The Eclectic Meaning of Paper: PaperWest at the Alvin Gittins Gallery


All photos are exhibits on display at the PaperWest Exhibition. Captured on Tuesday, October 15th, 2019. (Photo by Jermy Thomas | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Abigail Bowé, Arts Writer

PaperWest, a regional juried exhibition currently being held at the Alvin Gittins Gallery at the University of Utah, is a touching celebration of paper. Curated from submissions of several artists from across the Rocky Mountain West, the show is composed solely of works made with the medium.

The exhibition offers a taste of art being made off-campus, as entry to the show was exclusive to artists who are neither current students nor employees of the U. Pieces include collages, drawings, photographs, watercolors, monoprints, sculptures and more. Each ranges broadly in terms of subject matter ⁠— their use of paper is the only shared thread. The exhibition highlights an important message — a medium as simple as paper is significant because of what it can become in the hands of individual creators.

Judith K. Brodsky is a distinguished visual arts professor from Rutgers University and a print artist herself. She curated the pieces at the Gittins gallery. Likewise, she will additionally judge the presented works for prizes. In her juror’s statement, Brodsky described what PaperWest says for itself as an exhibition. “The high quality of work submitted and broad variety of technique and content was at first overwhelming. The question was how to develop a coherent exhibition from such a diverse group of works,” she said. Brodsky noted that the pieces put on display represented a variety of skillsets and imagery, a strength for PaperWest. “I hope my final selection reflects the diversity of theme and medium which characterized the entries.”

PaperWest offers sights to those passionate about many styles and approaches in visual art.  I was intrigued by the portraits up at the exhibition. James McGee’s “Ketan” presents a larger-than-life contemplative man in glasses with a focused look in his eyes. Ashley Johnson’s “Interlaced” takes a more graphic and abstract approach in depicting a woman in a striped dress.

Politically oriented pieces also take a notable spotlight through the show. The most moving and most timely piece of the exhibit, “Incandescent Metatonia” by Jane Yoshimoto, depicts copied imagery of refugees traveling by boat within scattered Instagram snapshots. At its center is one particularly well-circulated photo of a Syrian man trying to rescue his children, depicted in painfully bright neon colors with the rest of the work’s figures. Indicative to how social media and 24-7 world news feeds may inform, yet desensitize us to human rights trespasses across the world, “Incandescent Metatonia” is one piece of paper with a whole lot to say.

Visitors can also expect to see other fantastic paper works that  border between the real world and the fantastic. “I’ve come away from the experience, feeling that I’ve learned a lot about what artists in the United States are thinking about at the moment,” Brodsky said. “I also come away with my firm belief that the visual arts in the United States are thriving in a state of excellence.”

The 2nd National Works on Paper Exhibition will be displayed at the Gittins Gallery until Nov. 1.


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