Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Shawn Harris: The Best We've Got
by Kasey Boone

Artists Of Utah Web Site


Four decades ago, about 40 people were looking for a place to carry out a plan they called Project 2. The group had a dream of creating a place where artists could grow and develop without having to worry about finances. Just on the edge of San Francisco's Mission District, they found what they were looking for in an abandoned factory.

Dust covered everything, windows were sealed with concrete blocks, and antiquated machinery littered the ground, but the new residents banded together to make the old cannery building something more - a home to one of the Bay Area's first art cooperatives.

Today, the factory - mostly recognized by its second name, Developing Environments - houses about 35 artists of all kinds, including clowns, tap dancers, sculpture artists, prop designers and sound artists.

At a time when tech incubators are the rage and art collectives are an endangered species, Developing Environments has managed to survive, even if the names of the artists have changed. Residents are given a room in which to live - kitchens and bathrooms are in a separate communal space - and explore their talents. They come together twice a year to make their art available to the public.

"It seems to be a dying thing in San Francisco, but I think we are a good role model for other communities," said Jennifer Ewing, a resident since 1984 who paints and sculpts. "We have the experience now."

On the top floor of the warehouse-like building, a large table with oranges and pitchers of water gives everyone a place to meet. Ewing sits with a group of about 12 other people, and as they talk they reminisce about how the co-op used to be and how far they have come.

"It's gone through a lot of changes," Ewing says.
Art everywhere

Walking through the halls now, art is everywhere. Sculptures and paintings are placed by the doors that line the hallways, each door reflecting the talent of the artist who resides within. The hallways lead to wide open living areas that can be used for larger projects or as a place to display work. But this is now - In the 1970s, it was a very different story.

Hugh Buck has lived at Developing Environments since 1974 and has seen most of the changes that have occurred.

"People were living out of parachutes and cardboard. When it rained, the whole floor flooded. Dust and gravel and sand covered everything," Buck said.

There were no walls and very little electricity and plumbing. Another problem soon developed as people began fighting over space. "While going in, everyone was idealistic," Buck said, "but it became more of a land grab."

Eventually, things were sorted out. People divided spaces based on their needs, and accommodations were made.

"We agreed to live by consensus really, really early - we were all like hippies," Buck said. "It used to be that we had our own store on the upstairs floor, and it even had a bar. People never had to leave the building - we had everything we needed. It was just a great feeling."

Although the store and bar are no longer there, the residents still abide by the same principles as when the co-op started: It's a not-for-profit organization run by consensus. All rules are adopted verbally through meetings, and everybody has the power to veto. People are constantly negotiating, and everyone knows everybody.
'Valuable experience'

"It's a valuable experience you can't get anywhere else; you can take what you learn from here and can apply it to the outside world," said Janet Silk, another resident. "You become more aware of the complex mannerisms of people. It's an incredible experience."

Karin Wikstrom also appreciates the camaraderie that comes with living around like-minded people.

"It means a lot to be around other artists," Wikstrom said. "Being an artist can mean many different things, but here you get each other. There is support for people and it brings a lot of us together."

Since opening, Developing Environments has had to make a lot of adjustments. During the first few years, they lost one floor of the building after rent became too expensive. Earthquakes and construction also caused a lot of stress, especially after the building was condemned in the early 1970s and had to be brought back up to code.

Even today, lots of projects drive up the cost of living there. But residents help each other out, and rent can be forgiven if they do some of the work themselves.

"We have this big building, but we still have to maintain it and improve it," said Gabrielle Thormann, who lives and works there.
Upgrades, remodels

Over the years, residents have had to put in sprinklers, upgrade the electrical wiring, pull out pipes, put in windows, re-do the stairwell and upgrade the building so that it stays up to par with safety requirements.

Their latest battle is with the Municipal Transportation Agency.

"They have a plan to put in two-hour meters in this area, but we live and work here. It's a threat to people's livelihood," Thormann said.

Even with the latest problems, the artists remain positive. As far as their original mission goes, they have tried to stay true to the original dream, and according to Ewing, it is a success.

"Developing Environments is an incubator where you can grow a career and explore new things. You can really create an environment for yourself and develop a body of work," Ewing said. "That's really why we chose the name Developing Environments."

Bek Phillips is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:

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2009 Utah Arts Festival Awards

The Utah Arts Festival is happy to announce its awards for "Best in Show." These artists will be invited back to the 2010 Utah Arts Festival.

* Dwight and Regina Masak, Ceramics, Pocatello, Idaho
* Cat Palmer, 2-D Mixed Media, Washington Terrace, Utah
* Julie Stutznegger, Glass, Salt Lake City, Utah
* Richard Turner/Eric Carrroll, Sculpture, Newton, Kansas

Also, the awards committee selected four other artists for Awards of Merit.

* Fred Conlon, Metalwork, Salt Lake City, Utah
* Marilyn and Chris Sunderland, 3-D Mixed Media, Riverton, Utah
* Lisa Telling-Kattenbraker, Fiber, Olympia, Washington
* King Wu, Photography, Bothell, Washington

Artist's Choice Award went to Shawn Harris, Digital.

These artists will also be invited back to next year's festival.


In This Week

Utah Arts Festival: Artist Profile, Shawn Ray Harris

by Ryan Michael Painter Posted 2009-06-22

Shawn Ray Harris has been a successful photographer for many years. His images often burst with color making even the most mundane of subjects become whimsical as they threaten to break free of their stillness and wander from the photo's frame. So, when he says that he has often approached photography as if it were a pop-up book I know exactly what he means.

Over the past six months Harris has been experimenting with creating 3D art, as in the sort where you're asked to wear the paper glasses with red and blue lenses. The idea, at least in part, comes from a Spider-Man poster that Harris remembers from his childhood.

"I wanted my photography to be as cool as that illustration," he says. "I've tried to find that poster by searching online and going to eBay. I don't know if it really existed or if it is something I remember vaguely as something else."

All I know is that when I look at his new series of prints I'm taken back to my childhood where I put on the paper glasses for the first time and was entranced by the result. Harris agrees, saying he feels exactly the same way.

I ask if his approach to the 3D art has been any different than his previous art and he replies, "I'm using the same concepts of story and subject matter. It's about things that interest me like the ways to tell a story that can bring out the playfulness and humor."

Has considered collaborating with a writer and creating a comic book using the 3D images? He replies, "It's too fun and playful to have it not go in that direction."

He reveals that he plans on pursuing the idea, but for now he's simply looking forward to the festival, albeit a bit nervous because he doesn't know how audiences will react to art that comes with paper glasses with blue and red lenses.

I can't wait to experience them in person.

Posted By Anna L. Conti, Bay Area ArtQuake Oct. 2010


Posted By Anna L. Conti, Photo by Marianna Whang Website found here.


Utah Arts Festival: Highlights of this year's artists' marketplace

By Ben Fulton 6/22/2009

Shawn Harris, photography » Salt Lake City native Shawn Harris holds tight to memory of the day 29 years ago when he viewed a "Spider Man" comic book through 3-D glasses. "I totally remember that image," Harris said recently from San Francisco, where he moved to become part of a 30-member artists' co-op in a converted warehouse.

So totally, in fact, that the now 38-year-old has worked tirelessly to recreate the effect in his own photography. Devising a method of photography using two digital cameras that shoot simultaneously, he then strips the resulting image of all colors except two: red and blue.

He hopes his series of digital and three-dimensional will appeal to kids of all ages, with or without the special glasses that will accompany his Utah Arts Festival display. "The glasses are hopefully the secondary 'wow!' factor. We'll see how it goes," he said. "If I'm not having fun with photography, I go crazy real quick. Being playful broadens my audience."

As a student at the University of Utah, Harris hopped from painting to print-making to film to, finally, photography before earning his degree. His wide rotation through subject matter has made his work richer. Through it all, however, his art-making has always centered around people. "Even when I'm out shooting landscapes, if it doesn't have someone in the image it's hard to connect to the work," he said.

His 3-D images are still a work in progress, which he started shooting only last December. "With this show, it's something like switching gears," Harris said. "I'm happy with it, and can't wait to see where it takes me."



Online article from the Artists of Utah web site. February issue 2003
Figurative work played a dominant role in the exhibition [35 under 35], though the form of the figuration varied greatly. Holly Pendergast dissects the planes of her figures with her pencil before applying sensitive swatches of color. Nathan Florence tackled a classical theme in his "Annunciation." The largest of the figure pieces, Shawn Harris's Succession of the Sacred Spirit, was both a crowd pleaser and a jury pleaser. It won the People's Choice Award as well as a Juror Cash Award. Jennifer Suflita won a cash award for her piece, "Josh," a closely cropped vertical portrait piece. Kim Riley, the third to receive a cash award, also won for a figurative work, this time a photograph.


Out of the Wall
Shawn Harris leaps into
Another dimension to
Bring his art to life.

The City Weekly

If you happened to receive the postcard
Announcing the newest exhibit at the Art Barn,
There's an entire other dimension to the work
You wouldn't even realize from the photo. Shawn
Harris' mixed-media works inhabit the world of
Three-dimensional space, and they take their
Places not just as artifacts but as objects familiar
yet unusual. They are similar enough that we rec-
ognize their iconic gestures, yet different enough
that the comments they make on the landscape
of our lives is suffused with irony. The conceptu-
al dimension of his work required the ability to
jump out from the wall at us in order to make the
statements it was struggling to make.
Harris came to mixed media from the dis-
ciplines of drawing and painting in his studies
at the University of Utah. "My
requirements included printmak-
ing, and I went from there to pho-
tography. My interest was blurring
the line between the two." It was-
n't so much that he was finding
the similarities-a kind of vanish-
ing point between the two- and
the other materials he uses in his pieces, to
bring a third, hybrid quantity into being.
This is most visible in "Unleashing the White
Collared Marionette," where paint and print
Merge in the telephone poles running into the
distance behind the executive apparently baring
his soul in the form of images from TV ads,
President George W. Bush making a speech and
other televised images. "I am really upset with the
direction this country is heading," he says of
"Marrionette." "Our culture panders to big busi-
ness, but the business is not really in control
either. His strings are being pulled, too."
What you don't realize until you are there

in the presence of this and other objects is the
way these images- built on layers of Plexiglas,
sheet metal, matte board and other materials-
assert themselves into your space. In
"American Landmarks," the only really overtly

local image in the show, neon tubing encircles
a large image of the Villa Theater marquee
with a sign reading "Wal-Mart" covering it in
this only slightly altered reality, viewing lenses
like an observation deck protruding so force-
fully that you will find yourself almost reach-
ing for a coin to insert. "Seed Seller" looks like
a cross between a ballpark hotdog vendor and
door-to-door proselytizer, his packets labeled
things like "octuplets" and "Homosexual At
Birth" underscoring the point his hat labeled
"Pre-existence" has to make about beliefs of a
certain religious denomination.
Harris describes his subject matter as coming
from a mix of watching the news and listening to
radio, though he says "it helps to look through
images I've shot, looking for something that ties
in." Images from St. Xavier Church outside
Tucson worked nicely into a commentary on the
Catholic Church in a piece "Sell Me A Papal
Indulgence For My Bread of heaven," in which
an alter boy offers a loaf of bread in
the foreground.
"The Controlled Offering of
Nature's Essence" is both the most
subtle work and the most dramatic. A
woman's body morphs into a classi-
cally-columned building around and
through which circulate images of
water. Copper tubes circumnavigate
her; inside her midsection, seemingly her soul,
rests a glass box containing a photograph of a
fountain ("a manicured, manufactured product,
showing the long, in some ways violent process it
had to go through to create something we would
perceive as beautiful").
Another remarkable thing about these
pieces is the time it took to create the eleven in
the show-from late August, about three weeks
Apiece. Since the gallery required new works
For the show, all the pieces are new except for
one. A grant from the Utah Arts Council made
these works possible, but it was the leap from
two- to three-dimensions that makes them
uniquely evocative works of art. CW



Exhibition Review:Orem
Why Do We Hang?

by Jill MacAllister/photos courtesy UAC


...The photograph of a pensive young man might also stir some thought. In Christo's Introspection , by Shawn Harris, the photo is covered by a piece of glass with a sketch of coin operated binoculars. The binoculars line up with the boy's eyes, and the whole piece is open for interpretations...

Special Feature
Is Photography a True Art Form?

a review of the UAC Annual Statewide Exhibition
by Don Thorpe

...Another mixed subject photograph was intriguing. This was the Shawn Harris craft/photo, “Christo’s Introspection.” Using a specialized photograph of a young boy, and a photograph of a commercial telescope printed on clear plastic, Shawn used a variety of technology to create an unusual view into a young boy’s personality. For me, this piece seemed almost contrived, but it was effective, and I admire the artist for his innovative approach....

Both articles can be found by following the links to the "Artists of Utah" website