En Plein Air: Levi Jackson and Adam Bateman
Ah, plein air—the most Western of painting genres. What could define the artist as rugged individual more than braving the elements to make art in the great outdoors, from life, almost melding into and becoming part of nature in all its glory. Local artists Levi Jackson and Adam Bateman have taken a seemingly exhaustive visual essay on the form, between the two of the them completing 60 plein air paintings depicting rural areas of Utah.
Plein air is a tradition with sharply defined constraints, including everything from subject matter to presentation and framing. In this show, they explore the act of making them, more so than the paintings themselves. "This is about participating in the ritual of plein air painting with the landscape," Bateman says, and that act delves into the nature of the pastoral, or how nature was domesticated. They found plein air painting a metaphor for the American tradition of Manifest Destiny.
The executive director of CUAC gallery, Bateman brings a sculptural sense of composition to his contributions (his "Nebo" is pictured), and you can intuit a tinge of the conceptual art that he favors in his own space. Jackson is a photographer/sculptor who, like Bateman, is without training as a painter, and tends to see his subjects more through the camera lens. As these experiments play out on the canvases, it's really a segment of the American psyche made manifest.
A Gallery Stroll opening reception is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 20, 6-9 p.m. (Brian Staker)
En Plein Air: Levi Jackson and Adam Bateman, Rio Gallery, 300 S. Rio Grande St., Jan. 20-March 10, visualarts.utah.gov
Utah Opera: Man of La Mancha
What is it about Man of La Mancha that has drawn audiences to theaters more than 12,000 times throughout its half-century of existence? It could be the clever way it incorporates and changes its source material without losing the book's wide-eyed idealism. Or it could be the play within a play that pulls the audience into the story with the characters.
Audiences can judge for themselves as the Utah Opera stages its own version of the classic musical this week. The play is a take on Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century Spanish novel Don Quixote, where a nobleman reads so many romances that he loses his mind and sets on a quest to revive chivalry.
Utah Opera public relations director Renée Huang says this production's message of hope, integrity and humanity are especially resonant today. "The production is truly timeless," she says. "It is a smash success that we felt would add an enriching element to our current opera season that audiences would appreciate and relate to."
The musical turns Cervantes into an out-of-work actor arrested by the Spanish Inquisition with his manservant. As part of their defense, the pair decides to act out a play where Cervantes becomes the nobleman from the original novel. Utah Opera's production draws even more attention to this play-within-a-play setup, with the actors never fully changing costume as they blur the boundaries between the different realities of audience and performance. (Kylee Ehmann)
Utah Opera: Man of La Mancha @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Jan. 21, 23, 25 & 27, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 29, 2 p.m., $21-$110, utahopera.org
It wouldn't be Sundance without an appearance from Kevin Smith. He might be a New Jersey native, but his career launched in Park City when Clerks was part of the 1994 program. Since then, his name has practically become synonymous with the festival's history of discovering new talent, and Smith himself has returned over the years with films like Red State and Yoga Hosers. Beyond being a talented director, writer and occasional actor, Smith has taken on numerous side projects, including his successful Smodcast Network, where he hosts and appears on several podcasts.
For more than two decades, he's also been touring the country doing one-man shows where he talks about whatever comes to mind while also taking questions from the audience; these events morphed into both a successful DVD series and podcasts. Smith's shows regularly sell out across the U.S. and Canada, as fans get a rare opportunity to ask one of the most opinionated directors working today about what's going on in his life and in the world.
Smith visits Wiseguys on Jan. 22, shortly after Sundance launches, to perform two shows at the downtown location. While there are no other guests listed, it wouldn't be too shocking if he reached out to some friends in the area to join him on stage for a conversation. Whatever the case may be, you're in for an hour of adult comedy and strange tales told by one of the film industry's most entertaining storytellers. (Gavin Sheehan)
Kevin Smith @ Wiseguys SLC, 194 S. 400 West, 801-532-5233, Jan. 22, 7 & 9:30 p.m., $35, wiseguyscomedy.com
Veronica Roth: Carve the Mark
Granted, not everyone can be the next J.K. Rowling, but fantasy worlds inhabited by sorcerers, vampires, hobbits and District tributes have reinforced the notion that the youth market remains as lucrative as ever. Never trusting anyone over the age of 30 might be a slogan that comes back in vogue.
New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth (the Divergent series) might agree with that premise, given the fact that her striking new young adult novel, Carve the Mark, factors in all the elements that makes series like Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of Rings and every super hero sequel so incredibly popular with the younger set. The book's two otherworldly heroes possess the prerequisite special powers, but in a world dominated by violence and vengeance, honor and integrity are tough to come by. Hailing from feuding factions, the duo's struggle to survive becomes far more formidable. A modern parallel perhaps?
Whether Roth intended it that way could be a question worth asking when she makes a special appearance at Granger High School for a freewheeling discussion with Sarah Enni, host of the popular podcast First Draft. Despite her relatively tender years—Roth turns 29 in August—she's already had plenty of experience exploring the topic, having won critical kudos with her popular Divergent books. Indeed, it garnered her a publishing deal before she completed college. Career advice is hopefully on the agenda. (Lee Zimmerman)
Veronica Roth @ Granger High School, 3580 S. 3600 West, West Valley City, Jan. 24, 7 p.m., two free tickets with book purchase, kingsenglish.com