Worth a Thousand Words | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

Worth a Thousand Words 

Two new books tell Utah stories through both words and images.

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While the written word and visual artistry are both perfectly capable of standing on their own, two recently released local books remind us how well the two forms of communication can complement each other.


My Kitchen Table: Sketches From My Life demonstrates that Salt Lake City artist Pilar Pobil not only has the vision of a painter and sculptor but the voice of a storyteller as well. She offers vivid recollections of growing up on the island of Mallorca in the early 1930s; those happy stories are offset by chilling tales of what happened to Pobil’s family when the Spanish Civil War broke out, including the murder of her beloved father, an admiral in the Spanish Navy. In the 1950s, Pobil met a man named Walter Smith who was visiting Spain from La Ciudad del Lago Salado (Salt Lake City). She would end up coming to Utah to marry him, raise a family and find an outlet for her artistic ambitions.


Now in her ninth decade, Pobil reflects on having lived several different “lives,” and her stories illustrate how she now views the balance of those lives'particularly when it comes to trying to be both a Spaniard and Utahn at the same time. “I am also thankful for the way this country accepted and welcomed me and for being able to live in the beautiful land of Utah,” she writes. “I consider this a privilege … I still love Spain and consider myself Spanish as much as American, but now I know that I belong in Salt Lake City.nn

Pobil’s writing helps the reader better understand the context behind her bright oil paintings, many of which are reproduced in the book. Her words also allow Pobil to express the priority she places both on creating and on appreciating art, stating, “Art is one of the most important parts of the history of the civilizations, if not the most important. Art is what persists, what remains when other things are gone.nn

The media of written and visual expression also work well together in Zion Canyon: A Storied Land to help the reader see a beautiful place in ways that aren’t typically thought of. The book is part of the Desert Places Series distributed by the University of Arizona Press, which includes entries on other Utah areas including Escalante and Cedar Mesa.


The text by Greer K. Chesher, a former park ranger, seems a tad too technical at times, but she otherwise does an admirable job of helping to expand the meaning of what Zion is beyond simply being a pretty spot to hike around. Chesher explains how the canyon can be defined naturally, geologically, meteorologically, geographically and even historically. When viewed in these ways, Zion takes on a life of its own'a life that has seen many dramatic changes over time, including the comings and goings of humans. Chesher provides a brief history of the famous yet mysterious Anasazi and notes that some researchers believe the group had to leave the canyon due to a change in climate. She reminds us that we have something in common with the Anasazi because we are currently just one small part of the long life span of Zion and dramatic climate changes due to global warming could greatly change how we are able to experience this national park.


“It’s true that the Zion we see today is just one data point on an evolving continuum,” she writes. “Zion has always changed; that’s the one constant. But now, we’re the agent, and we’re moving too fast.nn

Michael Plyler’s photographs mesh well with the text because he encourages us to look at Zion in ways we might not usually consider. Rather than reissuing more shots of the towering red rocks that have already launched 1,000 calendars, Plyler finds offbeat locations and focuses on the details rather than the grandeur through the use of black-and-white photography. The photos illustrate the idea that one doesn’t need to hunt for stunning vistas in order to find beauty in Zion.


An actual visit to Zion Canyon always beats reading about the place or looking at pictures of it, but Chesher and Plyler’s book gives a new perspective on Zion that can be appreciated on a reader’s next actual visit to the national park.

ttText by Greer K. Chesher
ttPhotos by Michael Plyler
ttUniversity of Arizona Press 2007
tt96 pages
tt15 black & white photos
tt$14.95 paperback

ttBy Pilar Pobil
ttUniversity of Utah Press
tt176 pages
tt50 color reproductions
tt$29.95 paperback

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