Gallery Stroll: The Struggle Is Real


Illustration: David Habben

We all have our struggles—to get out of bed, to eat healthfully, exercise and be an active, productive part of society. For some, this is all before 9 a.m. Artists are no different: Creation and self expression don’t just ooze out of us. It’s a discipline that has to be practiced and nourished. There’s an ideal in the creative world that says, “If you’re not creating, you’re dying.” Even the most prolific artists battle creative blocks and tackle artistic hurdles to forge new work. Why, if not for the illusive fame and money? Creating art is an exercise in connecting one’s passion and intellect, reflected in physical form. Once the creation process is complete, the battle to share the work with its intended audience begins. Think of Gallery Stroll as the battleground for art!

In Salt Lake City, we are fortunate to have many galleries and museums actively curating high-caliber shows, so much so that it’s often a battle of where to go and what to see. Luckily, the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll takes place on the third Friday of the month, reinforcing new shows and offering reprieve from a sometimes torturous workweek. Armed with a 5-o’clock cocktail, I plan my attack.

With all this reflection on personal struggles, it’s no wonder that I’m drawn to David Habben’s new show, Onward, opening April 15 at the God Hates Robots gallery. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t view Habben as a struggling artist. On the contrary, Habben makes my Top 10 list of young prolific artists in Utah: He’s worked on countless commercial campaigns, illustrated two children’s books with New York Times best-selling author Kerry Patterson, and collaborated with my favorite philanthropic sandwich shop, Even Stevens.

Habben isn’t struggling to get work, but, as he puts it, “Everyone has their battles.” Habben’s new show, Onward, captures the struggle between artistic styles—abstract versus illustrations—duking it out over white space. Typically, Habben’s work has been rooted in illustration, but, since returning to school to get his masters degree, abstract expression has been nudging its way into his work. Onward is a physical manifestation of this internal artistic battle. “I lay down the abstract first, and then, in the white space left over, [I] wedge in line drawings of knights fighting back at the abstract,” he says. The knights may be smaller, but they look ready to put up a good fight. “I’ve always been fascinated by knights and the elaborate armor they wear,” Habben says. “It’s so ornate, but typically used for totalitarian activities. I also enjoy thinking about the different armor we all wear: There is emotional, spiritual and physical armor. I gave these knights swords and shields, banners and a voice. One is shouting, ‘No, No, No!’” To find out who will win the battle of Habben’s white space, visit God Hates Robots at 314 W. Broadway Ste. #250. The show runs April 15 through May 13.

Don’t forget to stretch your understanding of art at Gallery Stroll!