A new list of Utah’s 15 most influential artists is dominated by women and ranges from a documentary producer to a muralist, from a painter who celebrates nature to an artist who creates computer images, from a dancer to a photographer.
The list began with nominees from the readers of online magazine 15 Bytes, which then asked more than 150 arts professionals to vote for up to 10.
Steven Labrum, a producer at 3 Irons and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art board member who helped select the final 15, noted their diversity — from the many women to “Oscar winners, Hispanic, young and old.”
It includes Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley, documentary filmmaker Geralyn Dreyfous, painter and sculptor Jorge Rojas and muralist Jann Haworth. (Scroll down for the complete list.)
“It is a pretty impressive cross-section of people who are deeply committed to using their art to either affect the world — like Bagley and Dreyfous — or reflect on our humanity through their creativity — Rojas and Haworth come to mind,” Labrum said.
Some are native Utahns: Painter Connie M. Borup grew up in Kaysville and has said some of her first memories are of “fields, gullies, ponds, and the flat stretch of earth leading to the Great Salt Lake.“ Others are immigrants: Pilar Pobil, known for her brilliantly colored watercolors and oils, was honored by the government of her native Spain in 2016.
“We definitely weren’t stretching to find 15 people,” said 15 Bytes editor Shawn Rossiter. “Considering the size of our state and the demographics of our state, we have an amazing arts community.”
He added: “I think [the list] is eclectic. It’s obviously skewed toward the visual arts, and that’s because that’s where our readership comes from.”
The magazine is publishing a book of essays about the artists with images of their creations, and an exhibit of their work will run Jan. 18-March 8 at the Rio Gallery at the Rio Grande Depot, 300 S. Rio Grande St., in Salt Lake City.
In starting with nominations from readers and then asking a panel to winnow the list, Rossiter said, the magazine “wanted to avoid two things. One was a small panel of quote-unquote ‘experts’ who tend to think of the same people every time.
“And the other was — we didn’t want to make it a popularity contest where people were saying ‘vote for me’ on Instagram.”
It can be "kind of dangerous to leave it open to people to decide,” he added with a laugh. “But we have embraced that, because our magazine has always been an open forum for the community to discuss the arts.”
Once the nominations were in, 15 Bytes solicited votes from “a variety of arts professionals,” magazine staffers, readers and financial supporters.
“We just presented the nominations to them and said, ‘We’ll leave it up to you to decide what “influential” means,’ and then just let them vote,” Rossiter said.
“It’s apparent at first glance that the selected artists are brilliant — not simply as creative thinkers and producers of art but as humanitarians,” said Kathryn Lindquist, a longtime supporter of the arts who voted on the nominees.
“They grasp the political complexities and social injustices of our contemporary world, both locally and internationally, and devise how to advocate for the most disadvantaged but often bravest people as well as the natural environment,” Lindquist said in an email.
This the second time 15 Bytes has compiled this sort of list. The first was in 2014, when Laura Durham — then with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, now community engagement coordinator at KUED-Channel 7 — came up with the idea to showcase the depth and breadth of artistic talent in the state.
“We have this unique situation,” Rossiter said. “We’ve got these five universities all close to each other that all have great faculty there doing some really interesting work. We have the fact that Salt Lake City acts as a gravitational force and pulls in anyone within hundreds of miles interested in the arts.
“You shouldn’t expect there to be a lot of arts there, just because there isn’t a lot of patronage. And in some respects there isn’t. I mean, most artists are working a day job — but they’re still making art.”
Lots of art, in lots of mediums and venues.
“Utah’s artistic community is unbelievably rich in talent, in the variety of mediums it offers, in cultural diversity, in economic accessibility and in passion among its people to nurture skills and possibilities for everyone,” Lindquist said.
The 15 artists featured, in alphabetical order, are:
Over nearly four decades, Bagley has drawn thousands of cartoons for the editorial pages of The Salt Lake Tribune, acerbically skewering political and religious figures from Utah, the nation and the world. His cartoons have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian and other publications, and he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. He has published such books as “Welcome to Utah” and “I Spy a Nephite” and illustrated such books as “Dinosaurs of Utah,” “The J. Golden Kimball Stories” and “The Mormon Kama Sutra.” In 2002, he designed a series of pins to lampoon the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Somewhere between photography and printmaking lies Bateman’s work, as he creates with a computer objects that look three-dimensional but never existed. Some of his anachronistic images were compiled in his signed-and-numbered 2009 book, “Mechanical Brides of the Uncanny.” “Every object exists in two worlds,” Bateman once wrote. “One is the tangible that we know through our senses and another that exists only in our minds.” Bateman also teaches art and art history at the University of Utah.
Borup’s paintings of nature have been featured in solo exhibitions across the West for 20 years. Her paintings, she says, take “a closer, more intimate look at nature” and “investigate the different levels of reality we can observe in the natural world.” She currently teaches at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Idaho.
With her production company Impact Partners, Dreyfous has given financial and artistic support to dozens of documentaries, many of them spotlighting issues of social justice. She was executive producer on the Oscar-winning “Born Into Brothels” and the Emmy-winning “In Football We Trust,” among others. Dreyfous is also co-founder of the Utah Film Center, which fosters audience engagement and education in film statewide.
Dykes is an artist specializing in printmaking. “I want art and life to connect in a meaningful way,” she writes in her biography. “I aspire to understand how experiences, words and thoughts can be slowed down and refracted through drawings and prints.” She is a former instructor at the University of Utah and is co-founder of Saltgrass Printmakers, a nonprofit printmaking studio and gallery in Salt Lake City that fosters a wide range of printmaking techniques.
Raised in Hollywood and trained in London, Haworth became world famous when she and her then-husband, Peter Blake, designed the cover of The Beatles’ landmark “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. She returned to America in the late 1990s, landing in Utah, where she has been an artist-in-residence at Sundance and The Leonardo. She has created murals that echo the layered caricatures of “Sgt. Pepper,” most notably the “SLC Pepper” mural near Pioneer Park.
Jorgensen’s conceptual, immersive works often blend photography, performance and video, which aim “to explore alternate and intersection narratives of the body, desire, violence and power.” Born in Milan and trained in Europe, she now works on the high desert plains of Utah and is on the faculty of Snow College in Ephraim. She is also co-founder, executive director and chief curator of the nonprofit art space Granary Arts.
Krensky is the Area Head of Art Teaching for the University of Utah’s Department of Art and Art History, putting her in the lead of educating future generations of artists. An artist herself, she creates both objects, like her walking staffs made from olive trees sourced in Bethlehem, and performance works, often on the sands of the Utah salt flats.
In her Environmental Justice series, Martinez looked at the difference between public and private spaces, using painting, photography and video to consider landscape and community voices. Martinez also is on the faculty of the University of Utah, where in past years she has arranged for students to create murals around the city.
Collaboration is a watchword for Ostraff, who has partnered in more than 30 projects. Some were with faculty and students at Brigham Young University, where he is a professor. In 1993, he created a series of paintings with his children, and he often creates works with his wife, Melinda, an ethnobotanist.
At 89, the native of Spain is the indefatigable grande dame of Utah’s art scene, both for the vibrant paintings she makes and for the Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation, the nonprofit arts organization that bears her name. Her annual “Art in Pilar’s Garden” event has become a summer highlight for artists and art lovers in Utah.
A painter and sculptor, Rojas has taken a zen approach to his materials, emphasizing simplicity and naturalness. In recent years, he has explored through performance art how technology affects artistic production and social structures. Besides creating his own art, Rojas is director of education and engagement at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
Linda C. Smith
One of the original dancers of Repertory Dance Theatre, the nation’s first repertory dance company, Smith is now the company’s executive director and artistic director. First envisioned as an artistic democracy in 1966, the troupe abandoned that structure in 1978, naming Smith and Kay Clark as artistic coordinators. Smith became the sole artistic director in 1983. She also was instrumental in the creation of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
A Salt Lake City native, Smith specializes in illusionist art, creating magical environments and moments on a two-dimensional surface. He is retired from teaching, but has taught at the Salt Lake Art Center (now UMOCA) and the University of Utah.
A writer, editor and photographer, Trimble has published 22 books over 35 years, exploring the land and people of the West. He often speaks out on conservation issues, such as his support of maintaining the original boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument. Visitors to the Natural History Museum of Utah have enjoyed Trimble’s writing without knowing it, as he wrote many of the museum’s exhibit labels.
THE EXHIBIT • An exhibit featuring the work of all 15 artists on the 15 Bytes most influential artists list, curated by Kandace Steadman, will run Jan. 18-March 8 at the Rio Gallery at the Rio Grande Depot, 300 S. Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City. The exhibit will be open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission is free.
An artists’ reception is scheduled at the Rio Gallery on Friday, Feb. 15, from 6-9 p.m.
THE BOOK • “Utah’s 15: The State’s Most Influential Artists (Vol. II)” is available for pre-order with a (minimum) $25 donation, plus shipping (if necessary), at artistsofutah.org.
The 96-page volume, bound in brown linen, will feature essays on each of the artists, photo portraits by Simon Blundell, and examples of their work.
THE FIRST LIST • 15 Bytes created its first list of Utah’s 15 most influential artists in 2014. Artists in the first group chosen were: Painter Paul Davis; painter Brian Kershisnik; multimedia artist Trent Alvey; painter and printmaker Sandy Brunvand; painter Anna Campbell Bliss; visual artist and activist Ruby Chacon; actor Anne Cullimore Decker; painter John Erickson; artist and founder of Artspace, Stephen Goldsmith; artist and Phillips Gallery co-founder Bonnie Phillips; painter and Poor Yorick founder Brad Slaugh; author and activist Terry Tempest Williams; painter Sam Wilson; sculptor and curator Frank McEntire; and Joan Woodbury, co-founder of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.