Friendship spawns newest Sears Art Gallery

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Nationally recognized artists with ties to St. George are showcasing their artwork together for the first time at Dixie State University. 

“A Walk With Good Friends” is an exhibit in the Sears Art Gallery displaying work from four famous artists. The artists are tied together with years of involvement in the art community and friendships built on a foundation of shared passion for artistry.

The featured artists are Glen Blakley, a DSU art professor; Gene Butera, a photographer and graphic designer with a full career of advertising experience; Greg Abbott, a painter who made a living decorating homes with massive murals; and John Lefkow, a major sculptor. 

Kathy Cieslewicz, the Sears Art Gallery curator, said she organized the exhibit to revolve around the theme of the artists’ friendship because with such impressive portfolios behind each of them, now’s a perfect time to finally showcase all their artwork in collaboration.  

“Art brought them all together, and that’s still what brings them together,” Cieslewicz said. “They’ve all had their art in the gallery at different times but never together. Because they have all been friends for so many years, and they’ve influenced each other’s art, it’s only right that all of their art should be shown together at one time.”

Cieslewicz said the majority of the artwork showcased in “A Walk With Good Friends” has never been exhibited before and is comprised of work that reflects each of the four artists’ personalities and specialties.

Blakley said Butera has a microscopic influence in his photography that presents simple objects beyond what they appear to be.

“(Butera) has an eye like nobody has an eye,” Blakley said. “Seeing his work is almost like looking through the Hubble telescope into something out there that you’ve never seen before, and yet it’s microscopic. It gives you a whole different world. It’s just like seeing a beautiful sunset, but it’s not a sunset. It’s like seeing a beautiful girl, but it’s not a girl.”

Abbott will be showcasing a collection of paintings. Blakley said his work is intellectual, “prolific” and the kind of first-class artistry often seen in casinos.

“To understand some of Greg’s stuff, you have to understand history, art, anthropology, psychology and all kinds of things,” Blakley said. “His work is very cerebral.”

Lefkow’s specialty lies in painting and grand sculpture crafting, for which he is nationally recognized, Blakley said. His personality shows itself in his work as being sophisticated yet streamlined and simple.

“You can’t build enormous sculpture pieces unless you’re pretty clear-minded,” Blakley said. “John has that ability, and it reflects in his work. He sees the basis of the beauty and the simple aspects of life and ties that together.” 

Blakley also said Lefkow tends to be the jokester of the group with a quick-witted mind. 

“He’s got some paintings that are very direct and to the point—kind of like his sense of humor,” he said. 

As for Blakley himself, he said he is showcasing both photography and ceramics. His work has influence from Japan, some contemporary American artists, and some funky artists from the ‘60s, who have come to be good friends of his. His photography has a strong foundation of human life, while his ceramics are “funky and functional.” Blakley’s oversized goblets, bowls and cups are meant to be showcased in a “dinner party” fashion, directly relating to the show’s theme of friendship. 

“They’re symbolic of friendship, toasting, joy, happiness, lightheartedness and beauty,” he said.

Also, two DSU alumni, Al Rounds and Les Smith, will be showcasing their work in conjunction with “A Walk With Good Friends,” in the “Homecoming” gallery in the Eccles Grand Foyer.

Rounds specializes in watercolor paint, while Smith’s specialty is photography. Rounds said he and Smith have been close friends ever since attending Dixie decades ago when they both realized each other’s passion for art. He said they’d spend weekends hiking through cold and heat to find a spectacular scene to photograph or paint.

“Forty years later, we still share the same passion for that which expresses emotion without words,” Rounds said. “We continue to search for beautiful lighting and composition to inspire the creativity within us.” 

“A Walk With Good Friends” will be on exhibit until Nov. 15. The free opening and artist reception will take place at the Sears Art Gallery Sept. 13 from 7 to 9 p.m., and each of the artists will be present to socialize with community members and students.