Synergetics | Visual Art | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Visual Art


Marriage of Minds: Cat and Blake Palmer turn their life collaboration into an artistic one.



“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford is quoted on the announcement card for Synergetics, featuring photographer and artist Cat Palmer and her husband Blake, who works in mixed media. A rarely seen tandem show by artists married to each other uses their relationship for creative impetus.

The two artists found working together provided some unexpected challenges. Individually, their working methods are almost completely different. “Part of my process is a lot of give-and-take,” explains Blake about his mixed-media works using acrylic, Xerox transfers of photographs on wood or metal surfaces. “Mine are controlled chaos.” Cat is much more methodical, planning out every element of her photographs, from setting to models and wardrobe, long before the shutter snaps.”

“I found I was really protective of my work,” Cat confides. “I was afraid of Blake working on them and ruining them. I’m really happy with the results—except one.” She points out a tiny white speck on a model’s nose, which Blake had sandpapered by accident.

On the other hand, she likes the streaks created by creases in some of his Xerox impressions on his own work through his chance methods.

Their works together really do create an artistic synergy. Blake uses the outlines of some of Cat’s photographic subjects to paint silhouettes, while her subjects are framed by the lines of his painting, sometimes translucent lines or dots that are only visible from a certain angle.

Besides “synergy,” Cat notes that their neologism also suggests “energetic.” The pieces in this show are energetic compositions, but without the social commentary in her solo work.

It’s not like they haven’t been busy with other projects either, Cat preparing new work for a booth at the Utah Arts Festival and both of them starting an art class for teenagers at Art Access the week of the fest. It’s her third year at the Arts Festival, and she’s done well enough, building up a fan base, that she feels she has to show new work each time.

They like to say their best collaboration is their 9-month old son Jack. “We put a T-shirt on him that reads ‘Cat & Blake’s Best Collaboration—For Display Purposes Only,” she laughs.

Blake’s background is in graphic design, though he studied painting as well. He stopped creating artwork when they got married 11 years ago. Cat, also a wedding and portrait photographer, started exhibiting her fine-art photography in 2004. Blake says, “I asked [myself] why I’m not doing this too.” He studied with Trent Call at Art Access’ Partners Program and, he says, “I finally figured out how to get the images in my head out onto the surface.”

So when it came to working together, each of them had a definite process. “Some of her steps, I couldn’t do,” he recalls. Cat adds, “He likes to jump in; I like to test the water first.” After planning, her actual shooting and printing time is quick, while he takes more time once he does jump into his work, reacting to chance occurrences, building up layers and sanding them down. So, to some degree they had to work separately, then come together to confer on the overall direction and shape they were taking.

They both are pleased with the final results, and compared to their solo works—several of which by each of the artists are also featured in the show—these are more than the sum of their parts. The show taught them about their relationship: “We found out how important it is to trust each other, and how greatly we do.” Blake adds, “We learned about artwork as well as ourselves.”

Art Access Gallery
230 S. 500 West
Through July 10