It’s the last Thursday in May, and that means it’s the last Collection Highlight that doubles as a sneak peak at the UMFA’s Timeline celebrating Art is 100. But I have some good news: that Timeline is on view in our cafe right now! Come in and follow the story of the UMFA– the bonus is that by the time you’ve reached the end, you’re at the counter, and can order a latte. Now, without further ado, let’s learn a little bit more about the salt series, and it’s role in the UMFA.
salt 5: Daniel Everett
written by Whitney Tassie, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
When I first visited the UMFA in April of 2012 to interview for my current position, I had the pleasure of seeing Daniel Everett’s salt exhibition. It was a nice surprise to see Daniel’s work in Utah. Previously, I’d seen his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in my home town of Chicago. Daniel and I both attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for our Master’s degrees, and though we didn’t know each other, we ran in similar art circles. I had no idea that Daniel had relocated to Utah and was teaching at BYU. I was very impressed that Utah’s art scene could draw an artist like Daniel. As a contemporary curator considering employment in an under-recognized art center, I took this as a good sign.
Daniel’s exhibition spoke loudly about the UMFA’s sense of self. The show was not easy, in terms of conceptual content or material installation requirements. His multi-layered works are informed by modernist theory, the evolution of technology, art history, and spiritual transcendence. His display tactics are decidedly contemporary, utilizing a range of media and pushing the limits of museum space. Broadsheets bearing a gridded image lay in a stack on the floor for visitors to take; photographs of ubiquitous surveillance structures hung framed on the wall, leaned on shelves, and rested on the floor unframed; slightly altered chain-link fencing divorced from its usual context cast a shadow of a disrupted grid on the wall. Such a challenging, non-traditional exhibition made it apparent that Daniel and the exhibition’s curator, former UMFA Chief Curator Jill Dawsey, held the UMFA’s audience in high regard. Moreover, the UMFA’s decision to show a local artist in an exhibition series of emerging world-class artists was a sign of commitment to local artists and of a belief that small communities outside the art world mega-cities do produce museum-caliber artists. Daniel Everett’s salt exhibition helped me realize that I would like to work at the UMFA, that I would be encouraged to take risks and curate challenging shows, and that I wanted to be a part of this vibrant art community.
Now that I’ve been here a few years, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Daniel through studio visits, museum events, and shared meals. He’s introduced me to the amazing art department at BYU and to the pains and pleasures of jam-making. I’ve seen his work curated into different contexts at local venues and have watched his resume grow with international exhibitions. In a way, I’m sorry that I missed the opportunity to work on a salt exhibition with Daniel, but I’m thrilled that the UMFA remains committed to his work. Since his exhibition in 2012, I’m proud to report that the UMFA has acquired six artworks by Daniel Everett—three from his salt exhibition and three new works.