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Department of Art

To Will and Inherit

BYU Faculty, Alumni and Family Featured in Springville Museum of Art Exhibition

This summer, BYU faculty, alumni and their family members explore what it means to inherit and endow at the Springville Museum of Art (SMA). “Inherit: A Visual Exploration of Land, Connection and Legacy” features the work of an international artist collective called Place|Lab. A third of the collective’s members are affiliated with BYU. Place|Lab members started exploring ideas for art about climate change after they heard about an Icelandic funeral for a glacier in 2017. Quite a few of its members attended the funeral before creating their own pieces. The environmental theme was eventually broadened to include other forms of inheritance and resulted in the current show at SMA.

A smaller version of “Inherit” started touring in 2022 and appeared at Contemporary Art Space Chester in England and in the Ballinglen Gallery, neighbor to Ballinglen Museum of Art, in Ireland before coming to Utah. The current version of the show was curated by BYU Department of Art Chair Joe Ostraff and SMA’s Head of Education and Programs Allison Pinegar.

“This exhibition brings together artwork that asks, ‘What do we inherit, and what will we pass on?’” Pinegar said in a video about the show. She said the theme was interpreted broadly, addressing everything from personality traits to property.

As gallery viewers step off the elevator on the second floor, a video plays of Pinegar talking about the show at greater length. Curator interpretation attempts to universalize the theme and models subjective interpretation, according to Mark and Claudine Bigelow, a string professor in BYU’s School of Music and her husband—artists who each have two pieces in the show. Professor Bigelow said the statement by her quilt, for example, has curator interpretation that wasn’t part of her inspiration for the piece, but she’s glad to see how others interpret her work. “Inherit” is a blue and white quilt that abstractly depicts an iceberg. The iceberg and its reflection don’t align, which the curators interpreted as the misalignment that can occur between someone’s intention in leaving an inheritance and making use of an inheritance.

Mark Bigelow also has two pieces in the show regarding the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI). The one that is new to the show is a lead glass work that depicts sea level rising in RMI. The other, “Blossoms Across the Ocean,” is a depiction of international adoption issues involving RMI.

Joe Ostraff also has two works in the show and family members contributing. His pieces depict experiences in the West and a projected iceberg melting. His wife, Melinda, and daughter, Hannah, contributed works to the show involving local botany. Melinda Ostraff is an ethnobotanist who applied her knowledge of plants to create natural dyes for her pieces. Hannah Ostraff’s “Acknowledgements” is a striking swath of cloth made with natural dyes that references both of her parents. It was her capstone project when she was an art student at BYU and her mother helped her find the plants indigenous to Sanpete County for the project. Hannah grew up in Sanpete County and married a descendant of one of its settlers. The celebration of place has more than personal significance though; it acknowledges that the area had previous inhabitants. The methods for creating and using the dye are from tribes indigenous to the area.

“I can’t change the past, but I can acknowledge indigenous people and their techniques, such as what they did with plants,” Hannah said.

Hannah Ostraff's involvement with the collective began when she was still a student at BYU. (She graduated in 2022 and plans to start an MFA in graphic design at Utah State University this fall.)

She studied with Linda Reynolds as a mentor, and the two collaborated to make “Later Is Too Late,” one of the 3D pieces in “Inherit.” “Later Is Too Late” was created in response to the glacier’s funeral and is an ice tray that depicts global warming.

Reynolds, a professor in BYU’s Design Department, also designed a newsprint exhibition publication with an essay about the show by Christopher Lynn, an associate professor in the Department of Art.

Reynold’s solo work, “Far From the Tree” is embroidery on a 100-year-old French slip. It celebrates and signifies The Paris Agreement, a legally-binding international agreement to take action to reduce climate change. The agreement took effect in late 2016, shortly before Place|Lab went to Iceland. The theme was eventually broadened to include other forms of inheritance and resulted in the current show at SMA.

Reynolds said the slip has three layers: one in which she hand-stitched text from The Paris Agreement, one with which she used a machine to imbue charts and graphs of 100 years of carbon dioxide levels and one that depicts her personal response to environmental strain during COVID-19. The needlework shows what she did to help preserve resources for everyone and respect the need to social distance; she stitched a map of her walk to the market during that time and french knots depicting tomatoes from the garden she created to supply her food. Like Hannah Osteraff’s “Acknowledgements,” ”Far From the Tree”is as much about personal effort to do good as any collective’s. “It’s just me,” Reynolds said of the slip’s personal layer. “I can do something. I can do that.”