Artys 2009: Readers Choice | Artys | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Guides » Artys

Artys 2009: Readers Choice




Wicked (Broadway Across America)
It was the kind of theater experience that brought out people who never go to the theater—and they definitely got their money’s worth. The Broadway smash— adapting Gregory Maguire’s novel about the relationship between two young witches in the Land of Oz—finally made it to Salt Lake City for a sold-out run, but it wasn’t simply a case of folks longing for Phantom of the Opera-esque spectacle. While the production looked terrific, the cast members were what really made the songs—and the entire experience—defy gravity.

(tie) Don Pasquale and Madame Butterfly, Utah Opera
The Utah Opera opened and closed its 2008- 09 season with a bang. Madame Butterfly was a deft choice for season opener. Not only is Puccini an audience favorite (this show is surpassed in popularity perhaps only by his La Boheme or Rossini’s The Barber of Seville), but Barbara Shirvis in the eponymous role was sufficiently breathtaking to make audiences and critics sit up and take notice. In its spring production of Don Pasquale, the opera company took the liberty of changing its setting from Rome to the Wild West—a risk which may have resulted in abject failure or allowed for a completely fresh look at Donizetti’s source material. Fortunately, the latter case turned out to be true, making for a truly memorable season.

Surfaces (Ririe-Woodbury)
Surfaces wrapped up Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company’s (RWDC) 45th season this past April with an amazingly fresh look at modern dance. Repertory companies often get stuck in a rut, re-running the past—but this performance, consisting of works by three very contemporary choreographers, was amazingly forward-looking. Combining Doug Varone’s witty Strict Love with Wayne McGregor’s very physical Series I set the tone for an evening that was topped off with a new commission by the innovative, New York-based choreographer Susan Marshall.

The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon (Pygmalion Theatre Company)

Charles M. Frost, The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon

Troy Williams & Charles M. Frost, The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon
It’s like Titanic: You get the feeling if there had been a Best Original Song category, Sister Dottie might have won that one, too. And it’s easy to understand why Pygmalion Theatre Company’s production—which followed the tragic-comic personal journey of “Spanish Fark’s” favorite devout Mormon housewife and proud mother of a gay son—became such a sensation this spring. Troy Williams & Charles Frost created a narrative that took Sister Dottie’s satirical Utah malapropisms and fiery conviction and added a potent emotional element. Frost’s dynamic performance found the genuine, conflicted human soul in a woman trying to reconcile her faith with her love for her child. And co-directors Fran Pruyn and Laurie Mecham crafted a staging that gave the Rose Wagner Center’s sometimes-cavernous Studio Theatre space a surprising intimacy. We laughed, we cried … and with a revival/sequel planned for October, we’ll get the chance to do it all again.

Peggy Dolkas, Yes, But How Did You Get There? (Ballet West)
According to Ballet West soloist Dolkas, the transition from student of dance to seasoned artist is a journey. Dolkas´ stunning “Yes, But How Did you Get There?”—which was part of Ballet West’s 2009 Innovations program—is an elegant, fresh-movement mixtape that chronicles Dolkas’ artistic evolution from student of pre-ballet to accomplished soloist and choreographer. Dolkas’ chosen soundtrack—which includes the music of Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow— makes her rich, lively journey a captivating ride worth taking.

Of all the winners this year, comedian Marcus is probably the most recognizable. After taking second place on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2008, his popularity has spread to every corner of the nation. Marcus’ career is on fire: He has been getting gigs at college campuses, conventions, and bigger and bigger comedy clubs all over the country. Though he’s been known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices,” his decision to cut impressions from his act doesn’t seem to be hurting his reputation at all—and his recent DVD will only add to his sure and steady climb to the top.

Fifteen years—yes, 15—and countless venues later, Bob Bedore’s original prankstas of Utah improv comedy still put on the best show in town. QuickWits is one of the rare local exceptions to the rule that “family-friendly” equals “snooze-fest,” with weekly Friday-night Studio 600 shows that crackle with energy and invention for crowds that span age and social demographics.

The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale
The stereotype of readers of City Weekly is that they are a group of city-dwelling, childless, non-Mormons who eschew traditional values. Either the stereotype is inaccurate, or those stereotypical readers enjoy a book about something completely foreign to their own lives. The top vote-getter in the fiction category was Shannon Hale’s novel, in which the main character is a Mormon housewife from Layton with her four kids. Of course, if there’s anybody who can make such a character interesting for over 300 pages, it’s local author Hale, already an award-winning, best-selling author in the young adult realm. ShannonHale.comBEST POETRY COLLECTION
Eleanor, Eleanor, not your real name, by Kathryn Cowles
A Utah native and University of Utah doctoral candidate, Cowles burst on to the poetry scene with the publication of her first collection in 2008. Winner of last year’s Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, Eleanor finds the author exploring the world of a character who may not exist—or may be the author herself. The evocative verse alternates between the playful and the painful, words of struggle to find an identity: “my mother’s marriage changes her last name/I keep mine split family tree chop chop.”

Sister Wife by Jill Orschel
Orschel’s short documentary is disarmingly simple in its presentation: A woman named DoriAnn describes her experience as a plural wife in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Intercut with the talking-head interview are serene images of DoriAnn in a candlelit bath, but the words are anything but serene as she describes the pain of knowing her husband is with another woman—and that the woman, her sister-wife, is her own biological sister. As DoriAnn’s voice repeatedly breaks with emotion, we get a powerfully raw portrait of a woman trying to cleanse herself of anger and guilt, while perceiving the transcending of her jealousy as divine.

337 Project: Neighborhood House
Nonprofit daycare center Neighborhood House has added to its already vital role in the Rose Park area,with the 337 Project’s call for artists to decorate the site’s eight garage doors with art by local painters in two separate exhibits this year. The second one, as voted upon by spectators, awarded the winning “Face Off” team of artists Chuck Landvatter and Dave Doman $1,000 in June. The artwork, visible from the street 24/7, is the best reason to drive around late at night since 24-hour fast-food drive-up windows.

Reflexions, Anikó Sáfrán (Art Access Gallery)
Anikó Sáfrán’s photography incorporates visually intriguing imagery with provocative subject matter. Her work is stark and inventive and used to address issues that are culturally relevant. In her recent Reflexions exhibition at Art Access II, the artist photographed women in black and white, contorted by a fun house mirror—with unusual metaphorical effect. The images allude to themes of disproportionate self-perceptions of the body grappling with societal ideals of what a woman should look like. Her methods are whimsical, but Sáfrán is a sophisticated photographer, focusing on serious issues that go beyond the purely visual.

Dan Christofferson (Kayo Gallery)
A number of local artists use techniques borrowed from illustration, since illustrating helps keep a roof over their heads. Christofferson’s work is the kind you´d give a double-take to. Seemingly composed of simple compositional elements and visual imagery borrowed from medieval heraldry, the works often strike an undertone of subtle irony, with textual elements criticizing social institutions like patriarchy. That his works were able to match that of local artistic wunderkind Trent Call in energy and strength of line is a sign that Christofferson is a local artist to expect compelling art from in the future.

Lindsay Frei (Kayo Gallery)
A talented, seasoned painter, Frei displayed lucid and representational canvases at her Kayo Gallery show, yet their significance is abstract and thoughtful. Frei uses a bright color palate with vivid hues that she applies to paint common objects that are simple and direct yet have more to them than is apparent. The viewer of Frei’s work might wonder why she chooses to paint a shoe, cups and saucers, or a still life. It is evident that there is a story behind these objects, that each has a significance that the artist knows, and this leaves the viewer intrigued.

Jo Blake (Ririe-Woodbury)
Jo Blake is possibly best known for his six long seasons on-stage with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. In fact, one of his most prominent moments with RWDC came just this past season with his amazingly beautiful solo in Susan Marshall’s Cloudless. Yet, after working with some of the best modern choreographers and traveling the globe, winning audience accolades with his inspiring, lithe lines, Blake has chosen to retire from RWDC. But, don’t worry too much; our favorite dancer is still firmly rooted in Utah’s dance culture, choreographing and working with various other companies such as RawMoves.

Body Worlds (The Leonardo)
Lots of people donate their bodies to science but, until recently, it seemed unlikely that people would ever have the opportunity to donate their bodies to art. Body Worlds 3—which brought to Salt Lake City a fascinating if macabre touring collection of plastinated German corpses in various and surprising attitudes—proved enormously popular. And for many, it was the first real indication of the enormous potential for success of Library Square’s nascent Leonardo museum. Interest in discovering ways to merge artistic and scientific disciplines has surged in recent years, and has some visionaries even speculating on the possibility of a neo-Renaissance—which, if true, means The Leonardo is perfectly poised on the brink of greatness.

Allison Dayton
Using materials ranging from wood to silver, Dayton makes bohemian jewelry with a mixture of jungle and desert zests. Her batik mahogany jewelry is flashy and evocative, while her silver and pearl bird’s-nest necklace treats nature with whimsy and reverence. Dayton uses turquoise considerably, but more often as a fine spice rather than a main course, while other creations—like oval chain necklaces—amplify a simple shape into sleek, but noisy, chain of art.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams
It opens with poems about mosaics and launches immediately into a journey to Italy by Williams to study mosaics. The piecing together of shattered pieces into something beautiful is a continuing theme, and not only in the physical sense. Survivors of the genocide in Rwanda struggle to make sense of their shared horror, while at the same time, Williams battles her own internal and family strife. Prairie dogs simply try to survive in a natural world destroyed, at least for them, by the force of man. Even the prose is treated like a mosaic, with spare pieces of letters, journal entries, fractured conversations and exceptional narrative carefully molded into a compelling tale, filled with both heartbreak and optimism.

Keith Bryce
While Bryce was frustrated he didn´t get to show his best work in the Bravo Project Runway competition, he took much of what he learned from the show´s judges to continue shaping his self-described "egdy and progressive" aesthetic. He employs unorthodox techniques, he says, such as spray-painting graffiti on fabric before he sews it into a dress. His shop, Filthy Gorgeous on Pierpont Ave., has become an appointment-only venue. Instead of selling his creations retail, Bryce is focusing on designing. Now he has to decide whether to stay in Salt Lake City or—a la his one-time inspiration Jared Gold (Black Chandelier)—abandon ship for the gaudy heights of Los Angeles or New York City. Let´s hope Utah gives him a reason to stay.

Janae Johnson, Lunatic Fringe
There are those who treat trimming like a science of precise angles and measurements, and those who look at hair like art. Then there are style mavens like Johnson, who got all the technical aspects of styling down to a reflex and can treat hair styling like high fashion. Besides styling, Johnson gets points—along with the salon’s art team—for coordinating the advertising and marketing for the salon, as well as putting on its annual spring hair show and fund-raiser (which in April, 2009, raised $26,000 for various charities). But Johnson’s artistic instinct sets her apart, as she envisions the perfect style for her clientele, like Michelangelo seeing the sculpture waiting to emerge from a block of marble. It’s perhaps the reason her clientele so loyally return: because she helps them see the vision.

Sarah de Azevedo, Oni
If Kat Von D is the only fierce female tattoo artist on your radar, get to know de Azevedo who—like the high-profile star of TLC’s LA Ink—holds her own and then some in a largely male-dominated industry. Unlike Von D, de Azevedo has climbed the ranks in a town known more for its conservative politics than its impressive skin art. Her portfolio, along with those of fellow Beehive State artists, is slowly but surely helping to reverse outside perceptions of Utah’s thriving tattooing community. From pin-ups and landscapes to floralgarden sleeves and a spot-on portrait of actor Heath Ledger (RIP), her creations are well worth the wait—a very good thing, considering she’s currently booked out six months in advance.


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