SUU’s Rheana Gardner-Reeves Receives Juror’s Award at Statewide Annual UT ‘21

Published: December 16, 2021 | Author: Ashley H Palmer | Read Time: 4 minutes

Bring Out the Coffins by Rheana Gardner-ReevesRheana Gardner-Reeves, SUU’s Associate Professor of Photography and Faculty Senate President, had two pieces accepted into the Statewide Annual Competition and won the Juror's Award for her piece titled Bring Out the Coffins. The Statewide Annual Exhibition is a juried exhibition that surveys the best emerging and professional artists in Utah. It is a project of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums; this year it is presented in partnership with the Salt Lake City Arts Council at Finch Lane Gallery. The themes exhibit the commonalities many people experienced during the last 18 months. Ranging from hope vs. despair, joy and gratefulness, juxtaposed against solitude and meditative practices in art-marking. The exhibition is open now through January 5, 2022.

Gardner-Reeves shares, “Working through this ‘Pandemic Age’, I began experimenting with new ways of making by pushing my photographic practices in different directions with new techniques and materials. There is this ancient connection between people and plants. During the pandemic, there was a surge in the purchasing of houseplants because they offer many social, emotional, and physical health benefits. Spending time around plants is correlated with reduced blood pressure, slowing of the heart rate, and alleviation of mental exhaustion — all of which are symptoms of anxiety. Many studies also suggest that taking care of plants can reduce feelings of loneliness and depression in people, something that is very prevalent right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. By placing COVID-19 imagery directly onto living leaves, I am juxtaposing the impact of this severe respiratory illness onto one of the primary sources of oxygen on our planet. Clean air exposure is vital for a person to maintain a robust immune system and adequate mental health.”

The State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Acquisition Committee purchased both of Gardner-Reeves’ artworks Bring Out the Coffins and The World’s Broad Field of Battle. The works will be added to the State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Collection, a premier collection of 123 years of Utah's best artists. Utah’s state-owned art collection continues to grow annually by purchases and donations and provides impressive documentation of the history of Utah art.

In explaining her process, Gardner-Reeves says, “As an artist, I understand the world through my medium and express my concerns in my art. In my work, photosynthesis is used to record appropriated images onto leaves using chlorophyll and light, the life source of plants and consequently the Earth. In Sacred texts of Judaism, leaves are considered to represent the fragility and durability of human life. For the believers of the Baha’i faith, who value the unity of people, each leaf represents a person’s relationship to the community and nature as a whole. For Christians, leaves symbolize hope amid hardships and difficulties in life. Through this alternative photographic process, the leaf’s color changes from green, representing the abundance and the flourishing of life, to a gold-brown, symbolic of death or closure. The leaves are then preserved and encapsulated in glass, like biological samples for scientific studies intended as a deliberate method of communication with future archaeologists, anthropologists, or historians. Chlorophyll printing is an alternative photographic process where photographic images are developed on natural leaves through the action of photosynthesis. This organic technique does not use chemicals since the photographs are exposed directly to the sunlight. The origin of this technique can be found in the research of Sir John Herschel in the 19th century. The process can last anywhere from a day to several weeks. Then, the photographic image is burned onto the leaf. As a Filipino Artist, this process is reminiscent of burning guava leaves, an ancient Filipino practice used to cleanse negative energies from the environment.”

SUU’s College of Performing and Visual Arts and Department of Art and Design congratulate Rheana Gardner-Reeves for her outstanding contributions to the exhibition and for winning the Juror’s Award. We are truly honored to have her as a representative of our faculty and teaching future artists.

About the College of Performing and Visual Arts

The College of Performing and Visual Arts (CPVA) at Southern Utah University comprises 26 academic programs including liberal arts (BA/BS) and professional (BFA, BM, BMEd) degrees in art, design, dance, music, and theatre. It includes graduate programs in the fields of arts administration (MFA, MA), music education (MME), and music technology (MM). More than 60 full-time faculty and staff are engaged in teaching and mentoring over 900 majors in the College. CPVA presents over 100 performances, lectures, presentations, and exhibitions each year and is affiliated with the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), Utah Shakespeare Festival, and the Center for Shakespeare Studies. Southern Utah University is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) making SUU the first public university in the state of Utah to be accredited by all four associations. For more information about the College of Performing and Visual Arts, visit

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