaching, and I’d be driving around and not have anywhere to go.nn

Across the fence, a car pulls up blaring mariachi music. The owner parks and runs inside the pupuseria, source of a pungent grilled pork aroma. “This is our neighborhood!” Call says with a shout. “Oh, and it’s the weekend, too. This is a happening place on the weekend. Just during the days, for some reason. It’s just tons of cars and people. It’s exciting.nn

With moments like these, it’s no wonder Call prefers to stay in Salt Lake City rather than pursue success in cities like Portland and San Francisco. He’s not sure why artists and musicians in those towns just explode while Utah artists struggle to move beyond small-town fame.


“I just don’t know the steps to take. I’ve tried to make connections with other people but they always fall through. Nothing ever works out. I had a show lined up in Portland, and then it just didn’t happen,” Call says, adding that since Salt Lake City has such a limited market (patrons with money tend to prefer massive landscape paintings), he’s considered touring the country musician-style to get his work out. “I’m not sure if I could afford it. Maybe some type of grant. I’m good at getting denial letters. I keep them all in a folder.nn

Tres Flores grand opening
n825 S. 500 West
nFriday, Dec. 1
n6-10 p.m.

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