Rheana Gardner-Reeves wins Juror’s Award at Statewide Annual photography competition

After they accepted two of her pieces for consideration, the Statewide Annual photography competition presented their Juror’s Award to Southern Utah University Associate Professor of Photography Rheana Gardner-Reeves’ piece, “Bring Out the Coffins.”

The Statewide Annual is a juried exhibit that highlights the best artists in Utah as a project of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. This year’s partner was the Salt Lake City Arts Council at Finch Lane Gallery.

According to the Statewide Annual website, this photography, video and digital exhibition holds a scope of themes that exhibits the commonalities many people experienced in the last 18 months.

“Working through this pandemic age, I began experimenting by pushing my photographic practices with new techniques and materials,” said Gardner-Reeves.

Gardner-Reeves took advantage of photosynthesis to print her photography onto leaves in a process called chlorophyll printing.

“The organic technique does not use chemicals since the photographs are exposed to direct sunlight,” continued Gardner-Reeves. “By placing COVID-19 imagery onto living leaves, I am juxtaposing the impact of this severe respiratory illness onto one of the primary sources of oxygen on our planet.”

Gardner-Reeves chose leaves because they represent precious values in different cultures and religions. In sacred Jewish texts, leaves represent the fragility and durability of human life; for Christians, leaves symbolize hope amid life difficulties. 

“I understand the world through my medium and express my concerns in my art,” said Gardner-Reeves. “There is this ancient connection between people and plants, and as a Filipino artist, this photographic process is reminiscent of burning guava leaves, an ancient Filipino practice used to cleanse negative energies from the environment.”

During the pandemic, many people found solace in houseplants. Gardner-Reeves said several studies suggest taking care of plants can reduce feelings of loneliness and depression as well as reap social, emotional and physical health benefits.

The State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Acquisition Committee purchased both of Gardner-Reeves’ pieces which they will keep in their premier collection alongside a curation that documents Utah art history over the last 123 years.

The exhibit displaying Gardner-Reeves’ pieces is open through Jan. 5 at the Finch Lane Gallery in Salt Lake City. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Face masks are required.

For more information about Gardner-Reeves, visit the SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts website.

Story By: Addie Horsley
Photo Courtesy of Rheana Gardner-Reeves