Artist Interview with Mark Hedengren

Mark Hedengren is the author of The Mormons and Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns. He also directed the film Sundance Skippy. Mark is the 2013 recipient of the Utah Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship. His work has been exhibited in numerous juried shows nationally and internationally. He has had solo shows in the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, St. George Museum of Art and with the Utah Arts Council. Mark received a BFA from Brigham Young University and an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art. Mark’s photographs are on display in the children’s wing of the library from now until September 18.

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When did you decide to become an artist? What struggles did you encounter along the way? I don’t know that I ever decided to be an artist. It’s kind of something that just happened. I started taking photographs and I never stopped. There have been hard things but I think there are hard things in anything you do. The hardest things are things of my own choosing, like majoring in photography at BYU. I should have majored in philosophy or English.

Tell us about a piece that is especially important to you. I took a photograph of a 14-year-old boy jumping off a tree into a pond as part of a show at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. I love that photograph and have it hanging in my living room. I like it because I’ve taken such great risks in my life. That’s what art is really all about, jumping off into an area where people rarely go and having faith that things will work out.

Which artists are you inspired by? Mary Ellen Mark and Lauren Greenfield- I’ve worked for/or with these two and they have been major role models to me, mainly in the way they work more then the actual photographs they take. A few others inspire me such as Paul Strand, Josef Koudelka, Sven Nykvist, Martin Parr, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and William Albret Allard.

Tell us a little about your process for creating a work of art. Generally I start working on a lot of different ideas. Then after a while I figure out what I want to say and photograph. But, honestly, I really don’t know. I just kind of make stuff. The work that ends up in shows or books are the projects I didn’t get bored with.

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What questions do you hope people ask themselves as they look at your art? I hope they have a larger view of life… more understanding…more compassion. It’s so easy to get stuck in our own little world. At times with my two books The Mormons and Three Mormon Towns people say “I’m a Mormon. I don’t need to know anything more about that.” Those are the people who need the work the most.

What’s your advice for how to interact with and appreciate art? I would just say look at it. It’s a fun part of life and will help you live a better life. Good stuff will come back into your life over and over again. Art is like a friend. Good art can be life long companion, a causal acquaintance or even someone you don’t like very much or agree with but are glad you know.

What advice do you have for people who are just getting started as artists? Look at art! Make art! I would also get an internship with a successful artist. Get a subscription to Art Forum if you want to be a painter or sculpture. If you want to be a photographer, get a subscription to Aperture and Contact Sheet. It’s a big art world out there with a lot of stuff that’s going on. If you are stuck in a world were Springville Museum of Art is your only idea of work being made today, then you are missing out on most of it.

Click here to see more of Mark’s work.

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