Utah Arts Festival alum shows at Kimball
June 20, 2007
Utah Arts Festival Executive Director recommends investing in Erin Westenskow Berrett’s work now, while it’s still (somewhat) affordable.
Berrett is UAF’s returning champ. Festival jurors awarded her "Best of Show" in 2006.
Knots in her stomach, her life’s work exposed beneath a tent, Berrett recalls "freaking out," beforehand, then leaving it gleefully empty-handed having sold 49 original paintings.
After receiving her fine arts degree from the University of Utah, she had only been a full-time artist for a year and a half, working at a frame shop and gallery called Relics in Holladay for six years. The 2006 UAF was her first festival.
"A jury went through and they observed and took notes, and then, later they came up and gave me the award," Berrett remembers. "It reconfirmed that it was a good decision."
Berrett’s latest work is at the Badami Gallery at the Kimball Art Center.
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The body of paintings on display is a collection of still lifes that teeter on the edge of collage and surrealism.
"Emergency Supply," for example, is a portrait of a fish in a bowl that employs a plasticized wallpaper as its canvas. Berrett allows the flower-print wallpaper to remain as-is, then paints the fish and its bowl, perched atop a stack of books. The surprise is the fish is swimming next to a miniature water silo.
Industrial complexes, oil rigs and factories, are inserted next to books on shelves and in front of wallpaper surfaces in her other pieces as well.
"I just wanted to really push that kind of still-life look in the most exaggerated way, putting an artificial background behind industrial landscapes," she says. "It’s almost kitschy-quirky to me."
Berrett spends time putting these ordinary objects and ubiquitous machine tanks into paint because it’s what she’s attracted to. She wants to make beautiful paintings of the things that catch her eye, she says.
If it captures her attention, if it’s stunning a martini glass or a hair stylist’s blue barbacide or a stunning bundt cake she recreates it with her paintbrush.
Berrett scavenges discounted rolls in wallpaper stores and pulls over in her car with a camera to capture manufacturing plants and refineries.
She works out of her 1,500 square-foot basement in Holladay for eight hours a day, packing a lunch before walking down. If she returns upstairs, the phone might ring or she might think to go to Costco, she says. This type of discipline makes her feel like a painter, she explains, and helps her to produce new work.
Within the next day or so, she will be in the basement for extra hours for Booth 70, her assigned location at UAF. The "Best of Show" recognition last year earned her a free $500 slot this year. She plans to showcase 50 new pieces by Thursday.
"Last year, I was just so nervous," she admits. "This year I’m more excited."
Berrett’s booth is located near the Library Plaza at the Salt Lake City Public Library.