Thursday, March 18, 2010

What do artists see when they look in the mirror?

What's more fun that a trip to Happy Valley?  And by Happy Valley, I mean Brigham Young University; my alma mater; the BYU.  These days there's pretty much just one reason I head back to the BYU and that reason is art.  Because ever since the BYU Museum of Art hired Jeff Lambson as the curator of contemporary art, the institution has had some of the best contemporary shows in the state.  

The current show, Mirror Mirror: Contemporary Portraits and the Fugitive Self is no exception.  Right from the start, this exhibit sucks you in and makes you pay attention not only to the artworks, but also to the artists behind the work.  Even the exhibit statement is engaging.  At the entrance to the show you find this:

But turn around and align yourself within the human-shaped outline of type, and you find this.  I like it when the curators make me smile.

I'm not going to say much more about the show in general other than you should see it.  And that it's great to see an exhibit that features so many young artists, many born in the 1970s.  Rather than offer much more commentary, I'll just share a few of my picks from Mirror Mirror.

Near the entrance is a mesmerizing, backlit image created from Plexiglas and packaging tape.  Yes, you can express this much emotion with packaging tape.

Ani and Sofie (Packaging tape on Plexiglas in lightbox, 2007), Mark Khaisman.

You don't get to see much of Takashi Murakami's work in Utah.  But here you get to see a whole set of Mr. Dob (one of Murakami's favorite characters) prints. 

All of these works are entitled And Then and Then and Then and Then and Then with each version titled with Lemon Pepper, Green Truth, Yellow Jelly, Cream, Hello, Kappa, or untitled (Screen print, 2006), Takashi Murakami.

This work by Rebecca Campbell is spectacular.  It's an avocado tree that is meticulously covered in black velvet. The workmanship is beautiful, a tribute to her mother's domestic skills.  Perched on the tree are glass birds filled with bright blue Windex. This sculpture spoke to me about what makes us human and how our families and our surroundings influence who we are.  I loved it.

Do you really want to hurt me? (Avocado tree, velvet, steel, fiberglass, Windex, glass, bronze, 2009), Rebecca Campbell.

My inner old lady won't let me with leave this exhibit without mentioning Julie Moos's photographs of ladies with hats.

Hat Ladies, Mrs. Watkins and Mrs. Craig (Chromogenic print, 2000 - 2001), Julie Moos.

The exhibit features a series of amazing oil paintings by Mary Henderson.  These were perfectly realistic and yet somehow strange.

Reservists (Oil on panel, 2008), Mary Henderson.

I've been a big Julian Opie fan for a long time and some of his best works are the graphic portraits like this one.  He's become a bit of a superstar with on of his iconic LED works featured prominently in U2's 2005 tour.

Gary, Popstar (Screenprint, 1998-1999), Julian Opie.

These weren't my favorite works in the show, but as people who work on advertising campaigns for Microsoft education, Felix and I couldn't help but laugh at these photos by Dawoud Bay which feel like images from the Microsoft education photo library only without all those happy smiles.  Somehow, these feel more honest.

BYU graduate Valerie Atkisson created a precise family tree with more than 4,000 entries that track her ancestry back to Claudius, King of the Franks, who lived in 9 A.D. What I loved most about this is that each final segment of the line had open copper rings, as if waiting for the next tiny child to add to the lineage.  I couldn't help but consider that the ring attached to my name would remain forever empty.

Hanging Family History (Patriarchally Oriented) (Rice paper, copper, wire, ink, 2009), Valerie Atkisson.

Last but not least, I'll offer some important advice if you choose to visit Mirror Mirror.  Plan your visit around the lighting of the mustache in the sculpture garden.  I wasn't aware we needed to do this and so we missed the lighting.  We would have had to wait several hours to see the next lighting.  Here's what Andrew Sexton's whimsical Self Portrait (Steel, propane, rubber, and fire, 2009) looks like without the fire.

And here's what it looks like with the fire.  (I took this photo from the museum's website.)

I know I've shown a lot here.  But believe me, there's plenty more to see that's just as interesting and engaging.  You can see Mirror Mirror now through May 8, 2010.


  1. Wow! Go cougs! That is some fun stuff.

  2. I loved the show. I just love a good portrait & photography show. Too bad you didn't mention or show pics from Nikki Lee's work, one of my all time favorite photographers.