For the past year, we have been working on an exhibition for the Sanpete Valley in central Utah. This has been an ambitious project. We wanted to allow artists from all over the west to learn about the culture, climate, and history of this valley and then create site-specific works. We have not been disappointed. This group of artists has created a rich and thoughtful set of works, reacting to various aspects of this valley. Here is just a sample of the art that you will see when you come to the exhibit in Sanpete Valley, opening May 29, 2021.

Ben Kinsley, still image from Dirk Worshiper II

Ben Kinsley’s projects have ranged from choreographing a neighborhood intervention into Google Street View, directing surprise theatrical performances inside the homes of strangers, organizing a paranormal concert series, staging a royal protest, investigating feline utopia, collecting put-down jokes from around the world, and planting a buried treasure in the streets of Mexico City (yet to be found.

For his work in Sanpete, Ben focuses on the soil. The term “dirt worshiper” has been used disparagingly to describe environmentalists, however, it has become increasingly clear that soil health (and the fungal mycelium throughout) plays a vital role in the health of our planet. As an avid mushroom hunter, Ben spends a lot of time moving slowly while staring at the ground. His work for this exhibition takes the form of a series of audio/visual meditations on the flora and fauna beneath our feet at various points of interest within the Sanpete Valley.

Clinton Whiting, still image from Spring Peregrination

Clinton Whiting is a multi-disciplinary artist, influenced by conceptual and modernist practices. His works attempts to describe the intangible connection people share between one another. He utilizes the presence or absence of the human figure to form an idea of connection or lack thereof.

For his work in Sanpete, Clint takes on a family history story. In November 1849, his ancestor Edwin Whiting and his family were living in a dugout cabin on the south side of temple hill in Manti Utah. This was a new settlement and pioneer families like the Whitings had to work hard to make use of theland and resources. Notwithstanding the harsh winter Edwin set up a foot lathe and made 100 chairs in their cramped one room dugout. When spring came he hauled the chairs to Salt Lake City to trade for supplies

Evan Curtis, still image from Saturn Returns

Evan Curtis is an award-winning, independent, stop-motion animator and filmmaker. The Adirondack Mountains, where Curtis grew up, were the setting for many defining adventures that contributed to his aesthetic sensibilities

By drawing from the tropes of science-fiction movies and applying them to the reduced, domestic scale of his wonderfully inventive sets, Curtis makes the vast expanses and unknown quantities of the universe accessible through humor and familiarity. The transmissions are taken from the sounds of Saturn recorded by the Cassini spacecraft, and the sequence was filmed on location in Utah’s Little Sahara Sand Dunes and Ephraim.

Jared and Carly Jakins, still image from Ghosts on the Mountain

Carly and Jared Jakins are a directing team with a special interest in nonfiction storytelling. Their work explores the construction of identity in the American West and often focuses on marginalized individuals and communities.

‘Ghosts On The Mountain’ examines the isolated lifestyle of H2A guest workers in the American West by subtly exploring the emotions of the occupation. The film’s subjects leave family and native lands to work in the United States on H2A work visas, or no visas at all. Surrounded by breathtaking vistas, these workers find themselves in solitude and loneliness. This isolation is heightened by language barriers and the remoteness of the sheep’s pasturelands.

Jason Bernagozzi, still image from Diachrony

Jason Bernagozzi is an artist whose work examines and critiques the codes embedded within the psyche of media culture. His work uses the real-time features of video and electronic media as a way to engage with interdisciplinary concepts as a dialogical system of emerging languages.

“Diachrony” is an experimental video that examines the framing of historical records as a fragmentation between signifier and sign. Shot in the Sanpete Valley in Utah, footage of monuments, words chiseled in stone, are pixel shifted through locally rendered expressions of what the west represents. The entangling of data and image tells a story told by the land and those who claim it, bearing witness to the truth behind cultures born on the backs of terrible tragedy.

Jorge Rojas, still image from the performance Cage

Jorge Rojas is a multidisciplinary artist, independent curator and educator. Rojas makes performance that examines cultural, social, and mediated forms of communication. He uses performance to bring people together, as well as provoke public participation, action, and collaboration. Rojas’s interests include spiritual histories, interpretations of ancient rites and customs, institutional critique, and responding to abuses of power. 

The performance, Cage was created in response to the inhumane conditions that immigrant families and children are being subjected to in the Mexico/U.S. border. Cage draws attention to children being held indefinitely at detention centers across the U.S. In this action, a space is created for the public to stand in for the silenced victims. For the exhibition in Sanpete, this work is exhibited next to a building on the Snow College campus that was formerly used as barracks for the Topaz Japanese Internment Camp, during World War 2, drawing a parallel between the two cases of unjust internment.

Justin Lincoln, still image from Field Resonance

Justin Lincoln is an experimental artist and educator working in the American NorthWest. His work involves creative computer programming, online social media, video montage, and the history of experimental film and sound. Justin is very curious about what the constant state of online visual scanning has done to our perceptions, how we read, and how we interact with culture and with other individuals.

A brief experiment with signal to noise ratios. Sound amplitude from field recordings of a cow pasture in Sanpete are programmed to glitch, manipulate, and distort a series of images intercepted from the internet. These data ruins are not simply a sign of bad reception or technical difficulty. Instead consider them painterly signals getting lost in natural entropy. A romantic pastoral intervention while we wait for the grid to go down. Technology and mediated images are always precarious just like everything and everyone else on spaceship Earth. We’re lucky to be here.

Reza Safavi, still image from Thomas Grocery and Pump

Reza Safavi’s research examines how the presence of technology in daily life shapes experience. He uses video, code, sound, drawing, performance, sculpture, analog and digital devices as well as living elements to create interactive experiences that highlight the interfaces, both macro and micro, among communities, technology, consciousness and the environment.

While Reza was driving through the Sanpete Valley, in March 2021 he passed an abandoned building in Sterling, Thomas Grocery, a white frame building with a single gas pump out front, on the west side of U.S. 89 about a half-mile into town. The store seemed to be frozen in time with items still stocked in the dusty windows. Reza became intrigued by this building, which had a hint of melancholy, and he returned to experience the building further. He subsequently spoke to local residents about the building and found that a woman named Lillie Thomas worked there continuously for 74 years, with the exception of 3 years during World War II, living in a white cottage next door. The store was open six days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, and Thomas covered most of those hours. To imprint the experiential magic of this building and create this work, Reza used 3D scanning technologies and 360 video, digitally preserving this building in its current state in 2021. Reza aims to create an experience of Thomas Grocery that serves as a virtual monument to the hard work and dedication of this unique woman and her contribution to the community.

Justin Watson, still image from shroud (Delphic_Lands) vol. 1 Sanpete

Justin Watson deconstructs new media technologies to explore post-internet identity and how the underlying social psychology of these systems intersects with online and offline culture. 

shroud(Delphic_Lands) vol.1: Sanpete examines how computational vision synthesizes and interprets a broad selection of archival images from Sanpete. The dataset, hundreds of images connected to Sanpete ranging from landscapes, historical archives, groundbreakings, site constructions and nature photography, were trained through a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), a neural network that analyzes and reconstructs images, and sublimated to a selection of 33 images. The ethereal images, upscaled and spliced together into video sequences through artificial intelligence, represent a historical vision of Sanpete shrouded by the eye of a machine. Field recordings of haunted sites and nature sounds were compiled into a soundtrack that parallels the spectral qualities of this vision.

Yumi Janairo Roth, Management Rights

Yumi Janairo Roth has created a diverse body of work that explores ideas of immigration, hybridity, and displacement through discrete objects and site-responsive installations, solo projects as well as collaborations. In her projects, her objects function as both natives and interlopers to their environments, simultaneously recognizable and unfamiliar to their users.

In The Wilderness Movement and the National Forests(1988), my dad wrote about Aldo Leopold, a forest supervisor for Carson National Forest and early environmental advocate who would lay the groundwork for wilderness movement, “Wilderness, (Leopold) felt, was the forge upon which the American national character had been created, and loss of wilderness regions deprived the country of a source of renewing this heritage.” Romantic visions of the American West include images of vast landscapes and “uninhabited” places.

Public land is both a touchstone for the construction of that image as well as fuse for its destabilization. At one end is John Muir’s exaltation of the grandeur of nature (and the omission of Indigenous peoples from that land) and at the other end are the Bundy family standoffs on BLM land in Nevada and the National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. “Property Rights” is my exploration of how that image of public land and the American West is built, maintained, accessed, controlled, and delineated.

David Chapman Lindsay, still Image from Mount Pleasant Soldier

David Chapman Lindsay is an artist currently working in print, video, and animation. His work has been exhibited all over the United States and Europe. Much of his art is presented as site-specific work through the Popwalk app. In these works, he attempts to unravel history and culture within a location, addressing both common and disquieting assumptions that we make about place.

Mountain Green Soldier addresses the role of film and movies to mediate and control our view of what war means. Presented through a collage of World War 1 films, the doughboy statue from the Mount Pleasant Main Street monument acts out a collaged stereotype war monologue. In this monologue, we are fed an entertaining mix of movie clips. We are left to ask if the speaker is a genuine voice of the experience of war, or just regurgitating our own saccharine presumptions of difficult and horrible events.

Nikki Pike, Tracings

Nikki Pike grew up in Black Forest Colorado where she learned to ride bikes and climb trees in between flashlight tag, midnight soccer, and competitive sledding. The adopted daughter of a nurse and an engineer, and one of six siblings, Nikki learned to work in groups and negotiate early on. Fighting over the measuring cups in the bathtub and wooden spoons in the garden, the Pike family children grew wild imaginations.

TRACINGS is an inquiry-based project inviting locals to think forwards and backwards through time. One thousand years ago, the Fremont people in the Sanpete Valley created rock drawings that have sparked curiosity about their civilization. These petroglyphs have given some insight about the Fremont people, but also leave many questions about humans and life over centuries of time. Participants are encouraged to think beyond written language to send a message or encapsulate our current civilization. What would you share or leave behind for humanity one thousand years in the future?

Rachel Farmer, still image from Feathers

Rachel Farmer is a Brooklyn based artist and educator, originally from Provo, UT.She received a BFA in ceramics from Brigham Young University and an MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her solo exhibition at Granary Arts in Ephraim, UT (2018) led to a community-based project –a quilted map of the Ephraim area –that is on view in the exhibition Material Issues at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art thru June 2021.

For the work Feathers, the artist interviews her mother, who was raised on a small farm/ranch in Southern Idaho, about the division of labor surrounding the killing and dressing of chickens –bookended by short tales of her grandfather and her great-great-grandmother (who lived in Sanpete Valley from 1856-1865).

From the curator’s point of view, this exhibition has been astounding to watch come together. The artists have created a wonderful variety of works about the Sanpete valley. We hope that you have a chance to come see the works yourself. The exhibit will open on May 29th, 2021. You can experience the works, on site, through the Popwalk app.

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