SALT LAKE CITY — For artists, a sight line is a geometric form that extends from the viewer’s eye to its final destination. Outside of the art world, sight lines are an invisible line from one's eye to something that they can see, with no visual impediment.
But for a group of 27 artists and educators in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Utah, "site lines" mean something else altogether: A lens through which many conceptual and artistic possibilities arise. The group’s mesmerizing new exhibition, "Site Lines: Recent Works by University of Utah Art Faculty" which runs through Jan. 6, 2019, at the Utah Museum of Fine Art, features their more than 40 artistic contributions.
Museum traditionalists might be surprised at the unorthodox nature of the exhibition, but it's this diversity of medium that makes these artists' efforts so impressive. Those expecting still lives or portraits will instead find mixed media, installations, collages and video intermixed with the more familiar mediums of painting, sculpture and photography. But even in the latter category, these works fail to resemble anything most art patrons have seen before.
Which takes us back to the exhibition's title and concept. Guest curator Felicia Baca considers sight lines as fundamental to the artistic process, which through their placement in visual works evoke “diverse ideas about borders, brinks, divisions, paths and dualities across different sites — from the natural landscape to manmade sculptures to the human form,” she said in a press release.
Indeed, many of the show's works grapple with divisions that separate or confine vision and experience. For Baca — the manager of visual arts programs for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums — a metaphorical connection exists between the physical or geographical line and the art of teaching. To her, the faculty participants serve an important role in helping students navigate the lines and barriers that confront them.
“Educators have a critical task in fostering open dialogue in their field and examining the role of the arts in an increasingly complex world,” Baca said in a press release.
Sculptor HeidiMoller-Somsen, an adjunct assistant professor of ceramics, was keenly aware of her students when selecting her work for the show.
“I feel like this show is a kind of extension of my teaching — it is in close proximity to the art building and I know that many of my students will see it. With this in mind, I intentionally chose works which were a struggle to create — both physically and intellectually. If the work challenges me, I am guessing that it will also challenge the viewers,” she said in an interview.
In “Your Memory is Already Fading,” U. of U. assistant professor of intermedia sculpture Windy Wischer crafts a remarkable sculpture depicting endangered plant forms. The sculpture sprouts from the ground upward, and through Wischer’s use of white acrylic resin, hovers in museumgoers' line of sight in a hauntingly, ethereal fashion.
“The tree and plants are on endangered lists around the globe. The glasslike material references the fragility of these plants while at the same time giving them a ghostlike quality,” she said in an interview.
Every three years, the UMFA brings the U.'s art faculty together for an exhibition. However, this year’s show is receiving particularly high praise, due to both the participating artists' remarkable contributions and Baca’s vision.
Lewis Crawford, a mixed media photographer and one of the show’s participants, said that while Baca provided a compelling overarching theme to the exhibition, she also left room for participants to share their most recent experiments and research. Crawford’s pieces in the show include three images from his newest series, the result of him “pushing my exploration of visual perception further,” he said.
In "Site Lines," museumgoers will get a chance to see some of the state's finest artists and art educators pave a path for a new generation of artistic minds — all under Baca's inspired direction, said Crawford.
“I think Felicia did an amazing job organizing the work. It is a really strong show and something the Department of Art and History should be proud of.”
If you go …
What: "Site Lines: Recent Works by University of Utah Art Faculty"
Where: 410 Campus Center Drive
When: Through January 6, 2019; Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
How much: $12.95 for adults, $9.95 for youth (6-18) and seniors, free for children and U. of U. students