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Painting on Left: Leslie Thomas, Painting on Right: Mark Knudsen

Utah Utah
Paintings by Leslie Thomas and Paintings by Mark Knudsen
Sat, Aug 18 · 4–5:30pm

Mark Knudsen
A man came into my studio on a Gallery Stroll evening and commented, “You really like to paint dirt, don’t you?” The only answer that would have been worse than “no” would have been “yes.” Nothing is simple.
The stretches of badlands that people ignore as they drive by on their way to somewhere grand are often my subject. Discovering — then pointing out through the act of painting — the beauty that lies hidden is what engages me.
When people think of Contemporary Western Art, they most often think of art that has co-opted the devices of the 20th-century avant-garde to treat Western themes. Sometimes nostalgic, sometimes ironic, much fine work is being done in that area. But that is not what I am doing. I guess I am painting dirt.
The unvarnished present seems to me engaging and beautiful enough. Western landscape painting has focused on the grand vistas, the welcoming comfort of arable land or the romance of an imagined past. And I do some of that as well. But I want to enlarge the definition of the beautiful that emerged from that aesthetic. I want to see with fresh eyes—to always be a beginner.

Leslie Thomas
Although — or maybe because — I have lived many years elsewhere, the beauty of my native state has always been my ideal. The Utah landscape — so much of it not for our use, not to our scale — has been my central experience of the beauty of this world.
I want to make paintings that show our home, our western land, not comprehended by faith or theory but odd and beautiful, delicious to the eye and to the heart.
Between us art-lovers there is a common hope — that a painting can participate in the creation of meaning, and our love of it is part of that creation.
Happy trails.

Born in Utah mid-century, Leslie Thomas returned to Salt Lake and to painting after many years as a computer engineer. Her husband, Mark Knudsen, has been her teacher and inspiration in this effort. Leslie has shown in juried, group, and one-man shows including Rose Wagner Art Center, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Patrick Moore Gallery, Bountiful-Davis Statewide Competition and BYU Museum of Art. She received an Award of Merit from the Springville Museum of Art and her work was accepted for the national “Art in the Parks” touring exhibition.
Mark and Leslie were invited artists to the Utah Arts Festival and to the State Dept's “Art in the Embassies” program in Kuwait. They were represented by Framed Image in Moab. Both are now represented by Phillips Gallery, and, wonder of wonders, they have had two shows together. Leslie is the sister of two, mother of two, grandmother of five — all exceptional.


Mark Knudsen studied Fine Art at the University of Utah, where he was given the Painting Award in 1969–70. From the early 1970s until 2004, he was a member of the Art Department at the Salt Lake Tribune, and held the position of Head of Design for Features from 1989 to 2001. During his time at the Tribune he wrote environmental, arts and humor for the paper, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for a collaboration with Tom Wharton. in 1984 along with Tim Kelly and Neil Passey, he wrote and illustrated Utah, Gateway to Nevada. He has worked in graphic design and illustration on a wide range of endeavors that including set design for Repertory Dance Theater, cartooning for the National Lampoon, wildlife illustration, story illustration and design in a variety of media, both painterly and digital.
His artwork has been exhibited in a number of one man shows at Ken Sanders Rare Books, SLC; Phillips Gallery, SLC; Johns’ Western Gallery, San Francisco; Patrick Moore Gallery, SLC and Iron Horse Gallery, Park City, UT. His work has been accepted into the CM Russell Auction, in Great Falls, MT; the Santa Fe Auction, Santa Fe, NM; “Out West, The Great American Landscape” tour of China; the Springville Spring Salon and the Bountiful-Davis Statewide Competition. Mark has permanent work in the Utah Museum of Natural History and numerous private collections. He is represented by Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Location: Main Library, Gallery at Library Square

Contact Information: 801-524-8200