by: Laura Durham
As it is now, downtown SLC’s Fourth South is better known for its automobile traffic than its foot traffic; but as more local restaurants, clubs and galleries open for business along the thoroughfare, certain pockets may become just as congested with pedestrians. The busy stretch between State and Main is witnessing a change as pedestrians head to new destinations such as the Green Pig Pub, the House Gallery and the Blonde Grizzly.
Blonde Grizzly is the project of Caleb and Hillary Barney, a husband/wife duo who began by peddling their products for three months at a small kiosk in Layton. It didn’t take long for them to realize their products and ideas should be shared with an audience other than the shoppers at the Layton Hills Mall, so they moved the operation to the Historic New Grand Hotel on Fourth South.
“We wanted to bring the product we were currently selling and add local artists’ products,” says Caleb.|1| “The Gallery Stroll is such a great program in Salt Lake that we wanted for sure to be a part of that. It seemed like a no-brainer to have our space be part gallery.”
Blonde Grizzly sells tee shirts, jewelry, clutches, cards, prints, magnets, and just about anything else an artist shows them that catches their interest. The other day a guy came in with a roll of masking tape and started making small figurines, and Caleb put a few of them on display. Each Gallery Stroll, the store features new artists on their gallery walls. They do solo shows, but they also like to do group shows. The variety that comes with a group of artists fits well with the atmosphere they’ve created.
The concept of a store/gallery isn’t a new one to Salt Lake. You can visit alternative galleries like Local Colors of Utah and UTah Artist Hands and find artist products such as bags, jewelry, clothing, and accessories, in addition to art on the walls. But each business has its own unique flavor. One thing Blonde Grizzly likes to do is invite big name artists into Salt Lake to meet the local talent, and then mingle their work and products together for the clientele. They host events where locals can meet and learn about the art outside of Utah. “Alex Pardee and Dave Correia did a signing when we were at the mall kiosk, and Tara McPherson did a signing event at our downtown location in November,” explains Caleb. “We are looking into more events like this and are so excited to bring something new to Salt Lake.”
Caleb and Hillary see the local scene starting to cater towards a younger crowd. “There is so much talent in Salt Lake. I love to see these young artists making a name for themselves and getting out there and exhibiting,” says Caleb. “Salt Lake has a huge support system with their artists. The scene seems to be growing and we want to do our best to grow with it.”
Currently, Dan Christofferson’s work occupies the gallery walls in a show called The Terrible Gentle Man. The artist describes the majority of his work as “getting at the guts of a person.” Christofferson explains: “It’s an attempt at pinpointing some vague emotional state that may be sort of hard to verbalize or easily share with people. Lately I’m obsessed with what makes us who we are down to our most brutal selves.”
The artist has human behavior distilled down to three elements: 1) things that make us happy, 2) things that make us sad or upset, and 3) things we can’t control. These different elements are represented visually with corresponding colors, shapes and symbols.
Christofferson describes The Terrible Gentle Man as the personification of who we are underneath our shells when we’re filled with these three basic groups; each of us in different combinations. The image of the Russian nesting doll or “Matryoshka” is a simple but beautiful symbol to call attention to the different layers we all possess. He hopes to push the viewer to examine what makes up the layers underneath our individual “shells.”
Christofferson’s last show for FICE helped him decide what he wanted to do at Blonde Grizzly. Previously, he created a series of large cut-out paintings based on illustrations from taro/playing cards. He sold every painting and most of the tee shirts he printed for the event – which helped him realize that when his work is affordable for most people, it creates both a desire from the public for more product, and a personal desire to create not only artwork but art products as well. The Blonde Grizzly presented itself as the perfect venue for Christofferson to allow himself to expand his work beyond one particular medium and let the art or concept dictate how it needed to be presented. From a seven foot tall painting of a Russian doll to a one-inch button with a ghost doll, this show certainly has something for everyone.
Stop in Blonde Grizzly on 15 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City and check out The Terrible Gentle Man. You’ll also just want to see the space this young couple has created for Salt Lake. In the words of Dan Christofferson, “Hillary and Caleb are doing what so many people have sorta thought about but not dared to do. It’s pretty admirable.”