From Depression to recession: Artists illuminate "Hard Times" |

From Depression to recession: Artists illuminate "Hard Times"

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

For the most part, the Great Depression took things away: jobs, food, wealth and security. But it also gave a few things back, among them poignant and heartbreaking images – crowds lined up for a slab of bread, dirt-smudged children crying out in hunger, abandoned farms ravaged by dust and drought – that have come to define the times.

Generations from now, how will people look back on the current recession, the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s? This is exactly the question that Jim Dabakis, co-owner of Park City’s Thomas Kearns McCarthey Gallery, wanted to explore.

The images of our friends and neighbors may not seem consequential to the untrained eye, but to a group of realist artists featured in the gallery’s new exhibit, they are the stuff that masterpieces are made of.

"Hard Times: An Artist’s View," an exhibit consisting of 33 pieces by 16 local and national artists, will be on display at the McCarthey Gallery from Nov. 22 through Dec. 15.

The exhibit will continue on to the Springville Museum of Art in Nebo, Utah, and other galleries across the country. Park City is the first community to experience the eclectic collection of artists’ interpretations of the "New Great Depression."

"We’ve heard from the bankers, the finance experts and the feds," says gallery director Kai Bolger. "We wanted to give the artists a chance to express how they see things."

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The gallery, which specializes in Russian Impressionism, has cleared out its collection for the special exhibit that features contemporary realists from across the country. Some artists created pieces especially for the exhibit; while others felt that they already had pieces perfectly suited to the theme in their body of work.

Traci Fieldsted, the exhibit curator, at first envisioned the exhibit as a collection by Utah artists, but then realized its impact would be amplified by inviting artists from across to country to participate.

"I set out to find the best artists that I could who were narrative painters painting in the realism mode," she says. "I think [realism] speaks to people more poignantly than other forms of modern art."

Featured in the exhibit are one of Utah’s most renowned artists, Trevor Southey, New York artists and professors Harvey Dinnerstein and Max Ginsburg, and Mary Beth McKenzie, who was recently chosen to have her work displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.

The themes that run through the exhibit include materialism, destitution, homelessness, and environmental reflections of the recession (Utah artist Gary Ernest Smith portrayed a traveler in a Smart Car and man unpacking his new mode of transportation, a bicycle).

The titles of the pieces – "The Beggar," "Homeless," "Aftermath," "The Apprentice" – provide a glimpse into some of the predictable and unpredictable subjects artists chose to depict.

New York-based artist Steven Assael’s contribution, "Bag Lady Twice," shows an unlikely bag lady – a woman who looks as though hard times have only recently fallen upon her. Perhaps she was a college student or a young professional who found herself without work and living on the streets. Images such as this one show the stark contrast between images from hard times today and those from the ’30s.

Mediums represented in the collection include charcoal, pastels, watercolors, acrylic paints and oil paints. With the exception of a few paintings that have been loaned to the gallery for the duration of the exhibit, the pieces will be available for sale.

In conjunction with the "Hard Times" exhibit, the McCarthey Gallery will hold a silent auction featuring "Fisherman’s Boats," a painting by Russian Impressionist Grigoriy L. Chainikov valued at $10,500. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City, a facility that provides services to homeless youth or those with homes that are not safe and welcoming.

Bidding opened at $1,000, and will increase by increments of $250 until the final day of the exhibit, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. Bids may be placed in person at the gallery, or written bids may be submitted by email to

The "Hard Times" exhibit opens to the public on Sunday, Nov. 22, at noon. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call 658-1691 or visit .

Participating Artists:

Steven Assael

Warren Chang

Sean Diedeker

Harvey Dinnerstein

Jeffrey Hein

Max Ginsburg

David Kassan

David Linn

Ben McPherson

Mario Robinson

Burton Silverman

Gary Ernest Snith

Trevor Southey

Justin Taylor