Arts News

The PDA Show Exhibition(ist): Local Artists Respond to ‘The Kiss Heard ’Round the World’

Among the 50 artists from across the nation participating in the PDA Show, an exhibit inspired by Laura Sharp Wilson — a Salt Lake transplant — are a few local artists including Anthony Ithurralde, Jen Singleton, Denise Strzempek and Brian Taylor. Inspiration for the exhibit came to Wilson after the brutal detainment of Matt Aune and Derek Jones on LDS property in downtown Salt Lake City last summer for showing affection for one another — they were confronted by security gaurds, thrown to the ground and handcuffed.


The exhibit opened Feb. 19 as part of the city’s Gallery Stroll, and will be on display thorugh March 14.

“When I heard on the radio that a same-sex couple was detained on LDS property for showing affection I was shocked; it seemed odd to me that that could happen in the year 2009,” said Wilson. “I started to ponder how interesting the whole idea of public display of affection is. I thought, ‘wow, what a good idea for an art exhibition,’ inviting artists to respond to what I think was a pretty outrageous occurrence … reprimanding two people for revealing their human bond and, more generally, the whole idea of PDA.”

According to Wilson it was very easy to find other artists to take part in the show. Last December she reached out to college peers, artists she’s met over the years, gallery owners and art teachers, and suddenly she had a significant number of artists on board. On the other hand though, Wilson admitted that finding a venue was a bit more difficult. “It was pretty hard to line up a gallery since they book schedules well in advance,” Wilson said. “I also didn’t know many people here. I contacted Davina Pallone at Kayo Gallery and she thought up the idea of asking Joe Evans at Nobrow [Coffee & Tea], which is a great exhibition space. I also thought several venues would lend itself to the notion of “we are everywhere.”

And so Marmalade Cafe, Ken Sanders Rare Books and Alchemy Coffee offered their space as well. “I really love seeing art in non-gallery spaces, I think you reach a wider audience that way,” Wilson added.

Anthony Ithurralde, who grew up in Utah and currently splits his time between Salt Lake City and Ely, Nev., had been working on a series of paintings of Hotel Utah’s Roof Top Garden Club when he was contacted about the PDA Show. “I was working on the Roof Top series as a historical piece,” said Ithurralde. “But then I decided to add same-sex couples after hearing about the kiss on the square.”

Three in the series are on display at Nobrow Coffee & Tea, 315 E. 300 South, and one at Alchemy Coffee, 390 E. 1700 South. The fifth is currently unfinished.

Ithurralde works in illustration and acrylics, and is inspired by old travel posters of the ’20s and ’30s. This summer his mural, on the exterior of an old bank, depicting the mining history of Ely will be unveiled.

Jen Singleton believes the PDA Show is a good outlet to “show that queer love isn’t shocking … it’s just great to be gay.” Akin to that statement, Singleton created a “lighthearted and fun” mixed-media piece for the exhibit. “I wanted to illustrate how I mark the days and months with expressions of love and joy just like straight people,” said Singleton. Singleton’s piece is on display at Alchemy Coffee.

Also, Singleton has a “narrative” exhibition scheduled June 10 through July 22 at the Sprague Library, 2131 S. 1100 East. “Unmistakably, the effort of living in Salt Lake’s unique and complex culture has had an impact upon my life,” Singleton said. “As an artist, a stay-at-home parent and as a lesbian, I find that the circumstances of my life are similar to the people around me, and yet, my life runs a parallel path that never seems to fully connect with the culture here. This distinct experience has drawn me toward portraiture and figure painting as a kind of visual documentation [for the upcoming exhibit].”

Denise Strzempek felt that “a responsive art show would be a great way for the community to continue a reaction on the capacity of influence that organized religion has on our society and it’s behavior.” When she was contacted about the PDA Show, Strzempke had been “working on a series that responded to the shame attached to certain behaviors.” “I reworked this idea, and the pieces for the show,” said Strzempke. “I have three mixed-media serigraphs on paper that depict some dogs engaging in controversial acts. Their identity has been concealed for their own protection.” The series is on display at Nobrow Coffee & Tea.

Strzempek has a background in printmaking, but currently works with mixed media. “I work on cotton paper with ink, watercolor, pigment, pencil & paint,” she said. “I love to incorporate patterns and tiny details into my work, paying careful attention to each mark and being sure that each area of the paper is regarded.”

To find out more about Strzempke visit

Brian Taylor, after watching a segment on the Colbert Report about the incident on Temple Square, “wanted to contribute a piece that would make people think, ‘Damn, that guy is pissed off and hates this type of bullshit.’”

“I’ve attacked religion before,” Taylor said. “I have a woodcut of a Catholic Bishop with a banner that reads ‘touch hearts not children,’ and that was created in the wake of the Boston and Philadelphia pedophile priest scandals a few years back. So for this new attack I took one of their [the LDS Church] strongest images, Moroni with his horn, and placed another man on his knees about to get into an ‘unspeakable’ act with the angel. Behind the figures is the number eight, which eludes to the actions taken by the LDS church to fund Proposition 8. Instead of using the [acronym] PDA as it is typically, I screenprinted the words Promoting Discriminator Agendas in purple and gold to the side of the Moroni figure.”

‘Promoting Discriminator Agendas’ is on display at Nobrow Coffee & Tea.

Taylor’s inspiration comes from Northern Renaissance woodcuts, Catholic imagery, Mexican folk art and anything he sees just walking around or flipping through books. “What really makes me do what I do is that I’m trying to get my views of the world out there and just trying to be heard,” he said. “I believe it is wrong to hate and discriminate any group for any reason; everyone can be equally annoying, so hate people on an individual basis.”

Taylor is a member of Copper Palate Press, a printmaking studio and gallery at 160 E. 200 South. “We have shows every third Friday, and feature live printing events,” Taylor said. “We have themed printing parties, where the audience can bring in an item of clothing, pick from a group of images and have them printed there. January was underwear, Feburary was T-shirts, this month is 24-oz. beer coozies.”

Also, Taylor will have a piece on display for The Smog Show exhibit, March 19, at the Bayleaf Cafe, 159 S. Main St., showcasing local artists’ responses to the dirty air we breath in the Salt Lake Valley.

For more information about the exhibit visit

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