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Artist Ron Larson says if people can't find the beauty in Southwestern Utah, "they're not looking hard enough."

A Utah native and St. George local who moved from Salt Lake City after it got "too crowded," Larson has been staring intently at redrock since a family camping trip decades ago. His multimedia exhibit "Vistas and Visions of the Colorado Plateau" shows people what he has been looking at all these years.

Commissioned in 2013 by the John Wesley Powell Museum in Page, Ariz., the exhibit is making its Utah debut at the Eccles Art Gallery at Salt Lake Community College's South City campus. It's on show through Aug. 4.

Larson is experienced when it comes to depicting nature on canvas. Several years ago, as the artist-in-residence at Glen Canyon National Recreation, he focused on Lake Powell and created plein air pieces from his boat, sometimes during stormy weather.

Moving to drier land, he pitched the concept for an exhibit that explored the rest of the plateau. Leaders at the museum liked the idea and commissioned a yearlong exhibit — which was extended six months when Larson continued to add new pieces.

It's no surprise that Larson produced many paintings during the past three years. The Colorado Plateau spans 240,000 square miles over the Four Corners area and encompasses more than 60 national parks — a landscape artist's playground.

"There's never an end to subject matter," Larson said.

"Vistas and Visions" features about 45 paintings — as many as could fit in the SLCC gallery — ranging from those 8-by-10-inch plein air pieces, which tend to be smaller due to wind and rain, to 5-foot-long studio pieces that depict the sweeping landscapes of Zion Canyon, Capitol Reef and Monument Valley.

The presentation includes two other elements — a slide show and a book in progress — that showcase Larson's creative processes and connect the viewers with the history and science behind the Colorado Plateau. There are photos of him painting on location, images of wildlife and historical and geological explanations, allowing viewers to understand and appreciate the story behind the region and his artistic interpretation of it.

Outside the book, Larson has his own stories to tell.

"The [painting] that means the most to me is called 'Wisdom,' " he said. It's a piece that features a quaking aspen against a bright blue sky; Larson said the tree sat at a "bend in the road" where his family camped every year.

"I noticed it was dead, and it had all these scars and stories," he said. "Anybody can gain knowledge from studying, but wisdom comes from experience — and this tree looked like it was full of wisdom. It had lived its life."

Larson is not finished persuading people to seek art in the sprawling valleys and towering peaks of Southwestern Utah. He plans to eventually raise his eyes from redrock to higher heights.

"I'd like to push myself to do the pine trees and the lakes," he said, "put my oranges and purples and reds away and get out my greens and blues." —

'Vistas and Visions of the Colorado Plateau'

Commissioned by the John Wesley Powell Museum in Page, Ariz., this solo exhibit by Utah artist Ron Larson makes it Utah debut. It showcases art from an area that contains some of the most curious and extraordinary scenery in the American Southwest.

When • On show through Aug. 4.

Where • East foyer, Salt Lake Community College South City Campus, 1575 S. State, Salt Lake City

Hours • Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–10 p.m.

Cost • Free

Details •