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Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine

Jean Arnold (American, b. 1961), Kennecott: Big Pit, 2012. Oil on canvas. ©Jean Arnold.

May 30, 2014 – A new exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) offers an unparalleled look at the world’s largest man-made excavation through the eyes of artists. Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine, on view May 30–September 28, presents more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs created by artists from around the country since the mine’s earliest days.

Gathered from regional and national institutions, collections and artists, these artworks present a dynamic range of perspectives, from awe at the grandeur of industry to concerns about land use. Creation and Erasure gives visitors a rare opportunity to see Utah’s high-profile industrial enterprise as a source of aesthetic inspiration.

Creation and Erasure is the latest in a series of UMFA exhibitions this year that explore our dramatic landscape as a source of artistic and intellectual inquiry,” says Gretchen Dietrich, UMFA’s executive director. “We’re excited to give our audiences such a fascinating and unprecedented view of this significant Utah landmark.”

Many of the images have never, or rarely, been seen publicly, says exhibition curator Donna Poulton, and together they trace the mine’s physical development and its effects on the area’s economy and culture.

“The mine, less than an hour’s drive from the UMFA, is a monumental example of human industry and of human manipulation of our landscape,” Poulton says. “Although it isn’t, and was never intended to be, Land art, it continues to attract similar discourse and artistic contemplation.”

Among the exhibition’s featured artists:

  • landscape painters Jonas Lie and H. L. A. Culmer, who painted early views of the mine at the invitation of Utah Copper Company founder Daniel C. Jackling;
  • photographers William Rittase, Andreas Feininger and Arthur Rothstein, whose 1940s-era images depict the mine’s day-to-day activities and the people who labored and lived there;
  • Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel and Michael Light, contemporary photographers who investigate the complexities of human-impacted natural landscapes;
  • Salt Lake City-based painter Jean Arnold, whose abstract interpretations of the mine explore its symbolic qualities; and
  • Center for Land Use Interpretation, a research organization whose 2013 photographs document the massive landslide that significantly impacted the mine’s operations.

The objects on view are from the UMFA’s permanent collection and on loan from Springville Museum of Art, Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, the State Fine Arts Collection/Utah Arts Council, Salt Lake City County Collection, Utah State Historical Society, Rio Tinto Kennecott’s corporate archives, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Library of Congress, among other collections, galleries and institutions.

An interactive gallery allows visitors of all ages to more deeply explore the science, history, and art of the mine through hands-on activities.

Presenting sponsor for the exhibition is Rio Tinto Kennecott. Supporting sponsors are the S. J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation, the Ray, Quinney & Nebeker Foundation, and the UMFA Friends of Utah and Western Art (FUWA). The UMFA is funded in part by Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks (ZAP).

About the mine

Steam shovels began mining copper ore from Bingham Canyon in 1906. Now, the open-pit mine is two and three-quarters of a mile wide and three-quarters of a mile deep, and is the second largest copper producer in the United States. Bingham Canyon Mine was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.


Lecture | Artists at Bingham

Wednesday, June 25, 5 pm

  • Donna Poulton, exhibition curator and Modern West Fine Arts co-owner: “H. L. A. Culmer, T. B. H. Stenhouse, and Jean Arnold”
  • Betsy Fahlman, professor of art history at Arizona State University: “The Art of Mining: Jonas Lie at Bingham Canyon”
  • James Swensen, assistant professor of art history at Brigham Young University: “The Objectivity of Political Propaganda: Andreas Feininger’s Documentation of Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine, 1942

Creation and Erasure Presentation | Matthew Coolidge, Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)

Friday, September 19, 5 pm | FREE
Matthew Coolidge, director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), will talk about the Bingham Pit and its significance in the perceptual arena of the American landscape. The presentation will be heavily illustrated with images and video. Two CLUI photographs of the mine are included in Creation and Erasure: Art of the Bingham Canyon Mine.


Third Saturday: Copper Sculptures
Saturday, June 21, 1-4 pm
Explore the exhibition and then hammer and shape your own bas-relief, or flat sculpture, from copper.

UMFA at the Salt Lake City Public Library: The Chemistry of Art
The City Library | Wednesday, July 23, 4–5 pm
Day-Riverside Branch | Wednesday, July 30, 4–5 pm
Explore and experiment with art supplies made from materials mined in Utah: carbon, calcium, iron, copper and gold.


Art is 100 Gala
Thursday, May 29, 6 pm
Join the UMFA for an elegant evening of gourmet food, lively music, and a special exhibition preview. To purchase tickets or for more information please call 801.585.0464.

Member Appreciation Day

Saturday, July 12, 11am–5pm
Member-only perks throughout the Museum, including special curator-led tours and 20% discounts at The Museum Store and The Museum Café.