Stirring Up Controversy–Utah-style

Ever heard of John Moses Browning?  No, well, unless you’re a gun buff, you’re like me and the name is new to you.  However, it must be well known out here in the land of legal concealed weapons.  In fact, Utah state legislators have been flirting with the idea of creating a special holiday for Browning.  And since his birthday of January 23 falls near Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Sen. Mark Madsen (R) proposes doubling up Browning and King. “I see them as complementary,” Madsen says.

A little background on John Moses Browning might be helpful about now.  He was a Utahn who developed a variety of guns, including the gas-operated machine gun (no explanation was offered as to how this works…).

Madsen planned to meet with the NAACP to see if “they can take it in the spirit it’s intended.”  Utah went several years with Human Rights Day–purposely omitting King’s name.  In 2000 it was renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Apparently, Madsen grew up in Virginia  where in 1984 Jackson-Lee Day was combined with MLK, Jr. Day.  Sixteen years later, after spirited debate the days were split when it was decided that two Confederate generals should not be sharing the same day with civil rights’ most notable figure.  In an attempt to link Browning to King, Sen. Scott Jenkins (R) agrees with Madsen’s idea; guns don’t equal violence. “Guns keep peace, and King worked for peace.  I kind of like making [Browning’s] birthday a holiday.  I’m all over that.”

Madsen claims he isn’t stuck on King’s holiday, it’s just the closest holiday. “If race-baiters are out there looking for an opportunity, I’m not going to give it to them.  I’ll walk away and find another day.”

Well, he must have met with the NAACP and they nixed it. “It’s not acceptable for the name of John M. Browning to jointly share the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday,” asserted Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake City branch. “Dr. King was assassinated by a gun.  Browning was a gun manufacturer.  To me, it’s a very mean-spirited act.  I’m not sure what is behind doing all of this.”

Madsen shrugged it off: “The intent was never to go where we weren’t wanted.”  He’s now looking at other holidays (apparently the exact date no longer matters): Veterans Day (they used guns, didn’t they?); Pioneer Day (that’s July 24 and a very special day unique to Utah’s LDS pioneer history) complete with parades, rodeos, and fireworks; and Labor Day.  One recent letter to the editor in support of this proposal even suggested July 4th!  There’s an urgency to this as 2011 is the 100th anniversary of Browning’s 1911 pistol, a groundbreaking firearm used by the U.S. armed forces for decades. “There’s not a lot of people who can say they’ve made that kind of contribution.”  I guess not.  

So, what do you think?

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm  Comments (3)  

“The Chicken Chronicles”-Part III

As promised, an announcement in last week’s newspaper indicated that the Layton Council was done stewing over this debate and was ready to vote on whether or not to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to allow backyard chickens.  If you recall, currently chickens are only allowed in agricultural and residential suburban zones.  The changes would now allow chickens in more traditional residential zones, closer to the city. Those against this change were fearful that more backyard poultry would open the coop door for pigeons and bees.  Seems to me, blaming pigeons and bees for potential problems is a new dust-up in the argument. Councilmen like Scott Freitag, with an eye on re-election alienation, says, “I’m not comfortable saying no to chickens.” Obviously, this is a compelling issue.

Fast forward two days.  Drum roll!  And the results of the vote are: the chickens have it by just a tail feather.  By a slim 3-2 vote, it’s okay to raise chickens in backyards that are 14,000 square feet or larger.  This will prevent coops from being on top of the next-door neighbor.  Originally, Frietag and another councilman were in support of a minimum 6,000 square-foot yard (quick math tells me that’s a 60 by 100 foot lot and rather small).  In addition, chicken “farmers” will need an annual $30.00 backyard chicken permit.  (This now raises the cost per egg!)  Revenues will be used to underwrite any animal-related enforcement costs (those midnight hen parties can get out of hand!).  The other restriction is no slaughtering of fowl in public.  (Well, that’s a relief!)

Joyce Brown, another council member, was against this change from the start and was quoted as stating the obvious: “Whether chickens are a small animal or not, they are still a farm animal.” So there!

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm  Comments (3)  


AVALANCHE!  The very word strikes fear, especially in winter, in snowy mountains.  From the French for: to descend, it certainly lives up to its name.

With all the snow you folks have been getting back east this winter and with us getting relatively none here in the valley (it’s been pretty balmy and today it’s raining), at least you don’t have to worry about avalanche danger on top of the heavy snowfall. Even though we haven’t seen much of the white stuff on the ground where I live, the mountains and benches are covered. We’re still only at about 68% of where we should be with total inches and there is concern for the summer with drought conditions, but still there are avalanche warnings for the benches and upper elevations.  The benches are the lower slopes of the mountains where houses are built.

The ski resorts like: Alta, Solitude, Park City all groom their trails and try to keep people on the posted “safe” trails.  The resorts even fire avalanche cannons so the sound waves will dislodge any loose snow and create a controlled, off-hours avalanche.  But people are people, and despite warnings, some numbskulls on skis or snow mobiles will still head for the unpatroled areas in the high country–I guess for the thrill of carving new snow or bragging rights–and risk get swept away in an avalanche.

Because the weather has been so variable this year, even in the higher elevations, the old snow has melted a bit and refrozen. Then new snow falls on top of the ice and really has nothing to grip onto below.  The “rotten” snow, as it’s called provides no friction or grab for the new snow and it doesn’t take much to jar it loose and, voila, an avalanche.

This year, so far in the shared high country of Utah and Colorado, there have been over 30 folks injured or killed due to being caught in 40 or more known avalanches, and most of those incidents involving people were in areas that were off-limits. Often there are serious injuries, like broken limbs, due to the snow wave, which often travels at high speeds–50 miles per hour or more–and is comprised of tons of snow, and carries the victim into a tree or rock, which doesn’t yield.  Skiers, snow boarders, and those riding snow mobiles are cautioned to carry a beacon with them that emits light and sound, plus a flag.  This might help rescuers.  You have about 20 minutes to get out of a snow pack before you suffocate.

Even if we were getting a lot of snow where I live, we are so far from the Wasatch Front that we would never see an avalanche, but the thought is still sobering.  The winter isn’t over yet, so the ski patrols and avalanche watch crews are expecting more accidents and fatalities.  It’s a bit weird to see color-coded avalanche watch reports on the front page of the paper and the evening TV weather reports as a matter of business. Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore!

Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cub Reporter Getting Her Footing–Second Effort

As a follow-up to the first newspaper article for the Crowley-Wilkinson Fine Art Gallery, I interviewed the two featured artists for this month’s first Friday gallery stroll and month-long exhibit.   This, too, will appear in their newsletter and the local Ogden Valley News.  It was fun speaking with the artisis, both painters, and I certainly learned a lot about different artists’ creative processes. 

Since this is my birthday weekend, I am again “cheating” and sharing what I wrote for the article here in my blog.  I know several of my readers are avid art fans, so this is especially for them.  I encourage you to Google the artists’ names and see what their works are like, as my interview questions and their answers will make more sense.  Next month, I’ll be interviewing two artists who work in glass.  I’ll return to more mundane topics next posting sometime next week.

“Spirit Embodied” Group Show at the

Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery

 by Susan H. Warren

Anything as elusive and ephemeral as “spirit” surely must be impossible to capture; it’s like putting lightning in a bottle—impossible!  At least that’s what I would have told you if asked at the start of February.  The current exhibit of various artists certainly changed my outlook. 

The gallery card for this show asserts: “Spirit, embodied in the complexity of the natural world, is captured in a single extraordinary detail.  Art amplifies this essence.”  One key word here is “extraordinary.”  Whether the art is a painting or pastel, sculpture or glass casting, jewelry or fabric, extraordinary is the perfect word.  The spirit of the artist and the subject matter is clearly palpable and invites the art lover to summon his or her spirit and commune with the art—some familiar and most new—in the gallery space.

In anticipation of the First Friday Gallery Stroll in Ogden on February 5 and the new exhibit at the Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery, I met with one of the two featured artists for February, figural artist Glen Hawkins at the gallery to discuss his work and discover what makes an artist tick.  As we walked around the works of art that supported the gallery’s February/March theme: “Spirit Embodied,” Hawkins graciously shared his thoughts and artistic philosophy.

Raised in Bountiful, UT, Hawkins stated that his high school teacher was instrumental in his development as an artist.  Originally drawn to illustration art, such as for record album covers, the direction of Hawkins’ career was changed by a simple introduction to the work of Alvin Gittins, a professor of art at the University of Utah prior to his death in 1981, and internationally recognized as one of the finest figural painters. The arc of Hawkins’ life was now toward emotive painting rather than illustration.

Hawkins works out of his own nearby studio and between painting and other outside work commitments, finds time to teach the art of painting, undertake commissions, as well as being an invited juror for local art shows.  Feeling there is always more to learn and practice, like any good professional artist, Hawkins still participates in art workshops and life drawing classes.

Admitting being “addicted to art,” he also strives to keep a looseness and mystery in his work that focuses on the human figure, mostly women–nudes, but extends to landscapes and still lifes.  Hawkins keeps his paintings on the smaller, more intimate size; one reason being so that he can finish an oil on linen canvas in about three hours.  He feels strongly about this as he describes his a la prima method as “sculpting the paint” while it is workable.  He hires models and only works from photographs when a model’s pose might be difficult to comfortably maintain for several hours.  He prefers working from life as it offers a “real foundation” for his art.

When I asked him who he thought his audience was, his answer somewhat surprised me; he feels 80% of purchases are by women.

His final thoughts ranged from being thankful that the world is peopled with artists who had and have different talents and approaches, otherwise all art would be pretty identical, to agreeing with me that art was a stepping off point for stimulation and emotional response.  The best art is inexhaustible.  Art must speak to you and different people hear different things.  Passion and the poetry of art are just as necessary as concept and execution in Glen Hawkins’ universe.

Stephen Teuscher, the other featured artist in February at the Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Arts Gallery carved out some time at the start of the Friday night gallery stroll to chat with me about the representations of his work now hanging on the gallery walls.  Teuscher’s art and technique reside on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Hawkins’ as his emphasis is on being ultra-dimensional.

His first memory of creating art was at the tender age of three, when he drew what he called “an anatomically correct Adam and Eve,” much to his mother’s shock. Later, Teuscher started his art training by attending his mother’s art classes with her.  In high school he was painting ultra realism and eventually landed in the art school at Utah State University.  In his artistic journey, Prof. Gail Lindstrom became a mentor and working in watercolors along with Asian art influences propelled him to experiment with impressionism and beyond into surrealism and even cubism, all to produce a “cumulative effect” and take him to where his emphasis seems to be in this decade: quasi-realism.

Teuscher teaches on a limited basis, explaining that one way to get past fear of a blank canvas is to start simply: use pen and ink and one’s less dominant hand.  A starting artist will thereby be freed from striving for “perfection” if the dominant hand is used.

As Teuscher shared with me how he starts a canvas—actually multiple canvases—I thought that if more people knew how artists work and where they get their energy and inspiration, attending a gallery stroll would be infinitely more rewarding.  Teuscher will often start up to 10-15 canvases at once, laying down a first light pigment wash.  He then surveys the canvases to see “what calls to him from the wash.”  Similar to a sculptor releasing a form from a block of marble, Teuscher works to let the story out of the canvas.  He recounted honestly how this is often not easy and can be physically and emotionally challenging, akin to wrestling with the canvas to release “imbedded memories” and faces from his life, both current and past.  Often a deep spirituality and meditation with the paintings is crucial to finishing a work that he feels is more interpretative rather than representational.

When asked who his audience was, as his works are challenging and demand much from the gallery visitor, he felt it was pretty well divided between men and women and that the outlet for his art experiences its vicissitudes.

Even though his paintings are abstract, time and patience reveal details of recognizable objects, faces, animal forms and other identifiable images, which seem to magically appear, rewarding the viewer.

He, too, was thankful that for as many tastes as there are in art, there are artists and that as long as the art lover can feel the energy put into creating a piece and emanating from it, the artist will have achieved his goal.

During the gallery stroll on First Friday, February 5, 2010 both featured artists, Glen Hawkins and Stephen Teuscher, as well as other represented artists were on hand to discuss their art.  As an added treat, Glen Hawkins demonstrated his technique by painting a small oil from start to finish to the delight of all in attendance.  Art patrons could see for themselves the magic of artistic creation. 

The exhibit continues through early March when the next First Friday Gallery Stroll occurs on March 5, 2010 with an extension of the current exhibit, but with two other featured artists who both work in glass. Partners Tami Crowley and Kris Wilkerson invite you to stop by and get excited about the many facets of art right here in Ogden.  The Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery is located at 115 Historic 25th St., Ogden, UT and winter hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11:00am-6:00pm or by appointment.  Please call 801/339-0606 for additional information or visit them at

(Susan H. Warren holds a M.A. degree in English from Villanova University.  Prior to retiring to Utah in 2009 from the Philadelphia area, she was on the English faculty of Widener University, Chester, PA.  She is an avid collector of art.)

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cub Reporter for Art Gallery–First Effort

Back in December, Kris and Tami, the partners who own my favorite art hang-out in Ogden, Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery, approached me to write an article for the local Ogden Valley News (sort of a Town Talk type of paper) and for their newsletter.  I attended the opening as I usually do on first Fridays and took notes.  The resulting news item seemed to please them and they asked me to periodically write some more submissions for the paper and their newsletter.  So, if you indulge me, I’m cutting corners for this blog posting and sharing what I wrote back in December.  As for this month, yesterday I interviewed–a first for me–a featured artist from this show, Glen Hawkins, and will interview another artist tonight during the gallery stroll. Then my deadline is Monday to e-mail my write-up so Kris can get it to the newspaper by its publishing deadline.  At a later date, I’ll share that result here, too.

So attached below is my very first effort as a cub reporter for the Ogden Art Beat:


Texture of Art Experience Currently at Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery


The Germans have a word for it, Gemütlichkeit: the feeling of well being, comfort, happiness, camaraderie, and pleasure (the addition of a crackling fire on a hearth would create nirvana!).  Well, the Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery at 115 Historic 25th Street may not have a fireplace, but it certainly qualified last Friday on the First Friday Gallery Stroll as the center of Gemütlichkeit in Ogden.

Crowley Wilkerson’s current holiday show, on display until January 30th, appeals to the sensory side of art lovers.   Drawing from the Crowley-Wilkerson stable of artists, diverse artisans are represented, all to present a wonderful holiday offering for art connoisseurs and those looking for the unique gift to give at the holidays.

The show is titled as the Texture of Art, and true to the name, the artists represented in this show have used many media to create stunning works of art: oil, acrylic, watercolor, glass, silver and gems, photography, wood, bone, wax, silk, wool, bronze, and even chocolate!  No artists’ reception would be complete without taste-tempting goodies and from wine to sparkling apple and pear juices to tabouli, bruschetta, and festive cookies, strollers were well-fed; even the treats were an art-form.

Warm, exposed brick walls on the upper floors are a fitting backdrop for the art of Gregg Batt, Alison Benjamin, Doug Braithwaite, Robert Call, Brandon Cook, Travis Crowther, Mike Gardner, Lynn Federspiel-Young, Aaron Fritz, Bonnie Frucci, Jerry Hancock, Steven Hedgepeth, Jeff Hepworth, David  Jackson, Shanna Kunz, Dave Maestas, Garry Mealor, Desmond O’Hagan, Hadley Rampton, Steve Songer, Stephen Teuscher, Eric  Zschiesche as well as potter Brittany Boccia, glass masters Dan Cummings, Kerry Transtrum and Stacy Levinson.  Tempting jewelry by silversmith Art  Anderson, is artfully displayed.  Photographer Neil Bookman and bronze sculptor David Jackson have work available as well as unique hand painted silk scarves by Roberta Glidden , and hand-dyed wool hooked tapestries by local textile artist Arline Keeling.  Two antique Japanese kimonos were hung gracefully over handcrafted kimono racks.  Jennifer Burns, local author and tv show host prepared delicious entrées from her cookbook and was on hand to personally sign copies of her book, Cooking Delight – Be an Artist in Your Kitchen. Chocolates by Norman Love Confections that could be described as trompe l’oeil, looked so perfect and glass-like that my eye was fooled until I tasted one.  During the final hour of the gallery stroll, invited musician, Loribella, entertained those in the gallery with hypnotic music on harmonic glass bowls, that when rubbed around the rims with a wooden baton, gave off a shimmery vibration of tones.  The art was truly beyond the visual and those who strolled through during the evening were treated to sensory experiences that were a pleasurable payoff for stepping out on a cold winter’s evening.

The current exhibit runs until the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to stop in before, during and after the holidays.  The next Historic 25th St. gallery stroll will be on January 8th, 2010 and new pieces will be rotated into the current exhibit.  Partners Tami Crowley and Kris Wilkerson invite you to stop by and get excited about the many facets of art right here in Ogden.  The Crowley-Wilkerson Fine Art Gallery is located at 115 Historic 25th St., Ogden UT and is open during the holidays Monday-Thursday from 11:00am-6:00pm with extended hours on Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday from 12:00am-5:00pm.  Please call 801/339-0606 for additional information or visit them at

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Sunset Sam’s Prediction: A Quick Update

For those of you following the groundhog-guinea pig rivalry, the reports are in.  You are all probably aware that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so 6 more weeks of winter lie ahead.  Well, Sunset Sam–actually Samantha–cast a long, hard stare into the setting sun, so the 2 rodents concur: more winter.  (Note: Long Island, NY groundhog, Long Island Chuck, DIDN’T see his shadow, so there is still some confusion as to whether it will be more winter or an early spring.)

According to the report in the paper, about 100 hardy souls gathered to celebrate in Sunset, UT as Mayor Bangerter held the white and nutmeg-colored guinea pig outside in the below-freezing evening air.  

The chili cook-off had 15 entries with one chef revealing the secret of his chili was 4 handsful of hot chipolte pepper finely ground up.  Now, that’s hot chili!  The pinata looked like a football and was skewered onto a pole.  The kids could kick it instead of the usual routine of being blindfolded and trying to swing a bat at it.  There was no mention of the results of the Pin the Coal on the Snowman contest, so I can’t share how that excitement turned out.

It seems, Phil only gets it right about 34% of the time, and I still don’t have any stats on Sunset Sam (or Samantha), so I guess we’ll all just have to ride February, March and April out to see what Mother Nature actually delivers.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment