Hard Times exhibit shows artistic side of recession

The best art can find meaning and beauty in even the most abject suffering. That is the motivation behind Springville Museum of Art’s new Hard Times exhibition, which held its opening reception on Wednesday, March 24 and will be running until April 25 at the museum.

“I’ve seen people come into the gallery actually crying after seeing some of these paintings,” said Traci Fieldsted, exhibit curator .

It is indeed difficult to remain unmoved by the artwork on display. Framed against dark red walls and painted mostly in a realist style, the collection takes an unblinking look at images from everyday life, from the mundane to the desperate.

The paintings were culled from an eclectic group of artists all over the United States, ranging from locals like Justin Taylor to veterans of the Civil Rights demonstrations, Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman.

Fieldsted credited the idea behind an exhibition focusing on life during a recession to sponsor Jim Dabakis.

“If we had an art show about the economy today,” Fieldsted said, “In the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, what would the artists leave for generations, what would be the artwork that would speak to these times?”

The answer to that question, it turns out, is people. Whether it’s the anonymous frazzled lady carrying a trash bag, the homeless man falling asleep in the snow, or even the artist’s mother, these subjects all speak to the concerns of the human condition, and particularly on longing and loss.

“We were thrilled at the possibility that we could have (the exhibition) here,” said Vern Swanson, director of Springville Museum of Art. “The original building is a Depression-era building, so it just seemed right.”

In the spirit of the event, a bread and soup line served free tomato pesto and chicken vegetable broth to hungry guests, while musician Beaux Underwood played banjo and harmonica, his only payment coming in the form of cash donations in his open instrument case.

These life-on-the-street touches answered the plea for human compassion contained in the bleak imagery of this artwork, contrasting it with a glimmer of hope and adding to the uplifting mood of the evening.

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