Oil On Canvas- artist Deborah Hake Brinkerhoff Part of Phillips Gallery Exhibit

Oil On Canvas- artist Deborah Hake Brinkerhoff Part of Phillips Gallery Exhibit

Not long ago I sat down with Salt Lake City Arts Council Director Nancy Boskoff to talk about many things, one of them being contemporary art in Salt Lake City. You may not know this about Nancy Boskoff, but 30 years ago, before she became an arts administrative fixture in Salt Lake, she was a modern dancer. She recounts a story of when she choreographed a piece in her previous life, before she moved to Utah.

I was in the box with the tech crew for one of the rehearsals and one of the guys looked at me and asked,What is this about?I told him it wasnt about anything to which he replied,It has to be about something.It turns out he and the rest of the guys on the crew made up a romantic story about the dance. It may not be what I had in mind, but I thought,OK, thats fine.If someone can experience art and take something from it that is meaningful to them, thats what is important.

Oil On Canvas- artist Deborah Hake Brinkerhoff Part of Phillips Gallery Exhibit

Oil On Canvas- artist Deborah Hake Brinkerhoff Part of Phillips Gallery Exhibit

If you happen to be an arts administrator, whether you work with dance, music or visual art, you understand much of your career deals with what is essentially this conversation over and over again. I primarily work with visual art and I think sometimes people who decide its time to take that step beyond traditional landscapes and still lifes (that are really only there to be lovely) assume that contemporary art (that isnt always pretty) is always about meaning. But sometimes art, even these days, doesnt mean anything. Shocking, I know. Ive worked at a gallery for a little over ten years. We exhibit all kinds of artwork: painting, sculpture, photography, installation. Sometimes its traditional, sometimes its contemporary, sometimes its completely conceptual, and sometimes, I simply dont get it. Yes, Im admitting it. Im an art historian, Im an art administrator, and sometimes, I just dont get it. Im saying this to officially invite you to explore your new self. Your self that doesnt need an answer for everything. Your self that doesnt need to find meaning in everything and can feel perfectly secure in that. Of course, if you want to find meaning in it, good for you. Go for it. Welcome to contemporary art.

The
cool thing about being this person is you dont have to feel awkward when you visit an art exhibit. Its not there to intimidate you. It is there to challenge you, and if you dont get it, thats OK. If its not for you, that doesnt make you an idiot. Does that mean the artwork is ridiculous? No. Maybe esoteric, but not ridiculous. But thats for each individual to decide. Try to remember: its the inexperienced art connoisseur that believes theres a right opinion when it comes to art. You dont have to have an answer and you dont have to like it. But the experienced art connoisseur is open to it. Thats all you need. Artists explore new ideas all the time. If the meaning of their work is important to them, theyll share it with you. Most of the time, there will be an artist statement or a brochure that explains their process, their mindset, and their motivation. But if there is no text to help you understand what youre looking at, youre on your own buddy. All that means is you can take whatever you want from it. Relax. There is no test afterward.

Gallery Stroll is this Friday, which means its the perfect opportunity to check out some contemporary art. Are you ready to experience some art you may not understand? Awesome. Head to Phillips Gallery and check out Deborah Hake Brinkerhoffa fantastic abstract artist here in Salt Lake City. Ill even give you a head start by giving you something to read beforehand. 15 Bytes recently published a review of her exhibit.

http://artistsofutah.org/15Bytes/index.php/deborah-hake-brinkerhoff/#comments

Check out the review and then head to Phillips Friday night. Remember, you dont need to impress your artsy friends with a well-formulated thesis on the artists intentions. You just need to have your own opinion. Art will mean different things to different people. Thats what makes it a great topic of discussion. The experience you have with it may be fleeting, or it may stay with you. There is no trick togetting it. The only trick to enjoying art is being open to it.

Laura Durham is assistant editor at 15 Bytes, Utah's Art Magazine, and is a contributor for Salt Lake magazine.