Chauncey Secrist // Nate Francis

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Chauncey Secrist, (un)Holy Relics

There is an idea in anthropology and social psychology which suggests that large religions with more punitive gods arose as communities grew beyond groups of 50-100 individuals. This fostered cooperation between people as it became impossible to know everyone in the community personally. Trust is created when a stranger can be recognized as belonging to the same religious group. However, this can have negative consequences for anyone outside of the group. Such individuals are often met with distrust and malice.

Growing up as an outsider of the dominant cultural or social group can be difficult and confusing for a child. It can be alienating and damaging when members of that dominant culture, whether out of ignorance or spite, behave in ways that exclude or endanger that child because of their outsider status. I grew up in a conservative, heavily religious neighborhood in Sandy, UT, in a family that was largely agnostic/atheist. Throughout my youth, I was excluded from the Boy Scouts, was told by other children’s parents that their kids couldn’t play with me because I was “a bad influence,” and I have experienced two separate occasions in which people intentionally tried to hit me with their cars while I was walking. I have been able to move past these experiences by viewing those involved acting out of fear or ignorance, as it is behavior that is consistent with the aforementioned anthropological ideas. What continues to bother me are comments suggesting that I cannot understand sacredness or reverence because I do not believe in a God. The idea that I cannot experience something so fundamentally human as reverence suggests that I am somehow sub-human. Because I have received this comment frequently, I feel the need to respond. My response is the (un)Holy Relics series.

Some of the objects in the (un)Holy Relics series are personally significant; some are not. Which objects are personally significant is irrelevant. What is important is that the viewer finds connections between the objects and their own sense of sacredness. I hope that this personal reflection might also allow us to examine the judgments we make about people outside of our own group, and to seek connection and understanding, rather than division.

Chauncey Secrist is a Utah-based artist, born in Salt Lake City in 1980, who works in a variety of media including oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, collage, and assemblage. His work has been exhibited in many galleries in Utah, including the Springville Museum of Fine Art, Finch Lane Gallery, Eccles Art Center, Alpine Art, and Art Access; as well as in THAT Gallery in Hong Kong, and the APW Gallery in New York. He has won awards from the Springville Museum and the Eccles Art Center, judged art competitions at the Springville Museum of Fine Art and with the city of South Jordan and has recently begun curating exhibitions locally. Chauncey lives in Salt Lake City, where he works in a medical laboratory and is studying anthropology and archaeology.

Nate Francis, In Place: a Study of Loneliness in Utah’s Landscapes

In Place explores my experiences of growing up gay in Utah, at the geographical, social, and cultural epicenter of the LDS faith.

My work is concerned with the experience of living in Salt Lake City as a gay ex-Mormon. Coming out as queer after living as a member of the Mormon faith and serving a two-year mission for the organization was a wake-up call for myself, my family, and my friends. I began my studies in art around the same time I came out and it has been a primary facet of my work. Utah’s desolate geography serves as a metaphor for my experiences. The physical emptiness and desolation of the red rock deserts and expansive salt flats are symbols of the emotional and mental isolation of queer people in Utah’s cultural landscape. Through the use of the camera, my body, the land, and the photo studio, I capture the relationship of my identity to my surroundings. I rearrange my world to make sense of it and re-capture it again and again. My fragmented figure in my photos becomes a visual reminder of the difficulty in being verbally dissected by the people around me. Internally, I carry the weight of otherness. I feel a physical burden pulling my body down, down, down to dust. I see fulfillment in a future outside of Utah and cling to it with every stroke of energy I can muster. The camera is my guardian angel and tool for self-creation, carrying me from day to day until I find that future.

Nate Francis is a photographic and sculptural artist who works with issues of identity and isolation. He often appears in his own work by documenting his body or performing for the camera. Nate grew up in Provo, Utah in an LDS family of nine children. His work explores the consequences of his upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a gay youth, the challenge of creating a home after coming out, as well as the hope of finding a new and more suitable environment in the future.


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