Take a look inside an artist’s mind
July 17, 2012
When Spiro Arts established its artist in residence program in 2007, the goal was to give artists of all disciplines the opportunity reside and create in a supportive and historical setting.
These days the program attracts national and international artists who come to paint, draw, write, sculpt, program and compose.
The public will get a chance to get up-close-and-personal with four artists who have been in Park City since June when Spiro Arts hosts an open-studio event this Friday, July 20.
The four artists are Becky Alprin, Susannah Mira, Rosemary Feit Covey and Suk-Jun Kim.
They took time out of their schedules last week to talk with The Park Record about their art.
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At an early age, Becky Alprin, who came to Spiro Arts from Chicago, Ill., discovered she could concentrate on drawing for long periods of time.
"I can remember the shapes I used to draw, and, it’s funny, because there are a lot of similarities with things I did when I was five and what I’m doing now," she said. "I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing."
Alprin applied for the Spiro Arts residency because she loves Utah.
"I’ve been to Utah before on trips to see the National Parks down south," she said. "I love the landscape deeply and think that all my work is tied to the landscape out here.
"I have never spent time in Northern Utah, so I was excited to see what it was like."
Alprin’s project is a series of drawings she hopes to finish before the open studios event.
"It’s a working method that is pretty recent for me, and is a continuation of a body of work that I started back at home," she said. "It combines elements of the human-built environment and the natural landscape, and these are the two subject matters that I wanted to work together for a long time."
The work is created with simplified and almost deductive shapes taken from architectural-style, model-making building forms and topographic-styled maps.
"There is something about the shapes that are produced with this method in model-making shops that really speak to me with the positive and negative shapes that fall out of these designs," she said. "In my imagined world, all the remnants of a building litter the landscape that not only includes, for example, a window shape, but the remnants that were cut out of the material to make a window."
The designs Alprin is using were taken from landforms and buildings that are found in Chicago.
"I’m utilizing a concept in geology called the geologic cross-section map, which tries to imagine what is under the ground that we stand on," she said.
Susannah Mira is a wandering artist who travels from one residency to another.
Before coming to Park City, she was at Fort Collins, Colo., and after she finishes up in Park City, she’ll head to Charlotte, N.C.
For the Spiro residency, Mira decided to work with wood, something she hasn’t done before.
"I came to Park City with a load of plywood triangles, which are the off cuts from a manufacturing process of making small rocket kits for kids , which is crazy because a lot of pliable stuff foam, leather and things that bend have usually been my mainstay," she said. "When I first collected all this plywood, I thought about how the material is used for disaster preparation when people board up their windows before a hurricane and things like that. But then I also thought about how plywood is prevalent in modern design and buildings. So, you can find plywood at the two ends of the spectrum emergencies and form making and for some reason, that’s what I was thinking about when I started to assemble them."
Mira, who said she was driven to make things with her hands when she started working in art, is using wood glue and clamps to create these shapes, and she is trying to make shapes that bend.
"I work intuitively and make forms, and in contrast to sculptors, I don’t take things away from a form. I build up," she said. "Although I do have an idea of what I want to make, I’m not totally sure what the end result will be, because things change during the process."
So, Mira builds units and then manipulates and experiments with them.
"The inspirations of these units were all based on the material, but as I go along, sometimes my initial supposition about how these things will look hasn’t worked out entirely," she said with a laugh. "I think being here has been awesome inspirationally and that’s due to the amazing artists who are here and the fellowship we share."
Rosemary Feit Covey
Like Mira, Rosemary Feit Covey’s art changes throughout her process.
Covey, who is based at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va., said she had an idea of what she wanted to create during her stay at Spiro Arts when she started the cross-country drive with her dog.
"The drive was like a passage for me, and by the time I got here, the things that I wanted to do weren’t what I wanted to do," Covey said with a smile. "I panicked, but started working on things that were inspired by some of the animals I saw on the drive."
Covey’s work deals with sex and death, but after the drive, the work she has produced has leaned more towards death.
"I saw many dead animals while driving to Utah," she said. "The animals that you see lying aside of the road change as you cross the United States and when you get to the Southwest you start seeing armadillos, and I had never seen an armadillo before."
Covey also visited Mesa Verde National Park while en route to Park City.
"That was my first exposure to huge landscapes full of burnt trees," she said. "It was quite disturbing."
When Covey arrived, she started drawing and painting.
"I started painting pillars, and instead of engraving, which I normally do, I started drawing things I could use in printmaking," she said.
The ten-foot pillars contain scenes of ravens traveling from Hell to Heaven and back again.
"All these different images connected with my personal passage of coming here and began to subconsciously affect my work," Covey said. "There is a lot of myth and allegory behind these images as well. I am even thinking of doing a sort of a Tower of Babel thing."
Sound artist Suk-Jun Kim hails from Korea, but is based in Silver City, N.M. And like Mira, likes to travel from residency to residency.
He comes to Park City after spending a year in Scotland.
"It was interesting there, but very damp," he said with a laugh.
Jun, as friends call him, said he became a sound artist and composer because of practical reasons.
"I’m a visually impaired person," he said with a laugh. "I started as a sound engineer, helping people make albums, which is a technical vocation and that helped me to develop my hearing to recognize different frequencies."
Jun began composing music while he was attending an engineering school in Canada.
"One of the teachers, who had a degree in composition, was teaching a class on acoustics," Jun said. "He brought in a CD by a UK-based composer named Denis Smalley and it blew my mind.
"I wanted to listen to it again so I borrowed the CD from the teacher and must have listened to it more than 100 times," Jun said. "Repeated listening does something to you in a weird way, so after a while, I began dissecting the piece down to individual sounds and learned how Denis made the music."
Jun began to find ways to imitate Smalley’s music, and that that’s how June started his career in composing music.
"I’m still hesitant to call myself a composer, and rather consider myself a sound artist," he said. "I say that because my original draw to the art was not music, but, rather, sound."
Jun is working on three projects during his stay at Spiro Arts.
"The first is comprised of recordings of 150 people humming," he said. "I asked people to hum songs that remind them of their childhood and I will play those sounds through speakers at a very low volume in a public place and hopefully catch people’s ears. I want to see how people react to the sounds."
The second project has Jun reflecting on the elemental aspect of music.
"I am trying to find a way to make pure sound that has no extra connotations and doesn’t bring any images to people’s minds," he said. "That’s extremely difficult, because everyone seems to have ideas of what certain sounds can mean.
"I would like to put sounds together like white noise and then add another sound that could be almost as if I’m drawing a line with sound," he said.
With the last project Jun is hoping to change the way he composes.
"I’m learning how to program something for an iPad or iPhone," he said. "Programming, to me, is nonlinear and I’m learning new stuff.
"I’m a very linear person and when I was composing music, I would have an image in my mind and write music to fit that," he said. "Now, I don’t want to do that any more, because I got sick of making music as a narrative and became more interested in finding the basic and fundamental aspect of sound. So, that’s where I am now."
Spiro Arts will host an open studio event on Friday, July 20, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. The event, which will feature food donated by Silver Star Restaurant, is free to the public. For more information, visit http://www.spiroarts.org.