Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Strangely enough, last Friday (my birthday) saw the release of two books with particular personal significance for me. Painters of Utah's Canyons and Deserts was timed to coincide with the centennial celebration of Zions National Park in the state's southwest. The fact of its concurrence with the news of what seems to be the solution to the Everett Ruess mystery is purely serendipitous. Ruess, a California native, was an artist, printmaker, writer and vagabond who loved the Utah redrock, where he famously vanished nearly 75 years ago at the age of 20. Denny Belson, acting on a story his grandfather had told him, found a human crevice burial near Comb Ridge, on the Navajo Reservation, over 100 miles east of what was thought to be Ruess' last camp. Belson's grandfather, a Navajo, claimed to have witnessed the murder and robbery of a white man by two Utes in the '30s, and had returned to the site to bury the man. Only days ago, forensic analysis determined the remains to be Ruess'.

His story is one of the most compelling, but he is only one of dozens of great artists who've been inspired by the spectacular, rugged country of the Colorado Plateau. Two of the state's most respected art historians, Vern Swanson, PhD, director of the Springville Museum of Art, and Donna Poulton, PhD, associate curator at the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts, have compiled this weighty volume with over 300 paintings, chronicling the artistic depiction of our state's canyon country. The unfortunate tradition with such histories is to begin the tale with the in-migration of white settlers, and this one is no exception. The earliest work dates to the period of the first Mormon pioneers' arrival. Still, the history detailed from that period on can only be described as comprehensive. The illustrations are well selected and reproduced. I was especially pleased with the several plates of my favorite Utah artist, Doug Snow, who merges abstract and representational painting more successfully than anyone else I know. The accompanying text is well researched and nicely written, except for the fact that my name isn't spelled exactly right, but this isn't the first book to have erred there.
Two upcoming events will celebrate this book: Tomorrow evening (May 7th) at 6:30, there will be a short lecture and a book signing at Williams Fine Art on 2nd East and South Temple, and on Friday, May 15th a small exhibition and book signing at Ken Sanders' Rare Books on 2nd East and Broadway.
Gibbs Smith Publisher 12.8 x 11 x 1.3 inches 304 pages 5.6 lbs.


Blogger John said...

Hey Carel,
These paintings are beautiful. I especially like the Northern Cacomistle. It's KILLER!!!

12:59 PM  

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