by Scot Zimmerman
The sirens of spring keep calling me outside to stroll. Today we take a gallery stroll down Main Street Park City to a gallery I recently photographed, Susan Swartz Studios.
I remember first seeing a painting by Susan Swartz and the emotional reaction I had to it. The subject was aspen trees, which she commonly paints, and the experience happened more than 20 years ago. Like many Utahns, I relate feelings of home to aspens, and I experience feelings of homesickness when I go without them. Since the first piece knocked my socks off, I seek her paintings out, and even make time while in the Salt Lake air terminal to call on one of my favorites.
I couldn’t imagine a better photo assignment than to be surrounded by Susan Swartz’s paintings for several hours. The gallery is a crisp remodel designed by architect Carla LeHigh of Park City’s Elliott Work Group.
To maximize height, LeHigh lifted the ceilings to expose pipes and ductwork, but painted them, the ceiling, and the walls in the same clear white so they visually disappear. The wooden floors are neutral, the steel benches are upholstered in white, and the paint on the walls is broken up by exposed concrete for a narrow material and color palette that naturally calls attention to the art. The width of the gallery and the bench placement offer enough depth to allow for viewing large pieces as a whole.
The gallery accommodates a darkened wall space just behind the reception desk for a slideshow. Behind the utility core is a refreshment bar, which must be handy for hosting events. At the rear is a stairway where 2002 Winter Olympic posters with reproductions of Swartz’s work hang. Swartz was selected as the official Olympic environmental artist.
It’s an inviting place to explore or even sit and thumb through the many books featuring Swartz’s work, especially considering that her paintings hang in major exhibits throughout the world where such an unhurried experience wouldn’t be possible.
As I have discussed in previous blogs, important concerns of architectural photography are possible color and shape distortion. This is especially a concern with art. Different light sources make the same color look dissimilar. With bright sunlight entering through the glass at the front of the gallery and artificial lighting in the middle and rear, I took care both in photographing and in editing to ensure colors stayed stable and true. Similarly, to not distort the images in the paintings, I selected straight-on angles inside, but chose an oblique angle for the exterior to show more depth.