If there ever was a time to embrace art, it's now. The Finch Lane Gallery is displaying art work from three different Utah artists, kicking off this year's run of different artists chosen by the Salt Lake City Arts Council to be featured. The first three artists featured are photographer Tessa Barton and mixed media artists Naomi Marine and Helenka Bimstein. I attended the Opening Reception held the evening of Jan. 14 and here follows a few highlights of my experience.

Tessa Barton - Photography

Barton's photography focuses on the poverty she encountered in India, while at the same time exploring the passion and raw beauty of this culture. She tries to express "a depth of understanding of the circumstances many of these people live in" through her photography as she tells "the story of lives through [her] photographs."

(Pride - Photography - Tessa Barton)

One of her most powerful pieces, entitle Recluse was of an old man who was blind. "He was open-hearted and willing to let us into his life," she explains in her artist statement. "The foundation I was working with had found a way to surgically heal this man. Although it only worked for one eye, this man was able to see again after 35 years. I will never forget the joy of that day." Each of Barton's photographs opened my eyes to the hope that arises from the poverty in India.

Naomi Marine - Mixed Media

Marine's mixed media left a lasting impression on me as well. A room in the gallery was hung with her 3D art, all of it large enough for the viewer to interact with it. She notes that her exhibit "is a 'submersive' environment in which a series of fantastical organisms engage in complex, poetic patterns of growth and decay." 

The exchange of artist and viewer was almost conversational. One piece, Seed and Shadow left me with many ponderings. Her art truly created what Marine describes as a "shadowy, transitory space" where the viewer could "fluctuate between alternate states of being." The best way to understand this is to experience Marine's art for yourself.

Helenka Bimstein - Mixed Media

(Sculpture Pranksters in front of painting Snakes and Celebrants)

Bimstein's art touched my soul. Her detailed paintings each tell a story in an extremely passionate way. Her original artist statement explains that the evolution of her art is "an attempt to recover that moment of almost lost, innocent discovery." Bimstein's son and daughter were there, telling me what it's like having had a mother like Helenka (she passed September 2010). Phillip Bimstein explained that his mother's art is very musical. "She's very romantic in every piece and in her life" he explains, mentioning that his mother was still hoping to "get a man" at age 96 (since her husband had passed 18 years before).

(Philip Bimstein, center in black, addresses gallery patrons

about Helenka Bimstein's artwork.)

Phillip's sister, Barbara described the first time she came across her mother's paintings behind a furnace: "I had a fit because she wasn't still painting." The quality of her mother's work had touched her deeply. "I nurtured her to take hold of herself and her art," Barbara explained.

(Bright Orb in Vegetal World - Watercolor - Helenka Bimstein)

Truly, the most lingering emotion I had after gazing into the soul of each of the artist's masterpieces was one of awe. I will not soon forget encountering such passion and vibrancy of emotion on display throughout the gallery, nor the bittersweet pride of the children of Helenka Bimstein. To read more about Bimstein's life and artistic philosophies, click here.

Thank you to these three fine women who shared a portion of your souls, truly, you have made this world that much better of a place. The Finch Lane Gallery at 54 Finch Lane (1340 E 100 South, SLC) will feature these displays until March 4, M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 801.596.5000 or visit www.slcgov.com/arts.