Westminster's resident art historian: Hikmet Loe

Hikmet Loe is Westminster’s resident art historian and has been fascinated with art since she was a child. She’s also one of the country’s leading experts on the artist Robert Smithson and his work, Spiral Jetty, located in the Great Salt Lake. Photos courtesy Hikmet Loe

Hikmet Loe is Westminster’s resident art historian and has been fascinated with art since she was a child. She’s also one of the country’s leading experts on the artist Robert Smithson and his work, Spiral Jetty, located in the Great Salt Lake. Photos courtesy Hikmet Loe

With dimmed lights and tightly closed blinds, Hikmet Loe brings her classes to life with vivid images of art throughout history and intense discussion of not only the technique and subject matter of art but also its cultural impact.

The rest of the world fades away and all that exists in the 110 minutes of her class is art and what it communicates to times past and present.

Loe, Westminster’s coordinator of adjunct faculty and art history adjunct professor, has become an art history fixture and arts advocate at the college after nearly a decade of teaching.

“I like her more holistic approach,” said Ashleigh Albrechtsen, junior arts administration major who’s taken two of Loe’s courses. “Her classes aren’t about art memorization. We really delve into themes of the artworks and different ways we can look at art and talk about it.”

Though Loe is now Westminster’s resident art historian and beloved by her students, it took a lot of convincing to get her to accept an adjunct teaching position. New to teaching, she said she was hesitant to embark on such a big new venture. But in 2006, she finally became part of the Westminster community.

Hikmet is an excellent art historian who is as smart as she is friendly and approachable. She has overseen a remarkable array of projects in her career and is one of the country’s leading experts on land and environmental art.
— Scotti Hill, freelance art critic and curator

“Within two weeks, I realized that teaching was what I was supposed to be doing,” Loe said.

Loe’s colleagues agree, noting the impact of her enthusiasm and innovation.

“[Loe] is an exemplary instructor,” said Scotti Hill, a former art history adjunct at Westminster and a colleague of Loe’s for six years. “Many students throughout the years credit her with their love of art history. Her enthusiasm for the subject is apparent in everything she does—it’s infectious.”

Loe’s fascination with art, and journey to the art historian she is today, began when she was a kindergartener in Turkey.

“I was, and still am, fascinated by biomorphic shapes,” Loe said. “I used to draw these shapes that somebody with any knowledge of art history would know looked like little biomorphic shapes drawn by Joan Miro—the brilliant Spanish painter.”

When she moved back to the United States, she found that her passion for art was as great as ever. She loved everything about it—the act of creating, the study of it and even the materiality of it.

Hikmet Loe is inspired by the bizarre nature of the Great Salt Lake. She enjoys taking abstracted photos that examine the materiality and otherworldliness of the lake.

Hikmet Loe is inspired by the bizarre nature of the Great Salt Lake. She enjoys taking abstracted photos that examine the materiality and otherworldliness of the lake.

“I could smell the finger paints, and I could smell the Elmer’s glue,” Loe said. “When I was in college, studying art history and taking a lot of studio classes, I could never get over how pleasing the smell of linseed oil is. I still love that stuff.”  

Her passion for art is apparent and impacts her students deeply.

“As a person, she has this great passion for art and for learning,” said Albrechtsen, who credits Loe’s love for art as motivation for her own dreams of curating. “That really translates. She gets me excited—and all her students excited—about discussing art and learning about it.”

Three artists have greatly influenced Loe and have come to represent her journey as an art historian.

The first two, Wassily Kandinsky and Mark Rothko, inspired her to delve deeper into 20th Century Modernism. But it was the third artist, Robert Smithson, who truly inspires her work today.

An East Coast native, Loe said she initially had a love-hate relationship with the Utah desert, but eventually found herself drawn to its magic and vastness.

An East Coast native, Loe said she initially had a love-hate relationship with the Utah desert, but eventually found herself drawn to its magic and vastness.

“Smithson’s ability to render massive earthworks and seemingly simple designs have made such an impact internationally on the art world,” Loe said. “He was on the forefront of ideas of land reclamation. Looking at these three artists I’ve been impacted by, the one that has resonated the most is the one who was calling for societal change.”

Loe has been researching and studying Smithson and his work Spiral Jetty since 1995 and has published numerous articles on him, his work and the Great Salt Lake.

She’s currently finishing a book about Spiral Jetty, which she is excited to one day see in print. Loe is also working on obtaining grant money for her next work, focused on the art and aesthetics of the Great Salt Lake.

She views writing about art as an art in and of itself.

“I really enjoy figuring out how to put together sentences that feel three-dimensionally whole,” Loe said. “I want the sentences I write to feel like they have their own life.”

She also stretches her art history muscles through curation. Last year, she curated a show for the Granary Art Center in Ephraim, Utah, that featured 20 artists who deal with materiality of the salt from Great Salt Lake.

“Hikmet is an excellent art historian who is as smart as she is friendly and approachable,” said Scotti Hill, a freelance art critic and curator who’s collaborated with Loe in the past. “She has overseen a remarkable array of projects in her career and is one of the country’s leading experts on land and environmental art.”

Loe has never taken a photography class, but said she gets immense inspiration from photographing landscapes. She’s promised herself she’ll one day take a photography class.

Loe has never taken a photography class, but said she gets immense inspiration from photographing landscapes. She’s promised herself she’ll one day take a photography class.

Loe’s own artistic work consists largely of photography, some of which was featured in an exhibit at the City Library earlier this year.

“I love photographing the lake and the landscape,” Loe said. “I get a huge amount of spiritual support and inspiration from looking at landscapes and being in them. I love the sometimes vastness or minutia of it and the patterns I find in it.”

Loe said she is eager for others to find the same comfort and inspiration in art that she has. Her advice to aspiring artists and art historians: “Experience what you can. Don’t set up boxes. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to change your mind. Nothing is really set in stone.”