February Gallery Stroll: Savana Jones & Miranda Whitlock | Buzz Blog
Support the Free Press | Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984. Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

February Gallery Stroll: Savana Jones & Miranda Whitlock


1 comment

Back out into Gallery Stroll we go on a brisk February evening. While a couple of places were involved with the successful PDA Show, galleries across the city were still in full swing presenting some of the finest locals had to offer. All in the midst of a strange chill.

--- This month I made my way over to galleryUAF where it was all about the photography. Our old friend Cat Palmer was there showing off her newest works (as well as her and Blake's newest born), along with the illusionary pictures from Savana Jones, and the duality imagery of Miranda Whitlock. I got a chance to chat with both women about their works and their thoughts on the art scene, along with pictures of this past Friday's show.

Savana Jones


Gavin: Hey Savana, first off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Savana: Okay, well I'm 22 I have my BFA from the U and I am almost finished with my BS in psychology.

Gavin: What first got you interested in photography, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Savana: I was never exposed to art really before I graduated from high school. I liked taking pictures and doodling when I was a kid, then in high school I took a graphic design class that gave me the idea that I might actually be able to make a career out of that sort of thing. Later that year, I met someone who was working on a BFA, until that point I really hadn't considered fine arts and didn't really know anything about it, but that's what sort of got me started in that direction.

Gavin: You got your BFA in Studio Art at the U last spring. Why did you choose the U for your degree, and what was the program like for you?

Savana: I had a couple of friends going to school at UVSC so I thought Utah would be a good place to go to college that wasn't too far away from my home town in Idaho. I wanted to go to a bigger school than UVSC though and I liked the structure of the art program at the U. I really enjoyed the art department, I had a really great group of peers who were passionate about what they were doing and inspired me.

Gavin: You're also perusing a Psychology major as well. What made you choose that course?

Savana: Human behavior and the mind has been something I have been interested in for a while and now that I am actually studying it its even more fascinating. I loved the art program but I was also craving something more and psychology seemed like a perfect complement to art.

Gavin: What was the inspiration behind the portrait pictures you take?

Savana: Its a way for me to interpret some of the things that are going on in my life. Emotions are my main focus, I want to use my pictures to express the things that the world makes me feel on a day to day basis both good and bad. I use images to untangle and understand the underlying things that drive my life. At the same time a lot of my work focuses on things that are relevant to basic human experience. When I use other people in my images its because I see something of them in myself or because we share a similar experience. In the same way my self portraits are relevant to others who can see some hint of their own experiences in mine.

Gavin: What's the process like for you when planning your out your shots, and what do you personally look for when deciding what to go photograph?

Savana: I always keep a sketch book with me to jot down ideas when I get them. I work out the images on paper first until I figure out the basic components of what I want to photograph. When I'm shooting though my images often evolve from my original sketches. I am very critical and detail oriented when I photograph a scene. However happy accidents happen all the time, I make a mistake or something lines up just right by chance and it can send me off in a different direction.

Gavin: With the work you do, do you prefer traditional film or digital, and why?

Savana: I always work with traditional processes. There's more magic in it for me in the dark room and I think that some of that magic carries through to the images, knowing that the images were made to look the way that they do through real physical processes and not digital alteration. I like to be able to use my hands and directly control my pictures. I also think that the beauty and detail of traditional process are really hard to match with a digital print.

Gavin: How was it for you going around and doing exhibitions and hearing what people thought of your pictures?

Savana: I enjoy getting to show my work, especially when I'm showing alongside some of my close friends from the art department which is often the case. Its very satisfying to have worked so hard together and then see the finished products up on the wall. The feedback that I get mostly comes from my peers, I appreciate the honesty and advice that they give me, that pushes me and helps me grow as an artist.

Gavin: 2008 was a big year for you, picking up awards and a scholarship, plus some heavy recognition along the way. What did you think of all the attention you were suddenly getting?

Savana: Most of the showing opportunities that I have had have been with the Utah Photographic Arts Council. We have accomplished a lot with the UPAC and I am very proud of my peers and myself.

Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Savana: I don't like to work in series, most of what I do, including the work on display at Gallery UAF, is a continuation of the underlying ideas that drive my work.

Gavin: What's your take on being displayed at galleryUAF again, and doing a show with Cat and Miranda?

Savana: I have shown several times with Miranda, who is one of my close friends from the art department and the UPAC, and I am honored to get to show with her again. I am excited to show with Cat as well. She is a well known artist in Salt Lake and I think will bring a lot of recognition to our show. GalleryUAF is a great space, I love showing there. The people are really great and the gallery gets a lot of traffic during stroll.

Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Savana: I think there is a growing interest in the art scene which is great. Much of the popular and widely publicized work is a bit too trendy for my taste though. I think a lot of really good work is often overshadowed by what's "cool" at least in our younger generation of art. In my opinion good art isn't just about what's "cool" or shocking or visually pleasing, there needs to be something more behind it all.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Savana: Keep it up with the Gallery Stroll and publicizing openings.

Gavin: Speaking of, what's your opinion on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?

Savana: I love Gallery Stroll I think it is a great concept. Especially during the summer it brings a lot of people through the galleries.

Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?

Savana: I am not working much now, I'm sort of taking a break from art to focus on finishing up psychology, then we'll see what happens from there.

Miranda Whitlock


Gavin: Hey Miranda! First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Miranda: Well I’m kind of a closet nerd. I like the smell of old books and film developer. I like PBS specials, especially “Art:21”. I love a good conversation and can always go for a good cup of coffee no matter what time of the day or night it is. My favorite thing about making art is when the light bulb finally comes on and for a split second it all comes together and makes sense. That’s when you know in your gut your doing the right thing. I also absolutely love my family. My siblings have always been my best friends and I have an amazingly talented musician for a husband and the coolest kid anyone could ask for.

Gavin: What first got you interested in photography, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Miranda: I was always curious about photography. Some of my earliest memories are associated with art and being around artists. I come from a very creative family and from a very early age I recognized how powerful art is. Not even just the artwork, but the process of making it. I saw art as this dualistic force that could be both destructive and serene at the same time and for some reason I was really drawn to that. I think the reason I choose photography rather then another medium is due to its ability to really question representation and what we consider to be real. We can’t distance ourselves from a photograph the way we can from a painting. It’s too real. I think my earliest inspiration came from just having a need to express myself. When I look back at my work over the years and think about what artist’s have impacted my work and the way I think about art it would probably be Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Duane Michaels, Robert Frank and the writings of Barthes to name a few. I think being an artist, the way we view other artists work changes as we change as people and as artists. Some of the artist’s I use to like now I can’t stand. Inspiration is always changing.

Gavin: You studied photography up at Utah State for a few years. What made you choose USU, and what was their program like for you?

Miranda: I didn’t start out at USU as a photo major. I actually started there thinking that I’d end up in the sciences. I wanted to be an artist, but I think I was still afraid to live too passionately and agreed with everyone that I needed to be practical, especially considering that I was a single mom at the time. I took a summer semester Photo 1 class from Craig Law telling myself that I was just going to have this one little indulgence and that was it. One class quickly led to another and soon I realized that I would much rather have an adventurous life doing what it is that I really love rather then settle for what’s practical. The department at USU is great. While I was there I was really instilled with a sense of being committed to your work and the notion that you should never be satisfied with your art, you can always do better.

Gavin: You're currently seeking your Bachelors at the U. Why did you change schools, and how are things coming along for you?

Miranda: It was time to move, I needed a change of scenery. I’d always wanted to go to the U and when my job at the time offered me a transfer to Salt Lake I took it. I think it was the best move I’ve made for my art. My time at the U has been a big period of growth for myself, and my work. My fellow students that I’ve worked with over the years have been so talented and the sense of community and support is amazing. I graduate this May and though I’ll miss the environment and my amazing professors, I think I’m ready for the next stage of life.

Gavin: What's the process like for you when planning your out your shots, and what do you personally look for when deciding what to go photograph?

Miranda: My photographs always start with an idea. I don’t really go looking for something to photograph. My images are very constructed. If I go out looking it’s because I might need to find just the right place to stage something. I do a lot of self-portraits and use myself as a prop in the vast majority of my work. This means a lot of time goes into pre-visualizing the image and composing it. I use tape, rocks whatever I have around me to mark off where and how I need to be positioned within the frame. Once that’s done and I figure out my exposure I set the timer and run back to my position. I’ve gotten a lot of rather strange looks over the years. I’m also lucky that have the two best photo assistants anyone could ask for, who happen to be my husband and my son.

Gavin: Why did you decide to do your photos in black and white instead of full color portraits?

Miranda: I think when we see something in color we think of reality. When we see something in black and white it becomes more psychological. The choice of your medium needs to be dictated by your idea. My work tends to be more about showing how we feel and think and less how we see, black and white tends to translate that better then color.

Gavin: With the work you do, do you prefer traditional film or digital, and why?

Miranda: I prefer traditional film and I use a lot of alternative processes. It’s a part of how I make art. It’s not enough for me to just push the trigger and then send it to print. I really enjoy the depth, richness and tactile quality of darkroom based processes. It allows me one more way to use myself as part of the process. So many decisions about an image are made after its been photographed and I’m working with actually printing the image. It’s magical, therapeutic, tactile, and ritualistic. It’s where happy accidents happen.

Gavin: How has it been for you now displaying your works for exhibitions in bigger galleries?

Miranda: It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. There are so many great local artists it’s always humbling to see what else everyone is making and I’m just really excited to be a part of it.

Gavin: On the side you're also a part of the Utah Photographic Arts Council. How did you get involved with that program, and what's it been like for you being a part of it?

Miranda: The Utah Photographic Arts Council started the year I transferred. I didn’t know any of the photo majors. I hadn’t even had my first photo class at the U. I saw a flier in the elevator of the art building for their first meeting and decided to go check it out. It’s been amazing. It’s provided me with a supportive community, which I believe is really important for artists and I’ve learned a lot. The artist’s that I’ve worked with over the past years have become my artistic soul mates so to speak.

Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Miranda: I’m showing a series I call Me, Myself and Eye; the Dualities. With this body of work I wanted address the dualistic aspects of our complex personalities. Whether it’s a result of our psychological composition, our physical environments or the demand to satisfy social roles, we have these dualistic identities. Sometimes they can coexist without any contention and other times they seem completely contradictory even damaging. The images are all small silver prints. I wanted them to feel intimate and require the viewer to look close, to really engage with them, thus the small size. They are either multiple exposures done in camera or a single long exposure done with a pinhole camera. The images are all self-portraits and portraits of my family where the individual is essentially split into two separate individuals.

Gavin: What's your take on being displayed at galleryUAF, and doing a show with Savana and Cat?

Miranda: I’m honored to be showing at Gallery UAF. They do so much to help bring art to the community and to provide a place for artists to share what they do. I’m also really honored to be showing with both Cat and Savana. I only know Cat by her work and her reputation, but I think her work speaks for itself. Everyone I’ve met who knows her personally has nothing but great things to say about her. I actually met Savana through the Utah Photographic Arts Council and have done multiple shows with her and absolutely love her. We’ve spent many a night in the darkroom at the U working together. She is such an amazing person and an absolutely brilliant artist.

Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Miranda: I think there are a lot of really talented artist’s in the Salt Lake area and an amazing sense of community. There’s good and bad to all things in life, but honestly I don’t really have any complaints. At least not today, just kidding. Salt Lake’s art scene is definitely growing and I think it can only get better.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Miranda: Unfortunately I think that today’s society has a real lack of appreciation for the arts. I think all we can do, as artist’s is to keep making work, keep supporting one another and those that help bring it to the community.

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?

Miranda: I think the Gallery Stroll is great. I think that art is a vital part of any community’s identity and that the Stroll is a real asset to not only the local artists but also everyone else that calls this home. I remember when I first moved here I was so excited to see how much support the Stroll gets.

Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?

Miranda: I’m doing a group show with the Utah Photographic Arts Council in April at the Canyon Community Center in Springdale. Hopefully, this Spring I’ll also being do an exhibit with them locally. We’re still in the process of finalizing a few things. I’m really looking forward to graduating in May. After that my only plans are to live life and make art, lots of art.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Miranda: Yes, Mallory Qualls has an exhibit at Gallery UAF next month. She’s brilliant so check it out.