It’s been a wonderful time at the UMFA lately, and a new exhibition is a big part of that. Staff and visitors are abuzz about the fantastic, fascinating art now on view in some of our downstairs galleries, and I can’t wait to share some details with you here. Perhaps the coolest part: it turns out that the source of inspiration for the artists in this new exhibition is right in our own backyard.
Northern Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine is actually the largest man-made excavation on earth–it’s visible from space! And it turns out that, in addition to yielding millions of tons of copper, it has been a source of fascination and inspiration for artists. And that’s where the UMFA comes in: Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine is now open!
Spanning 1873 to the present, this exhibition presents paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs that examine the mine from a variety of perspectives, tracing its physical development as well as its effects on the local economy, culture, environment, and people. Featured artists include Jonas Lie, William Rittase, Andreas Feininger, Jean Arnold, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Smithson, and the Center for Land Use Interpretation, among others. The exhibition also includes photographs of the mine after the massive landslide of spring 2013, the effects of which continue to impact both the mine’s operations and the local economy.
In addition to featuring art inspired by the mine, the exhibition also includes a chance to interact: one room of the exhibition is filled with chances to read, to listen, to watch, and to do some creative work of your own!
The goal of the Bingham Canyon Mine interactive area is to give visitors to the museum an interactive experience when considering their own experience of the exhibition and the various viewpoints it presents. This can be done through several stations, including: History, Science and Art of the mine.
The science section explores the minerals in the canyon and how they are mined: learn about copper, silver, gold, molybdenum, and sulfuric acid. A discussion of products that come from the minerals appear in the labels including technology, art materials, and pollution. Alongside a piece of ore from the mine, art objects from the UMFA collection display some types of minerals mined: a bronze bust, a gold-leafed pot, and silver spurs.
A video produced by Rio Tinto for families about how copper is mined is shown on a flat screen TV in the gallery.
Here, visitors are able to test different colors of pencils that were created in the past from copper. The colored pencils of Paris Green, Han Purple, Egyptian Blue, Verdigris, Malachite, and Phthalo Blue are located at the table of the science section.
The art section explores how landscape artists have depicted the mine through plein air painting and drawing. A further discussion of art materials that are made from copper is demonstrated through art objects from the UMFA collection including a jar with copper glaze and an Egyptian copper pendant that has been oxidized to blue and green. In addition, art supplies made from copper are shown (including some toxic ones). A vitrine with plein air artist’s tools such as a portable watercolor set, a pencil roll, and a sketchbook is located in the gallery by the art section.
Here is a chance to try your hand at creating some art of your own! A visitor can perch on a sketching horse and draw the scene out of the window. There’s also a take-home art activity to save for later!
Explore the history of Bingham Canyon mine from it’s beginnings to current activities, including early gold panning, underground mining, into the current open pit mining activities. A photograph of the canyon before open pit mining as well as a similar current view helps visitors understand the impact the mine has had on the geography of Bingham Canyon
Artifacts displayed nearby of a mining lamp, a gold pan, an assay scale with weights, and a modern model of a mining truck show families the varied mining activities in the canyon.A picture of the slide that happened in 2013 is shown with a listening station of a recording of the slide along with the two earthquakes that happened after.
Here visitors can draw what it looks like today after viewing some contemporary artists renditions of it in the gallery. Colored pencils are located at the table of the history section.
There’s also a place to kick back and relax with some reading that, like the art in the galleries, explores the mine and related topics from several angles. There are books from the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s about the Bingham mine to show how authors and scholars examined it over the decades. In addition, there are books about the environment, history, mining, plein air painting, landscapes, and copper and minerals; all of which are themes in the interactive area.
And don’t forget to tell us what you think! A discussion board is located in the interactive gallery encouraging visitors to write on post it notes and then post them on the walls. We encourage them to tell you to tell us your thoughts about the Bingham Canyon Mine!
And, of course, you can always tell us in the comments below what you thought of the exhibition!