Art as a vehicle for Social Commentary

Art as a vehicle for social commentary …

What do you expect when looking at a piece of art? A pretty picture? A moment in time, captured in print? Nature’s beauty, frozen forever in bronze?

All are worthwhile subjects.  But there are some artists who choose to use their art to actively (re)define their place in the world, to provoke discussion, or comment on current events.
The theme of environmental art was recently highlighted by a performance piece in Salt Lake. Activist artists organized a ‘die-in’, to underscore the devastating effects of air pollution in the Salt Lake metro area. Held at the Public Library, over 100 artists and concerned individuals “ceased” for 15 minutes.  Images such as this might be compared with those of gas attack victims of WWI (or, more recently, Syria).
(Photo courtesy of Cat Palmer Photography )
Closer to home, Ogden has her share of talented artists who are choosing express a number of content-laden themes.

A perfect example of this is the current student show installed at Weber State’s Shaw Gallery. Several of the works there reference contemporary issues such as racial stereotypes and bias, or environmental themes. Go see this show, it’s a beaut, and a finger on the pulse of the next generation of local artists. Opening later in February, the Shaw will feature Fahamu Pecou’s, solo exhibit, entitled DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance.

Up now and running through the end of February, there are also at least two exhibitions downtown Ogden dealing with environmental themes.  We have curated a show by Paul Crow, a photography professor at Weber State, whose body of work entitled On Ice is installed at the Weber Center (2380 Washington Blvd).  This series of seemingly monochrome photographs and accompanying text are meant to raise consciousness about Climate Change. It’s a quiet, contemplative, yet hauntingly beautiful show.

At the Myra Powell Gallery, (a gem of a gallery space located on the upper floor of Union Station), Caril Jennings’ Universe City Lives project has produced Basin and Range VIII: WATER • AIR • EARTH exhibition.  This iteration, featuring paintings by Lee Jennings and photography by Thomas Bunn, is meant to provoke thought about the delicate ecosystem we inhabit, and how our daily presence and actions affect it. In addition to the paintings and photos, there is an info board posing questions such as “Do you stand for the land we hold in common?” This massive exhibit also runs through the end of February, and will hold extended hours for First Friday.

On a lighter note, opening for First Friday Art Stroll, (Feb. 2, 6-9pm), another WSU professor, Molly Morin’s exhibition “Flying Machines” will open at Office Evolution (221 25th St).  The pieces on display pay homage to the great artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, but use 21st-century artist tools like algorithms and plotters. The artist says “the work is a reflection on human curiosity and its implications for art, science, nature and technology”.

(“Field: Variant 2” by Molly Morin. Image courtesy the artist)

Whatever art you like, chances are Ogden has what you’re looking for. ArtStroll has grown considerably in the last couple years, so bundle up, leave early, and get out and see some art.  And let us know in the comments below which exhibit(s) you liked and why!