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National Parks Project: Exhibition of Vessels and Other Works by Metalsmith Harlan Butt

Denali Vessel #2 by Harlan Butt

Denali Vessel #2 by Harlan Butt

National Parks Project: Works by Harlan Butt
University of North Texas on the Square
November 1 through 22, 2011

About eight years ago, University of North Texas Regents Professor Harlan Butt began a trek through some of the national parks of the United States, gathering inspiration for the intricate enamel vessels and metal works that he creates in his Denton and Colorado studios.

His pieces from the National Parks Project will be on display in a free exhibition from Nov. 1 (Tuesday) to Nov. 22 (Tuesday) at UNT on the Square, 109 N. Elm St. on Denton’s historic courthouse square. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call UNT on the Square at 940-369-8257 or visit

“My work has reflected elements from nature for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I started to specifically focus on national parks,” he said. “The parks are preserved areas in terms of minimum encroachment by people, so they are as close to the natural environment and as unaltered as possible.”

His pieces are in the collections of public museums in the U.S. and around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Art & Design in New York.

In 2010, Butt stayed at Denali National Park in Alaska as an artist-in-residence in the East Fork Cabin, also known as the Murie Cabin, where scientist Adolph Murie studied wolves and predator and prey relationships in the 1930s and 40s. Butt drew inspiration from the surroundings, keeping a journal, writing poetry, drawing, photographing — using that as source material for creating the vessels when he returned to his studio.

Two pieces from Denali National Park will be in the November exhibition. A third is in the permanent collection in the visitors center at the park, along with works from other artists-in-residence. Other pieces in the November exhibition will include those inspired by Olympic National Park in Washington, Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Arches National Park in Utah.

Each of the pieces includes a haiku poem, reflecting some of the experience of being in the park, he said.

“No photograph or any art object can be the same as being in the location, but hopefully it can recall the experience,” Butt said.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog with articles from Ana Lopez, assistant professor of metalsmithing and jewelry; Bernard Jazzar, board of directors of the Enamel Arts Foundation in Los Angeles; and Timothy D. Rains, Artist-in-Residence Program Coordinator at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

Denali Vessel #2 by Harlan Butt

Denali Vessel #2 by Harlan Butt

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