Dixie State to present ‘It’s All Relative’ fall art exhibit

"Pine Crest, Utah," by Merle Fish Olsen | Photo courtesy of Dixie State College

ST. GEORGE – The Sears Art Museum Gallery at the Dixie State College of Utah Dolores Dore’ Eccles Fine Arts Center unveils a new fall ensemble exhibit titled “It’s All Relative,” featuring the works of three talented Utah artists, related both by art and family ties. The exhibit, which is free to the public, will officially open on Friday, Aug. 31, and will run weekdays through Friday Nov. 9, 2012, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

A special artist reception, which is free and open to the public to attend, will be held on Friday evening, Aug. 31, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“It’s All Relative” showcases the unique and inspiring talents of prominent Utah artist in the late Merle Fish Olson, along with her daughter, painter Darlene Morgan, and her nephew, renowned sculptor Brian Challis.

“After the Dance,” by Darlene Morgan | Photo courtesy of Dixie State College

“Genetics and environment are important, but having a passion to drive an artistic talent is the deciding factor,” says Kathy Cieslewicz, curator of the DSC Sears Art Museum Gallery. “This family also learned to do the artwork and we are very pleased and excited to showcase their collective talents in this very special show.”

The featured artists

Olson, who passed away in 1999, lived in St. George for a number of years and enjoyed painting the red rocks of Southern Utah in all mediums. She became an expert in the process of china restoration from her studio in Salt Lake City and then in Bigfork, Mont. Olson grew up in Snowflake, Ariz., in the land of the Apache and Navajo nations, and it was in that area where she felt the urge to recreate the vibrant spirit of her surroundings through painting. That urge never left her, and through the 89 years of her life she created a mass of work in oils, watercolors, India inks, acrylics and sculpture. Best known for her beautiful landscapes, she painted with undiminished energy.

“I paint the landscape uncluttered by man – this is my specialty,” Olson once said. “I strive for the freshness, the serene and restful beauty, the grandeur of the land. I feel we can project ourselves away from the hectic pace of modern life when we view a landscape and extend our imagination into its depths.”

There was never a question about what Morgan’s life work would be. Best known for her beautiful work in India ink washes, she is one of only a handful of artists in the country to hone her skills at a high level in this unforgiving ink medium. Morgan also found success in oil and pastel painting, and she enjoyed painting animals, especially horses, which she deems as “one of God’s most beautiful creations.”

“I approach my art as a gift from God and I feel that I must develop and diligently refine and magnify that talent as long as I can paint and create,” Morgan said. “I would hope that the viewer appreciates the time and effort I put into rendering my paintings and drawings.”

“Ascension by Brian Challis | Photo courtesy of Dixie State College

From his early childhood, Challis has had a passion for creating. As a young adult, he became interested in creating wooden circular stairways, having been drawn in to the fertile three-dimensional envelope and sensuous lines of helical stairs, which presented intriguing sculptural opportunities. He created Challis Stairways and designed and built stairs for noted actors, businessmen, and a former U.S. President. His stairways grace homes and commercial buildings in several countries and he has received 12 patents for his work.

Challis’ body of sculptural work includes representational, though mostly commission work, impressionistic and abstract sculpture. In 2003, the Utah Jazz commissioned him to create 1-½ life size sculptures of NBA Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone to be placed on the south plaza of the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The John Stockton monument was unveiled on March 30, 2005, while the Karl Malone monument was unveiled on March 23, 2006.

“We live in a three dimensional world – I like it that way,” says Challis. “Admittedly, I struggle with only two. I have always been more comfortable with mallet and chisel than with paper and pencil. Truth is, I just love to make things!”

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1 Comment

  • Murat August 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    The artists appear to be proficient in their respective arts, but considering the fact that this area is largely populated by rigid followers of kooky religious dogma, the name of the event, ‘It’s All Relative’ is a blatant error in marketing.

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