Utah artist revives forgotten Santaquin house with vibrant art

Utah artist Ryan Hymas stands outside of a Santaquin house that he's transformed into a personal art gallery. The house will be open to the public until Saturday.

Utah artist Ryan Hymas stands outside of a Santaquin house that he's transformed into a personal art gallery. The house will be open to the public until Saturday. (Jeff Hymas)

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SANTAQUIN — It was an unassuming little house, an afterthought on Santaquin's Main Street, squeezed between Dollar General and a copse of trees. The paint was peeling, the porch sagging, and the front door had been locked for a decade.

It was something of a lost cause — until Utah artist Ryan Hymas came along.

He's thrown the house's front door wide open. The public is invited to visit his kaleidoscopic in-house art gallery at 218 W. Main in Santaquin until June 15.

Hymas has given the house a second life by making it a vessel for his art, which is at once beautiful, unsettling, loud and introspective. He gathers, paints, assembles, rearranges, destroys and rebuilds.

"Nothing is completed — everything has the chance of being painted over or added to," Hymas said. "I'm not afraid to destroy something I like in an attempt to get to something great."

A survey of Hymas' work draws comparisons to Marcel Duchamp, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Rauschenberg. If you're talking labels, Hymas will say it's contemporary abstract-ish.

"But it'd be sad to categorize him," Hymas' mother Marilyn Hymas said.

Hymas believes anything has potential to be art. To create his pieces, he has gathered car seats, pianos, typewriters, umbrellas, projector screens, chains and even dead baby birds. He jots down words he likes and uses them in his art, too.

"I like the idea of stuff that has history," he said. "I try to take the energy of past things and put them into the new things."

Hymas' own history informs his art. He dealt with substance abuse issues for 16 years and has now been sober for 11. His day job is with the Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, where he hears about others struggling with substance abuse. For him, art isn't just a hobby — it's a need.

"The painting has been a tool for me … to be here now," he said. "It sort of centers me."

It's also a way for him to channel big, difficult emotions. He says he's enjoyed watching other people feel their own feelings while they view his work.

"I know what I'm thinking about a piece, but I love watching other people translate the art into their own meaning," he said.

There's a thread connecting Hymas, his art and the house. They've all been lost, then found.

Hymas wants to help other substance abusers find themselves. Some of the proceeds from the art he sells will go to people who need a hand up. He's planning to help a single mom in recovery cover her rent expenses.

"I love art … but that can't be the only thing of interest," he said. "People are more important than pieces of art."

Hymas' art is already reaching buyers from all over the world, yet he remains steadfast in his commitment to create for himself, not for profit. His approach ensures he doesn't fall into repetitive patterns.

"I try to contradict my own taste so I don't get stuck in a rut or a cycle of creation," he said.

And he welcomes people to view his art for free. Sometimes he'll even secretly hang his art in unorthodox places, like gas station bathrooms and movie theaters.

"I want people to have an experience," he said.


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Emma Everett Johnson covers Utah as a general news reporter. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University.


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