Cara Despain was featured in the “Cara Despain: Artist in Residence” APEX speaker series event on Feb. 25, speaking over Zoom.
Despain is a multi-medium artist who has worked in film, videography, sculpting and photography. Her work deals with issues such as land use, climate change and land ownership.
Throughout the hour, Despain explained some of her artwork, her inspirations behind them and her career goals.
At the Southern Utah Museum of Art, Despain had an art exhibition called “From Dust” from Sep. 2020 to Feb. 2021. The exhibit brought to light what has happened to residents of the area, “downwinders,” because of environmental issues and elevated their voices.
Despain is passionate about the consequences of uranium mining that happened during the Cold War and the effects of atomic bomb testing. There were atomic bomb testing sites in Nevada, about 170 miles west of Cedar City, where animals and humans alike were affected.
Much of her art deals with critiquing the landscape and the idea of the American frontier from western films in the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as landscape photography or paintings.
There is a nostalgic attitude towards the landscape of the western frontier. With her artwork, Despain addresses the many symptoms of the large scale changes that happened in the area that affect this sense of nostalgia she felt after moving from Salt Lake City to Miami.
“Seeing The Stone” was an art exhibition that she had in Utah in 2016 where she found random rocks at various settlement sites around Utah and made replicas of them. The replicas were then installed in the exhibit, with pictures and coordinates of the original rocks.
Despain has a series of artworks in which she works with debris from wildfires. She uses the burnt remains and transfers the carbon to a canvas, making the canvas completely black.
The APEX event series happens every Thursday at Southern Utah University from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information and the schedule of events, visit their website.
Story and Photo By: Rylie Brewster