A showing of new works by one of Salt Lake City’s most prolific artists also marks the end of an artistic venue.
This month, Derek Dyer, founder of the nonprofit arts organization Utah Arts Alliance, presents his first solo exhibit in three years: Icons, Archetypes & Oddities—the final show at the Utah Arts Alliance Gallery. But it’s just another chapter in the UAA’s ongoing history, which is now continuing in a new form just west of downtown.
The organization’s activities supporting local artists seem as wide-ranging as his own work. Opened in early 2007, the UAA Gallery was the organization’s third venue at the time. As part of the UAA’s mission to foster the arts in the community, the gallery was intended to help create a downtown arts district as part of the revitalization of Main Street. At the time, Crossroads Mall and ZCMI Mall were fading; now, after this show concludes, the gallery and other businesses on the block will be forced to move out to make way for construction of the New Performing Arts Center, a 2500-seat theater that will take up roughly a fourth of the block.
“We feel good about what we have accomplished, and are leaving the space on a high note,” Dyer says. “We have shown the work of over 600 artists and have had a very successful run in this location.”
He opened the Urban Arts Gallery in The Gateway earlier this year, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Utah Arts Alliance, and in July, the organization produced its third-annual Urban Arts Festival on Rio Grande Street. The group is headquartered nearby at the Salt Lake Arts Hub (663 W. 100 South), with offices, artists studios and the Gray Wall gallery, as well as the Cube performing-arts space, which is set to open later this year. The Main Street site has also housed Midnight Records recording studios, offering affordable recording services, and the studio will be relocated to the Arts Hub space after the closure.
Dyer has always been a bit of an artistic chameleon, but the one thing in common in all his works is his interest in humanity, and in the portrayal of human expression. He is most known for his photography, but has also worked in a variety of media. Some of his former “oddities” have included the Liquid People, Earth People and Glitter People—which are what they sound like, people covered or immersed in different substances—and his Plastic World installation.
The “icons” depicted in this current show include Buddha, Ganesh, the Virgin Mary and Venus, together with historical figures like Nikola Tesla and Marilyn Monroe. Even pop-culture icons such as Lady Gaga, Pac Man and Mario are represented, as well as undersea creatures and animals, and humans with physical anomalies. The works range stylistically from abstract expressionism to impressionism to pop art. This new work seems more mythic, he seems drawn to the stories these subjects tell. “It seems like humankind has always told the same stories,” Dyer says. “We just change the names and places, but it is basically the same story.”
Dyer’s use of light in his work has always been striking, and some of this work might remind the viewer of his Guinness World Record-holding largest disco ball, created in 2005. But he has expanded on that, inspired by visiting what he describes as “some of the more edgy art galleries in Italy. … [I] saw some of the new works being created, [and] it got me really inspired to create some new works using nontraditional mediums and experimental techniques. One exhibit in particular in Venice inspired me to start working more with gemstones, and thinking about how lighting can interact with and become part of the experience of the work.”
When the UAA Gallery took over the space in the front half of the building that was formerly the Contemporary Design & Art Gallery in 2012, it really opened up the space to show more comprehensive collections of local artists’ work on a larger scale, like that of Anthony Granato and Chris Madsen. It’s no less true of this showing of Dyer’s work, which he believes might be taken for the work of several different artists. You also might wonder how he found the time to create new works, with all the projects the UAA has been involved in during the past few years.
The renaissance of Main Street lends an ironic note to the end of the UAA Gallery. “With the gallery closing, it’s kind of a bittersweet time for us,” Dyer says. “It would be nice to reap the benefits of Main Street now just finally being revitalized. Having this show as a final celebration of the space is meaningful to me personally, and a great way to celebrate this wonderful facility for the arts that has served so many for the last seven years.”
DEREK DYER: ICONS, ARCHETYPES & ODDITIES
Utah Arts Alliance Gallery
127 S. Main
Through Aug. 30
Gallery Stroll reception, Aug. 16, 6-10 p.m.