Circlegal | Buzz Blog

Monday, October 13, 2008


Posted By on October 13, 2008, 9:48 PM

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For a good portion of Trax riders, this has been one of the familiar scenes along their trip through Downtown.

--- Circlegal has been leaving her mark all over Salt Lake City during 2008, displaying her stick figure designs on everything from billboards to doorways.  Showing us that the simplistic can be just as powerful, insightful and creative as any other form of artwork out there.   And with her joining of IAO Projects for a number of shows, it looks like her work will be making more appearances across the city for months to come.  I got a chance to chat with Circlegal about her work, joining IAO, her thoughts on the scene, and a number of other questions that came to mind.

Michelle "Circlegal" Kurtz

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Gavin:  Hey Michelle!  First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michelle: Howdy my name is Circlegal, I am currently going by this name because it is part of another project I am working on.  I am a late 20’s early 30’s something artist that currently lives in Salt Lake City.  I am originally from Colorado and moved here about a year and half ago from Chicago.  I also like the orange energy SoBe drink with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Gavin:  What first got you interested in doing art, and what were some of your inspirations?

Michelle: I have been doing art my whole life off and on.  In elementary school I did bunches!  Mostly of people and I would tell myself stories about them in my head… crazy maybe… but hey I was an only child and lived in the middle nowhere!  I was always trying to get them picture perfect.  Through the end of middle school and high school I never really did art…so what got me back into it was several things.

Gavin:  Did you go into any kind of education for art?

Michelle: I actually went to college got a BFA and teaching license and taught high school art for two years. Up till this point I never really did much of my own art.  My mentor teacher in college really inspired me and opened my eyes to all types of art!  Once this had been done I had a student Silent Alex who loved my sketches I did and had me do one for him every day!  I went with this idea he had, went home bought some huge canvas and some house paint and have been doing it every since!

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

Michelle: My artwork can best be described as giant Stick Figures on doors or other found objects with quirky sayings.  I actually started out my career doing extreme realism… I thought this was the only type of art worth anything!! I soon quit doing it and art all together but I could not figure out why.

Gavin:  You seem to go between various forms of artwork from basic watercolors to realism.  Do you do it more for the challenge, or the idea of learning a new form?

Michelle: It was because I was bored with it and no creativity was involved.  My belief is anyone can learn techniques but not everyone can learn creativity.  In a sense I actually feel like any type of art school or art lessons stifle an artist!!  Funny I say this since I majored in art, and taught it but I believe it to be true!  This is one of the reasons I got out of teaching. 

Gavin:  With the many forms you can do, why do you choose to paint more simplistic designs?

Michelle: The reason for stick figures as opposed to fine tuned technical skills is because I can be free and worry about the idea more than technique… and I lack patience. The biggest factor of doing my art is, because of the comment I got my whole life, I can’t even draw stick figures.  People would say it to me…and one day it hit me… I will just see how creative I can get with giant stick figures!  Plus this seems to confuse people… even better!

Gavin:  Recently you started doing billboards around downtown.  How did that opportunity come about?

Michelle: As far as the billboard goes I just saw it one day and it looked old and crappy so I went to the county, found out who owned it and asked if I could paint it and the guy said yes, so I did!  I repainted it every 1-2 weeks from April-July.  I was out of commission the rest of the summer but hope to get back to it.

Gavin:  What's the process like in both the design and producing a billboard? 

Michelle: I actually get all my paint for free at the dump so I literally have hundreds of gallons of paint that is how I was able to paint it so much.  I used a small ladder and a 12 foot pole.  I painted the big areas with a roller on the end of the pole and the smaller areas I used a small squishy sponge/Nerf ball.  I poked a hole in that ball and shoved it on the pole and would switch the ball out for different colors… this is how I got lines.  I was not able to reach any higher than the bottom of the billboard with myself and the ladder so everything was painted with the long pole! 

Gavin:  What's the reaction been from both the public and the city?

Michelle: The reactions I have got from the public have actually been pretty good. People will ask me what art I do and I’ll tell them about the billboards and they will say "OH, you are the one who did that! I pass it every day going to work" …it makes me smile.  I have had a few people ask me when I was going to do it so they could come watch. 

Gavin:  You've also decorated the outside for Uncorked on State.  How did you get involved with that, and will you be doing more with them?

Michelle:  Uncorked I basically did the same thing.  Saw that that building screamed for artwork so I went in showed them my work and they liked it and gave me the go ahead. I used the same technique as I did on the billboard.

Gavin:  What brought about the decision to join with IAO Projects?

Michelle: I was asked by the owner of IAO Projects if I would like gallery representation and I said that would be great!  He had seen my billboard and loved what I did.  I was a little concerned about galleries here, but I went with it.  I hoped it would be a great opportunity.  Well to my pleasant surprise it was!  IAO is very innovative where pushing your creativity to a new level is really supported; I think that is very difficult to find in Utah. These guys that own the gallery really have a great knowledge of the art world!  Being part of the gallery has been great!

Gavin:  Your most recent project is the Door Instillations.  How did that idea come around?

Michelle: Well honestly my door installations came about through necessity.  I went around to several different galleries when I moved here and took CD’s and my statement and only a couple would give me the time of day… some were even quite rude!  So I decided forget the galleries I will make the city my gallery!  This has just continued even though I am now represented by IAO Projects.  I use doors because they are big and free, which made it easy to part with them and also made it hard for them to be moved easily or thrown in the trash!  It forced people to see them!  In fact people offered to help put them out. I think they thought it was an actual curated show or something!  Like I had actual permission or something which was funny!

Gavin:  Are there any specific places where they will be displayed, or are they randomly put around the city?

Michelle: I have put them at the Trax across from the downtown library and in front of the library on 4th south.  I will continue to put them on main between 2nd and 3rd south and also lots of other places so just keep an eye out downtown.  As it gets cold be on the lookout in popular restaurants, music venues and theaters!

Gavin:  A little state-wide, what’s your take on the local art scene, both good and bad? 

Michelle: I think the local art scene is actually quite stale.  This is not to say that we do not have very talented artists in this city.  This just means that we can still not break out of that mentality that we have to paint what people here in Utah buy!  Which means… well I won’t say because most likely we all know what I mean!  We need to think nationally and internationally about big collectors and bring them here. That means we cannot be afraid to do something provocative!!  The hot bed for art is not here in Utah for a reason.  We need to get it there.  On the flip side I have met many talented people who have some really great fresh ideas right here in Salt Lake who are really pushing to bring SLC to a level where we can be known for a creative city!

Gavin:  Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Michelle: I think it would be great if we had a large abandoned building that could be painted on, in, around and whatever, anything goes where people could show whenever they wanted and it would be open to all!  This would be open to the public and everyone could meet the artists.  We need to get to a point where people in the city can accept MANY things as art rather than a small few.  People cannot be afraid to do the art THEY want.  You cannot think that poor me no one buys my art here in Utah…guess I’ll have to paint something else or quit.  I think people need to have a large vision, unfortunately often times that means thinking outside Utah and do what you like. Don’t do what people tell you, then it becomes another horrible job... do their own thing!  I always ways think of it as if my art career fails I did not lose out there will always be crappy jobs if I need to take one.  Why make paintings that I don’t enjoy, doing my passion then becomes another crappy job. Paint what YOU want hope it takes off and keep your crappy job until you don’t need it.

Gavin:  What are your thoughts on Gallery Stroll and how it’s evolved over the years?

Michelle: As far as the Gallery Stroll goes I have only been on it twice.  I felt like I was meeting friends at a coffee house to get free treats and gossip while there was one or two works on the wall.  It seemed to me most of the focus was not on the art!  Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate those who allow their coffee houses and café’s to be a space for art, (often times these are the only places where art is) in fact a few have been very supportive with me personally.  It is just sad that the focus is not really the art and often times there is not even much of it.  I think people should practice stretching their imaginations and try to understand the art, this does not mean it needs to be liked or disliked.  Not so sure I will go a lot until it turns into a Gallery Stroll that actually is concerned about showing art and showcasing the artists!

Gavin:  How about your feelings on the Utah Arts Festival and what it's been doing recently?

Michelle: I went to the Art Festival last year and found it to be a lot of crafts, some of the same work we see all over Utah and some food vendors.  When are people going to realize that when we open our eyes to all varieties of art we can have a whole show based on fine art!  It discredits fine art when there are crafts, games and vendors!  Vice versa these people need their own shows as well to give important credit to what they do!  Until this is done, like they do at art Basel in Miami and other huge prestigious art fairs we will never be seen on the artistic map!  I just really want Utah to become a great artistic haven because I know we have some really talented artists here.

Gavin:  What can we expect from you the rest of the year and going into next?

Michelle: As for my art I will be having a show at IAO Projects in January and a collaborative show with Qi Peng in February.  I will also have some of my work in the IAO Projects booth at the Rocky Mountain Art Fair this November 14-16.  I will also have my own booth there as well, which I am sharing with one other IAO Project artist.  I will continue with my “community art” so be on the look out!  Also check out my art at L’Astelier Café downtown on 57 West 200 South.  This is a great café with open mic on Fridays with good food!  I will also be doing live art there October 24th at 7PM. Come check it out and I can make you into a unique stick figure!  

Gavin:  Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Michelle: I would also like to mention IAO Projects is hosting a fundraiser at Kilby Court October 29th 7PM to raise money to attend our first art fair!  There will be great music, art, free art and a few surprises! We would appreciate any help and support we can receive!  Come and meet some IAO Projects artists and see their work.   The guys at IAO have put together a roster of great artists! I really appreciate Gavin’s Underground for giving me this opportunity and everyone one who reads it!  Thank you for the support!

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