What Has Winter Wrought?

Kathy Wipfler  “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole”   7 x 11″   field study

“Greg McHuron was known to wrestle sheets of plywood through various Ice Ages just so he could stand on them without sinking into the frozen depths. But Greg was part Woolly Mammoth.” ~ Plein air painter Erin C. O’Connor 

This Jackson Hole winter!  Folks have mentioned a craving to chew their legs off. But if you’re an artist the show goes on, and being shut in or facing stupendously challenging weather conditions often leads to improvisation, new creative themes and awakenings of a different sort.

I contacted some legendary badass women artists and asked them how winter has affected their work. This post, we hear from  Kathy Wipfler, Kay Stratman and Erin C. O’Connor.

KATHY WIPFLER

Plein air painter Kathy Wipfler is a true veteran of painting outdoors. Solid and sensible, her practices spring from a lifetime of ranching and hard outdoor work. A long-time member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, she knows a thing or two.

“Having painted on location here in every season for 36 years, I have a few tricks of the trade to stay as warm as possible. Painting a small format is one of them,” writes Wipfler. “Standing on Blue Board keeps the cold from my feet just a little longer than standing directly on the snow, and having the right boots is important. Painting sunlit snow is a passion, but there have been limited sunlit days so far this winter.”

Wipfler says another challenge is simply finding an accessible turnout to set up her easel and park. “Parking on the road’s shoulder is not so smart. I’ve spent time and effort shoveling out spaces whenever it’s feasible.”

Wipfler’s “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole,” pictured above, is so painterly I can almost feel the artist’s rich brushstrokes simply by looking. They convey the weight of this winter, its frigid cold, and a sense of muffled winter beauty. Wipfler’s snowdrifts are a pillow upon which the mountain rests.

Read more about Kathy Wipfler in this Jackson Hole Art Blog post, “Kathy Wipfler & the Boys!” 

KAY STRATMAN

Kay Stratman’s new abstract works are charged with color.

Kay Stratman is experimenting with her “alter studio ego.”

Stratman’s “Natural Abstractions,” comprised of watercolor and wax works, focus on what the artist describes as “amazingly colorful natural occurances that scream for exploration/exploitation/ abstraction.”

Stratman’s work (which she says has always favored essence over traditional form) is focused on subjects ranging from Yellowstone’s brilliant hot springs to “the mysteries of stellar nebula or northern lights.”

“People are familiar with watercolor as a medium and perhaps even encaustic wax,” writes Stratman. “But I combine both media in my work to present an interesting dichotomy. Watercolor and wax shouldn’t even be able to mix, should they? However, each medium becomes obvious upon close inspection, and the view from farther away brings the suggested subject matter to light.  The pieces themselves are splash and poured watercolors on rice paper, infused with encaustic wax (molten beeswax) that makes the paper translucent, allowing me to fuse layers together to create depth of color.”

Erin C. O’Connor – “El Gato Negro.”

Erin C. O’Connor 

“I know an artist who used to work for the phone company; he swiped one of those tents that they put over utility boxes so they can work in inclement weather; now he uses it to paint outside. At 17 below zero, I’d need the tent, the Enormo-Heat-Blaster, and the heated brush handles,” reveals painter Erin C. O’Connor.

I imagine O’Connor’s “Uppity Chick” smile.

Erin C. O’Connor in her studio.

During winter months O’Connor focuses on studio work and brings unfinished “warmer months” paintings to completion. At this time last year O’Connor was in Nicaragua, and she’s “finding welcome refuge in re-exploring those scenes.”

“It all plays back to me like a tape recording ~ the warmth, the humidity, the lyrical conversations, the people I met, all the things I learned,” she says. “Color upon color upon color. This has been my antidote to grey. This has been my rebellion to the cold.”

O’Connor updates her website during winter months, and she’s just been named as the newest member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters Board of Directors. When Plein Air for the Park ” gorgeously unfolds in July, it’s because we’ve thoroughly scrutinized the acrobatics well before summer.”

Next post, we’ll hear from a few more of Jackson’s ultra-talented women artists! All strive to be the best that they can be. Transcending fads and trends, they are wicked strong rungs on Jackson’s art history ladder, and their art endures.

In national art news, it was announced earlier this month that the NEA is in dire straits. Our new administration is strongly considering budget cuts that could eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. If executed, this spells disaster for art interests across the country. Such a step even stands to cancel important exhibitions like SFMOMA’s Matisse-Diebenkorn show.  Read a little about this impending legislation here

 

Take Your Broken Heart and Make it Art

 

Sue Sommers’ “001-1111-16,” Watercolor pencil and crayon on Magnani Pescia paper, 11 x 11″. From Sommers’ “Sibling” series.

In this week’s Jackson Hole News & Guide, editors ran a short letter about “clowns” demonstrating on Jackson’s Town Square the afternoon of January 15th. The letter could be taken as a thinly veiled threat: get those “clowns” off the streets of Jackson, or we’ll take our business elsewhere. Presenting all points of view is important, but placing that particular letter ahead of all others is astounding.

It’s a new town, a new year. Luckily, we can take our broken hearts and still make art!

Wyoming’s Pipeline Art Project artist Sue Sommers recently wrote a great piece for Wyofile, and she’s also come out with lots of new art and a new website. Her art explores different subjects, all close to home. Two of my favorites are her “Sibling” and “Willows” series. Though Sommers doesn’t specifically say so, these works draw from the same well, a source of roots and connection.

Sue Sommers, “Willow 2.” Intaglio on Rives Cream, plate size 9 x 12″, edition of 6.

Think of a tree’s branches as fingers, reaching to the sky, beckoning sun, rain and wildlife to its limbs. Think of families — most of Sommers’ abstract “Siblings” resemble fingers — as hands connected by fingers.

She could, she says, use a word like “meditation” to describe the “Sibling Series'” origins. But the real origin is terror.

“I call them (the Sibling Series) because they look like related organisms moving around in a confined space – like a family,” writes Sommers. “Thinking about my own siblings while I draw liberates me. I know (but didn’t when I was growing up) that I have to let the shapes be what they want.”

Sue Sommers. A landscape, “Fenceline 0615″ Acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas, 48 x 48 x 1.5”

Sommers writes about process rather than “content” or “meaning.”

She could, she says, use a word like “meditation” to describe the “Sibling Series'” origins. But the real origin is terror.

“This would be embarrassing if I didn’t know lots of other artists fighting messy tides of dread and self-doubt. Do I have anything interesting to say? Am I any good? Is there any point to the sacrifices I make? After nearly 40 years of valiant battle, I felt like the terror was winning. My way out was to make marks. Any marks.”

Sue Sommers. Stripes sketchbook green yellow. Watercolor and crayon in handmade sketchbook, 4 x 6 inches open. NFS

Sommers started with square pieces of scrap paper and a children’s watercolor set. Working slowly, she pressed her nose almost to the paper, her brush dragging incrementally across the paper’s tooth as pigment soaked in and spread.

“Every inch of every strip of color I laid down was my choice: I choose to make this now. And this. And this. I made dozens of these stripe pieces. Eventually they started changing, and I started changing.”

You can view Sommers’ new work and new website here

Duke Beardsley, Hangtown. Mixed Media on Collage 40 x 52.”  At Altamira Fine Art, Scottsdale.

Altamira Fine Art’s Scottsdale gallery welcomes a new solo show, “Range Monitor,” by contemporary Western artist Duke Beardsley. 

“A highly anticipated new body of work will be highlighted in this new show, which centers on the idea of transparencies and visual plays on overlapping realities and falsehoods,” writes the gallery.

Artist Reception & Opening: January 26, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, in Scottsdale. 

This appears to be an excellent show. Find out more about it by visiting Altamira’s exhibition description here.

Rural Violence & Baby Ask: Women, Horses, Mountains, Music & More

“A new year is upon us, marking a time for reflection and anticipation. 2016 was a turbulent year, underscoring the important role art plays in encouraging dialogue between people and reflection upon ourselves.” ~  Art Advisor and Producer Camille Obering 

A heads up: Viewer discretion advised. This clip contains images of a live butchering. I want to post this latest in Obering & Friends “Rural Violence”  film-documented performance piece for the reasons Obering gives, and I’ve reached out to Obering with questions. At post time, the Jackson Hole Art Blog hasn’t received a response.

So I’ll put it to you, readers. The filmmakers wish to address many themes, and here’s the list, directly quoted:

– Death and destruction leading to life and enlightenment.

– Creating awareness that the luxuries many thoughtlessly consume often have a backstory (sic) many reproach (food production, electricity, transportation, cheap anything).

– Humanity’s animalistic (sic) instincts such as dominance, submission, struggle, proliferation, and acknowledging the grey area that exists separating humans from beasts.

– Persecution of the innocent.

– Tension created between what one considers natural verses amoral.

– How sanitized and curated our lives are, and how short our attention spans have become.

– Finding beauty in and meditating on what could be considered brutal.

These are themes we examine constantly; we’re a very aware generation or two; in Jackson alone we have two very fine organic food markets. That’s privilege, and we have a multitude of options when it comes to buying our food. We know that even organic meat gets butchered. How animals live their lives before butchering is most important: are they treated humanely or confined to horrific conditions? What were the circumstances for this animal? How did this creature end up as the “Rural Violence” star? Is it the “innocent?”

Camille Obering on set.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I do question my choices and often think about what took place before I pluck the sanitized package of meat I’ve just bought from the rack. Every day tensions between the haves and have-nots become more visible.  We are a community packed with environmentalists, biologists, forestry experts, wildlife biologists, fishermen, ornithologists and  conservation activists. Many hunt to feed their families.

Yet, for the touring public coming to visit Jackson Hole, any reference to how indigenous cultures survived and hunted are pretty smoothed over. Places you might find full-faced references are the J.H. Historical Societythe Yellowstone and Grand Teton Visitor Centers, the Library, the National Museum of Wildlife Art and National Geographic, just to name a few.

So what is new about these messages? I don’t think the themes are surprising; what’s new is how they’ve been treated in this piece of film. Rather than replicating, how about presenting a true indigenous group carrying out a routine life ritual? Would that get the point across? It’s the conversation I’d have. It’s a question, and raising questions is a primary goal here.

There’s beauty, poetry and reverence in this clip. I’m grateful to receive and share it. Thanks to Planet Jackson Hole and Meg Daly for the link!  www.camilleobering.com

Maddy German

A Song Bird’s “Baby Ask” 

A second locally produced video, “Baby Ask,” is in its final week of fundraising on Kickstarter, looking for dollars to offset costs of a ready-to-roll music video starring local songstress Maddy German. The video premiers at Jackson’s Center for the Arts at 6:00 pm, January 27th. 

German and her Band

Inspired by emotional upheaval, personal growth and, as it turns out, upheaval within the film’s production group and the rupture of German’s relationship with a former beau, the flick has two goals: transferring to film the struggles we experience with our “other selves,” and help launch a larger musical career for German and her crew.

You can catch the “Baby Ask” trailer here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/497811323/baby-ask-a-music-video-from-wyoming

Wherever We Go, Art is the Heart

I was going to tell you that if I could live on art, I would. Then I realized I already do. And so do we all, in some way or another. Art is, literally, all around us. The keyboard I’m typing on is someone’s imaginiative creation. The lamp on my desk, the paintings on my wall, my books, the clothes I wear (though in my case I have to fall short of calling what I wear “wearable art.” It’s more like “wearable earrings and sweatshirts.”).

Outstanding in her field: Kathy Wipfler.

Recipes are art, the chairs we sit on. Loving one another and sticking by the Golden Rule is an art. That particular rule is, for some reason so difficult to follow. Why is that? It’s so simple to do the right thing. One of the most obvious “right things” is to respond to friends and colleagues when they reach out. When we don’t respond, the thing we remember IS the non-response. That’s not what you want people to remember, professionally or otherwise.

Todd Kosharek at work. Todd’s passion, work ethic and kindness are the best of Jackson Hole’s art heart.

My wish for us this year is to always try to do the right thing. Think it out. Be honest, but balanced. Who are your mentors? Who do you hold up as a hero amongst us? When trying to decide how to act, what choices to make, how to respond, how to walk this earth, I implore you: Do the right thing.

Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters’ Quick Draw” at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center in Grand Teton National Park.

One “compassion researcher” I know of says this: “We are taught that there is a right and wrong way to behave, to act and to think. Stepping outside this construct is a big shift. Non-judgmental acceptance of what it means to embrace all suffering on the planet takes development.”

Plein Air Cowboy Bar!

I’m not religious, but I try to find the good path, make choices that align my soul and help me towards peace and contentment. So often that effort winds up involving huge, ongoing struggles. Breaking things down to day-to-day triumphs is a better choice. Much of the time our thoughts are of the future, one dream after another. I can be guilty of spending more time dreaming than doing, especially during these challenging winter months.

Today my goal is to break that pattern up a little and re-start this blog! I will begin my book in earnest this year. I will work and produce positively to the benefit of arts here as they are related to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s phenomenal beauty and the wealth of art in our galleries and superb new generation of artists.

Bronwyn Minton, for “View 22.” I purchased my first “Bronwyn” this year!

I will try to present all forms of Jackson’s visual arts to the best of my ability; none of us relates to EVERY SINGLE work of art, but we can appreciate every effort, love that it exists, discuss art and feel lucky our particular creative vortex is so powerful.

Borbay and Friend. Connecting with this guy was a highlight of the year! He’s really a softie.

And so this first post of 2017 contains some of my favorite images and moments from 2016’s Jackson Hole art offerings and events. Just a very few~~there were SO many! To see more images from the past year, visit my Art Blog Facebook Page .  If you enjoy those posts, please “Like” the page and tell your friends! 

Dean Cornwell (1892–1960)
Portrait,1929. The Jackson Hole Art Auction had some exquisite works.

As ever, my deepest gratitude to everyone who appreciates and reads The Jackson Hole Art Blog. I’m thankful and proud.

David Michael Slonim at Altamira Fine Art.

The Jackson Hole Art Blog’s new header image: Detail from David Michael Slonim’s “Bailando,” at Altamira Fine Art.  

 

Todd Kosharek’s Utopia

Todd Kosharek Utopian Vision - The Peach Blossom Spring Acrylic on Canvas 24 x 36 inches

Todd Kosharek, Utopian Vision – The Peach Blossom Spring – Acrylic on Canvas 24 x 36 inches

“As I get older, I see looking to the future, both as a society and as individuals, as an act of seeking the Utopians that exist in our romanticized memories of the past. Memory is both the greatest blessing and the greatest curse. The line between the difference is what I am so drawn to explore, to understand.”- Todd Kosharek

“Utopian Vision – The Peach Blossom Spring,” encapsulates artist Todd Kosharek’s view of the world. Utopia was an island said to be an intentional place of community, an ideal society. Kosharek’s painting “Peach Blossom” depicts what is thought to be the first sighting of Utopia.

The painting’s story concerns a fisherman who comes upon a society living in perfect harmony. The fisherman stays for one week, then departs to his former life. When he tries to return to Utopia, he perishes.

Todd Kosharek Neautrality Acrylic on Canvas 16 x 24 inches

Todd Kosharek, Neautrality, Acrylic on Canvas, 16 x 24 inches

TODD KOSHAREK | UTOPIAN VISION: THE HISTORY PROJECT, opens at Altamira Fine Art on October 3rd, runs through October 15th, and hosts an artist’s reception at Altamira on October 6, 5-8:00 pm in Jackson, Wyoming. A dance, themed to the exhibit, will be performed by Kosharek’s wife, Kate Kosharek.

Now a father of two, Kosharek’s growth as an artist is evident. That happens with parenthood, but in Kosharek’s case it’s really not a surprise; he began his own life journey~~or at least his visible Jackson Hole life journey~~on a higher plane. His perceptions of people, the way we live, his committment to truth and clear, balanced vision seem far above average.

Saturated in art history, Kosharek’s contemporary paintings have developed a highly focused and meditative style. He’s as meticulous and balanced in his artwork as poets are when  constructing great poetry.

Todd Kosharek Love Letter - Peace Within Acrylic on Canvas 12 x 20 inches

Todd Kosharek, Love Letter – Peace Within, Acrylic on Canvas, 12 x 20 inches

“I went seeking poetic verses on peace through (sic) and acceptance of love. I looked at Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Cummings….Then I re-read letters from my wife. “Love Letter” is the first one I ever received, 13 years ago. She wrote about a great peace within [regarding our] whole situation, the admitting of vulnerability toward another person. I thought this was a perfect summary of love: having a sense of peace to the unknown,” writes Kosharek.

This exhibition focuses on Kosharek’s ongoing Crane Series, and a sample of his landscape painting occupies the top of this page. With this new exhibit, Kosharek merges interior and exterior worlds.

Sebastian Junger’s book, “Tribe,” concludes society has grossly inverted our own utopia; from our earliest days on this continent, reports Junger, our industrial society “waged an ongoing campaign against a native population that had barely changed, technologically, in 15,000 years.”

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