- Courtesy of the artist
Modern West Fine Art: The Legendary West
An iconic line from the Western film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance notes that "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend." The American West has been mythologized for decades, but three artists on display for the exhibit The Legendary West at Modern West Fine Art take on the stories and landscapes of the region with distinctive perspectives honed over their own decades of work. As gallery manager Shalee Cooper puts it, when dealing with artists, each of whom has been creating for more than 50 years, "these are each legends themselves."
Arizona native and New Mexico resident Billy Schenck (his "Hashbidito Wash" is pictured) brings a pop art sensibility to his images of traditional Western iconography. His recent publication The Navajo Wars is an illustrated satire combining parable, allegory and myth about a war built on false premises; it inspired CNN's Anderson Cooper to call it "the oddest book I have ever read."
Ed Mell's career has taken him from art director of a New York advertising agency to teaching on a Hopi Indian reservation; his work has applied 1950s-style futurism to his Western landscapes, bringing sharp angles to works like the oil-on-linen painting "Desert Bloom." Highland, Utah's, own Gary Ernest Smith interprets Western landscape in a completely different way, employing what Cooper calls "emotional colors" to capture vistas like "Snow Canyon." Together, these three artists present an image of the West that transcends clichés, finding their own truth in subject matter where it's often easy to print the legend. (Scott Renshaw)
The Legendary West @ Modern West Fine Art, 177 E. 200 South, 801-355-3383, through Nov. 11, modernwestfineart.com
- Teo Ducot
Snap Judgement Live
Communication appears to be a lost art these days. Phone calls go unanswered. Messages are ignored. Emails get no reply. And while social media reaches out to cyberspace, it forsakes most individual interaction.
So credit National Public Radio's Snap Judgement for reviving that oldest form of communication: the precious art of storytelling. A successful series of weekly radio shows originating from WNYC in New York City, it finds five masters of the spoken word—Don Reed, Joyce Lee, Jen Kober, Jamie DeWolf, James Judd and the instigator of it all, host and executive producer Glynn Washington—offering a diverse selection of yarns, tales, parables and dramatic recreations that run the gamut from humor to homilies. They describe themselves as "storytelling with a beat" in promotional materials, all personal perspective backed by a band and imbued with lessons worth learning.
"Snap Judgement Live invites audiences to try on someone else's skin," says Washington, a former activist, actor, artist, educator, musician, poet, screenwriter and self-described subversive. "It's a raw, intimate and surprising journey. Don't be surprised if you laugh one moment, and burst into tears the next. The interplay between the storyteller and the musicians creates an experience like no other."
Indeed, these twisted tales prove anything but predictable, ranging from spooky campfire stories and unlikely allegories to stories flush with symbolism and lessons to be learned. Some are spontaneous and others are cryptic, but each delivers a provocative premise. "We can't wait for you to see it," Washington beams. We daresay the feeling's mutual. (Lee Zimmerman)
Snap Judgement Live @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, Oct. 27, 8 p.m., $27.50-$65, live-at-the-eccles.com
- Alice Caramel
Utah Symphony: Broadway Divas
When a concert advertises a performance by "divas," that word can have a variety of meanings, from its origins in the operatic tradition to at-times negative connotations. For singer N'Kenge—co-headlining Utah Symphony's Broadway Divas with Christina DiCicco, Christina Bianco and Kristen Plumley—it's all about professionalism. "A diva, to me, puts 250 percent of themselves into everything they do," N'Kenge says. "Because it has this aura around the name, you're expecting a certain level of expertise, artistic presentation and vocal ability. A diva needs to deliver, and raise the bar."
Accompanied by Utah Symphony and conductor Jack Everly, the quartet of divas aims to raise that bar with performances of tunes ranging from Gershwin (Porgy & Bess' "Summertime") to Disney (Frozen's "Let It Go"). With the songs removed from the familiar context of full productions, Everly and the singers interact with the audience to provide background for the songs, and incorporate them into musical numbers that feature choreography as well as duet and full group performances.
N'Kenge herself particularly looks forward to performing Dreamgirls' signature anthem "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," partly because she never though she'd be cast for Effie's role. And with four great singers—who are also supportive friends—there's a chance for them to appreciate one another's talent while seeing it as one of those bar-raising chances. "When we're kind of watching or listening from the wings, and you hear the applause? You think, 'OK, it's gonna be like that? Let me get my high-C ready.'" (SR)
Utah Symphony: Broadway Divas @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Oct. 27-28, 7:30 p.m., $15-$83, utahsymphony.org
- Guadalupe Rodriguez
Day of the Dead Celebration
Where the purpose of Halloween night is to dress up like Game of Thrones characters and ward off evil spirits with an evening of drinking and bad judgment, Day of the Dead adopts a more traditional and reverent way to party with the undead. It's all about taking the time to appreciate entertainment and food that our dearly departed loved ones would enjoy if they were still with us; think of it as a miraculous family gathering where no one brings up politics.
This celebration with Mexican and pre-Columbian origins has gained all kinds of cultural notoriety—most likely because its "creepy-meets-cute" aesthetic offers a great way for Anglos of all ages to get into the holiday spirit. While many different Latin American communities commemorate Día de los Muertos annually, the Utah Cultural Celebration Center has assembled one of the biggest and most lavish events to observe this traditional occasion.
The celebration itself arrives in the middle of the UCCC's Day of the Dead-inspired art exhibition (through Nov. 3), and features traditional cuisine, folk art vendors, crafting activities and a skeleton crew (heh heh) of live musicians and entertainers. For those looking to show off their costume-design skills, a contest invites local attendees to pull off the best version of La Calavera Catrina, Day of the Dead's cultural first lady. The event's timing just before Halloween is a great way to kick off a weekend of mortality-tinged good times. (Alex Springer)
Day of the Dead Celebration @ Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, 801-965-5100, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., $5 adults, children 12 and under free, www.culturalcelebration.org