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An Innermost Journey: The Art of Shauna Cook Clinger
October 29, 2008 - February 15, 2009
Great artistic skill, deep-rooted passion, and personal revelation fuse to create the body of art in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, An Innermost Journey, by acclaimed Utah artist Shauna Cook Clinger. On view from October 29, 2008 through February 15, 2009, the show is a survey and celebration of Clinger's career and artwork, through an evolutionary collection of the artist's large-scale paintings created over the last thirty years. Unique to Clinger's expression of self and others, the exhibition is comprised of both her "outer focus," a collection of the artist's commissioned portraits and her "inner focus," a thought-provoking exploration of symbolic self-portraits. Clinger's emotionally honest imagery and powerful rendering of the human form challenge the conventional nature of portraiture, stretching the limits in order to generate dialogue and produce an innovative exhibition of creative pieces. (right: Utah artist Shauna Cook Clinger. Photo courtesy of Utah Museum of Fine Arts)
A sixth generation Utahn, Clinger is one of the state's most prominent artists. Her works have been exhibited in public institutions throughout the United States, including the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and she has received numerous awards such as the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Outstanding Artist Award in 2002. Clinger's paintings can also be found in a variety of museum, public, corporate and private collections throughout the United States, including the New York City Public Library, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Church History and Art, State of Utah Collections, Springville Museum of Art, University of Utah, Brigham Young University-Idaho, and Utah State University. Her commissioned works include the official portraits of President Joseph Fielding Smith (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and President Chase N. Peterson (University of Utah).
At age 17 Clinger received the prestigious four-year Edwin Evans Presidential Art Scholarship to the University of Utah, where she was mentored by Alvin Gittins, a classically trained and internationally renowned English portrait artist. After graduating with honors in 1976, Clinger continued graduate work with Gittins and at Brigham Young University School of Visual Arts. After Clinger concluded her studies in 1979, her talent and reputation soon generated a five-year waiting list for her portraiture.
In the late 1980s, Clinger's work shifted when she began an inward journey to self-discovery. While still working on commissioned work, Clinger began to break away into more personal territory. The result is a moving collection of symbolic self-portraits that served as artistic confessions to her spiritual struggle, exploration, and ultimate rebirth. Many include biblical references and religious implications, existing as brutally honest portrayals of her spiritual transformation and search for deeper meaning.
Clinger's work also represents an evolution in art by women in Utah. In using her own image as metaphor, Clinger participates in the objective of many feminist artists-to reclaim the female figure as an act of self-empowerment. Clinger's self-portraits provide a corrective to the historically prevalent visual idealization and objectification of the female body by male artists throughout much of Western art history. Clinger becomes a maker of meaning rather than a projection or bearer of man's meaning.
While charting her own individual journey, Clinger also addresses the feminine in the human psyche, the female forces of the Universal present in all people, and the interconnectedness of spirit and matter in all living beings. The images in Clinger's works have the potential to speak to all viewers, regardless of age or gender. Through her honest exploration of self, Clinger invites viewers to begin their own inner journey to truth and self-realization.
"My art documents one woman's transformational terrain. My hope is that it speaks to both women and men as a reminder of our individual and joint strength and as an invitation to enter the mysterious landscape of Other and Self encounter, inquiry and discovery." - Shauna Cook Clinger
An Innermost Journey: The Art of Shauna Cook Clinger is accompanied by a full-color exhibition catalogue, published with the support of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Salt Lake City arts Council.
Shauna Cook Clinger Artist Statement
The human body is at once revelator and revelation, a mediator of worlds, a marriage of heaven and earth. As one with the natural world, it is container of the sacred -- materialized spirit and spiritualized matter. In it, soul, heaven, and earth merge and become one landscape.
For me, all of Life is the manifestation of deeper spiritual realities. My passion remains using the human form as an expression of spirit -- from an interpretation of one specific person to a symbolic metaphor or personification of broader ideas, beliefs or experiences.
Every commissioned portrait I do, or have ever done, is a ritual and offering upon the altar of individuality; they remain celebrations of body and spirit.
In addition, I have longed to explore inwardly. As a starting place, I literally looked into the mirror and deeper into the language of my own body. I also scraped the heavens. In the process, a new visual language surfaced; I gave birth to deeper parts of myself and found a broader voice.
I believe we are incarnations of the Universal and are co-participants in It's self-wake-up-call. Some of us are yanked into metamorphosis by life's circumstances. Some dare to venture on their own. I believe we all, in our own way, are on a quest to find the divine Presence in our lives.
My art chronicles one woman's transformational terrain, documenting my search for truth, wisdom, rebirth and transcendence. My hope is that it speaks to both women and men as an invitation to enter the mysterious landscape of Other, Self and Divine encounter, inquiry and discovery.
Shauna Cook Clinger Biography, by W. Cordell Clinger, from an interview given July 6, 2002
A daughter of a renowned geophysicist and a sixth generation Utahan, Shauna Cook Clinger's love of heaven and earth runs in her blood. Born in Salt Lake City, she discovered early that the landscape was alive; that the mountains next to her home were her Guardians and living near the Wasatch Fault meant the ground sometimes stirs in its sleep. From her father she learned the earth tells its own story through prehistoric land forms, rock strata and fault lines. She often visited her grandparent's large farm in Southern Utah where she loved to ride her horse wildly through the desert landscape. The wind blows continually there, and it blew indelible impressions of red rock, sun, water and farmed earth into her young psyche. These settings of majestic mountains and the expanse of untamed desert grounded her in the natural world.
Cook Clinger was an artistically gifted child. Some of her earliest memories are of rendering endless color designs on paper. Her mother was an art teacher in public schools, and because of her mother's access to thousands of art images in books and prints, Cook Clinger was exposed at an early age to the broad expanse of art history: from ancient cave paintings, to the Renaissance, to Picasso, Pollack and DeKooning. At the tender age of seven, she stood in awe and excitement in front of huge abstract expressionist and minimalist paintings at the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962. She would often go to the University of Utah Marriott Library for inspiration, pouring over stacks of art books and absorbing images like a sponge. At age seventeen, she received the four-year Edwin Evans Presidential Art Department Scholarship to the University of Utah.
In her first figure drawing class at the University of Utah, as the nude model was posed on the modeling stand, she had an epiphany -- she "fell in love" with the beauty of the human body. Surprising herself with this new love affair, she had no choice but to surrender to the human body's profound power and magnetism. She felt compelled to study the expression and execution of the human figure in earnest. As fate would have it, Cook Clinger found in University of Utah professor Alvin Gittins, a classically trained (English school of portraiture) and internationally recognized portrait and figurative artist, the strong academic training she was looking for. His nineteenth century European standards of drawing and painting were almost non-existent in an art world swept off its feet for nearly a century by the power of Modern Art.
Cook Clinger found a mentor in Alvin Gittins; he recognized her rare talent and took her under his wing. Universtiy of Utah professor Doug Snow, a nationally acclaimed abstract expressionist painter inspired by the landscape of the West, was also a major influence on her as she revisited her modern roots in her studies with him. The polarity of approaches to painting between Gittins and Snow was exhilarating for her, and she reaped the harvest directly from both. Gittins wrote: "Shauna Cook [Clinger] is an unusually gifted artist -- a 'natural'... intellectually and academically superior to her university peer group... apt, able, conscientious and strongly motivated... invariably leading the class by her example of diligence and brilliance."
After graduating with honors in 1976, Cook Clinger continued post-graduate work with Alvin Gittins and at Brigham Young University School of Visual Arts. After completing her formal studies in 1979, Clinger devoted herself to portraiture and soon found her talents in great demand with a five-year waiting list for her work.
Later, she began moving her work in additional directions, expressing her personal ideas and experiences. Cook Clinger writes: "The human body remains my passion and inspiration. The body is at once revelator and revelation, a mediator of worlds, a marriage of heaven and earth. As one with the natural world, it is container of the sacred -- materialized spirit and spiritualized matter. My work depicts the human form as an expression of spirit -- from a personal interpretation of one specific individual to a symbolic representation of broader ideas, beliefs, and experiences. Mirroring and documenting my personal journey of transformation, evolution, and renewal, my work gives voice to my vision, my prayers, and my gratitude for the gift of life. In it, person, heaven, and earth merge and become one landscape."
Utah's landscape and people remain the source of Cook Clinger's
artistic strength. Her studio is at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in
Salt Lake City and they remain a source of inspiration and continue to act
as Guardians as they did in her childhood. Utah is where her roots continue
to grow deep and where her unique and enduring vision thrives.
The exhibition An Innermost Journey: The Art of Shauna Cook Clinger is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated 52 page, full color exhibition catalogue published with the support of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Salt Lake City Arts Council. The book catalogues Clinger's vibrant paintings featured in the current Utah Museum of Fine Arts exhibition and includes insightful essays by nationally acclaimed author Terry Tempest Williams and art historian Dr. Linda Jones Gibbs. The exhibition catalogue is available in The Museum Store at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. ISBN: 978-0-615-21016-2
Please click here to view excerpts by art historian Dr. Linda Jones Gibbs from the exhibition catalogue essay titled "Shauna Cook Clinger: Passages of Spirit, Passages of Paint," (right: front cover of An Innermost Journey: The Art of Shauna Cook Clinger. Image courtesy of Utah Museum of Fine Arts)
Please click here to view images of paintings in the exhibition
Exhibition panels and wall texts
Please click here to view exhibition panels and wall texts
Please click here to view the checklist for the exhibition
Please click here to view a selected bibliography for the artist
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