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Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming’


 For Annie~~Eleven Years. 

Terry Tempest Williams - Courtesy Coyote Clan

Terry Tempest Williams – Courtesy Coyote Clan

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy.” ~~Terry Tempest Williams

The Wyoming Arts Council’s annual conference came to Jackson Hole this year, and attendees were treated to a closing keynote by Terry Tempest Williams. She was intimately present, and if you were lucky enough to hear her that afternoon you’ll carry the occasion in your heart a long while.

Williams had thought to read from her latest book, “When Women Were Birds.” Instead, she chose to address a question put to her by the Wyoming Art Council’s Karen Stewart: “How have the arts affected your life?” 

"When Women Were Birds" by Terry Tempest Williams

“When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams

Our cavernous conference room became an intimate campfire gathering. A place to hear stories, a place to have your heart stirred. Williams’ childhood summers were spent in Wyoming; in remembering those family traditions and travels, Williams said that Wyoming winds, time and the freedom of open spaces that create open minds shaped her. Days and nights spent curled up Mardy Murie’s feet, inhaling the wisdom of ages, breathing in stories, creating memory.

A trail of Wyoming art winds its way through Williams’ life. Each of her books began and ended in Wyoming. “Refuge” took its first breaths at UCross. Williams spoke of discovering works by legendary Wyoming artists like Jackson and Rungius. Her climate-themed collaboration with Jackson artists Ben Roth and Felicia Resor, “Council of Pronghorn,” elicited deep emotion (Roth drove the installation to NYC in a van, arriving just as one of the biggest storms that city has known was preparing to land. Roth had never been to NYC, and he found the streets empty. He was, said Williams, a messenger.) She reminded us that the best literary art is local; Hemingway, Faulkner—it’s all about place. We migrate, but ultimately we are a place-based species. Wyoming artist Neltje’s fluid brushstrokes inspired Williams to sweep her own sumi brushstrokes across blank paper before beginning any book.

Literature will always matter, Williams said, and art has always been waking us up. Early in her writing career, a mentor encouraged Williams to “sharpen her writing pencil,” to boldly speak about the essential nature of beauty and art in our lives.

“My wish for art education is that it continue to be taught. Arts create wholesome citizens, and we should weave art into other education disciplines and institutions. Conversation and the arts can lead to policy, and government should support the arts with no strings attached, no censorship. Trust artists; what they create is part of the roots of free speech,” Williams told the audience.

Neltje - Audible Breath Triptych - Acrylic

Neltje – Audible Breath Triptych – Acrylic

The Wyoming Arts Council blogged on Williams’ “Weather Report” project, a series of meetings Williams took with UW students and students around the state gathering and sharing stories of what it is like to live in Wyoming; to talk, as Williams described it this week, about “What keeps you up at night? What is your own ‘weather report?’ “

As Boomerang reporter Eve Newman wrote: “The energy boom in Wyoming means watching development taking over open spaces. It means jobs that keep families together. It means oil and gas executives feeling vilified. It means dead cottonwoods across ranch land.

Wyoming Arts Logo - Detail

Wyoming Arts Logo – Detail

Every Wyoming resident has a story about living in Wyoming. For many, those stories have to do with the latest boom cycle and the unprecedented change that’s affecting the land and the people. For others, their stories are about displacement, loss, love, racism, isolation, tolerance or opportunity.”

Newman also quoted Williams as saying that she believed students were able to bear witness to the power of stories, and heard the force of their own voices.

At the Aspen Institute, Williams participated in the Story Swap Project, an international interaction of citizens telling one another their stories, swapping roles, and building “bridges of understanding.”

Throughout her WAC keynote, Williams’ voice captured our hearts and minds. Throughout, she remained emotional, excited, open, receiving. We received. I know no other writers as eminent as Williams possessing an instinct to share so unselfishly, or who provide such lasting gifts inside an hour’s lecture. We are grateful.

“Once upon a time, when women were birds….”




“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Beginning with the end in mind is about examining why life is worth living and being true to your own values and dreams,” says Acton’s MBA Entrepreneurship. “If you have trouble uncovering these fundamental goals and values, it is time to go back to your basic foundations. Query people you trust and admire. Read great literary works and books on philosophy. Spend time alone in a quiet place. If you are religious, reexamine the fundamentals of your religion. Question, examine assumptions, reflect, and question again.”

In recent weeks I’ve listened as artists and non-artists spoke on the subject of embracing failure as it relates to success; the conversation began at last month’s Culture Front forum. It’s so in the air!  How do we stay afloat? It’s so easy, even comfortable, to allow our values and true wishes to take a back seat to daily demands. We want the public to invest in us, yet we often avoid digging in to the very problems we must solve in order for that to happen. It’s a conscious effort every day, and it’s a tough go. I’m reading a wonderful book that says the typical mindset of “success” is about “getting.” And “getting” is a fight.

A friend recently said that Jackson is full of wonderful people, and she’s right. We’re a persistent, well-meaning, cause-driven population. In all things creative, we’re on the hunt for that “groove,” and the unknowns are…unknown.

A positive development: Vertical Harvest was unanimously supported by Jackson’s Town Council!  The next step is sending that proposal to Teton County’s Wyoming Business Council Representative Roger Bower, Wyoming’s West Central Region Representative. Bower’s office is in Riverton, Wyoming. Word is, he does not like the project. However, he’s the man who will approve appropriations. I’ve emailed Mr. Bower a question or two; if he responds, you’ll see it here. If not, assume “no comment” by post time.

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Mark Nowlin - Landscape, Mixed Media on Paper

“These are all landscapes, I made them on the spot, off the highway, during my drive from Portland, Oregon to Jackson,” says Jackson Hole artist and purveyor of arts supplies Mark Nowlin. Last Sunday, Knowlin took his turn showing and creating art at the new Teton County Library, where—lest you live in a cave—you know that Filament Mind, the huge art installation by conceptual artist Brian Brush has just been completed.

Under the filament tent, a fine cross-section of Jackson’s local artists brought their work to the library. “Stumble on Art in the Afternoons” began by hosting Travis Walker, who blipped on his Facebook page that “the best art I’ve ever seen in Jackson is at the Teton County Library.” Catch any sass, Travis?  (I’m teasing…)

Nowlin, so well known in our arts community, is a great proponent of contemporary art. He owns and operates Master’s Studio, a Jackson arts supply and framing store.  His creativity and knowledge of art history, perspective on Jackson’s art scene and where it might be trending and the region’s arts influences, are topics you should talk to him about sometime.

Nowlin does not exhibit often, but he should. Each of his compositions I viewed last week were dynamic, swinging with motion, affected by place, and wholly recognizable even as they embraced abstraction. Nowlin lined up dozens of works, a visual diary of his travels.

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Pinedale is a Wyoming town working hard to infuse art into its veins; the movement is growing. A blooming flower, its seeds are sewn by local artists, Sue Sommers among them.

Her mural, seen here, is one of two completed in the past two years as part of Pinedale’s public art program. Sommers’ large-scale, whirling, arcing and bright painting, “Our Glittering World,”  will remain at its current site for two years.

Pinedale’s public art initiative, IN|SITE EX|SITE, hosts an artists reception on Friday, February 8th, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Sublette County Library. Artists contributing work to Pinedale’s community, also to be honored, include Bronwyn Minton, JB Bond, Kirsten and Palmer Klarén, and Sommers.

I asked Sommers about the world she was considering as she created her mural.

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“I like the semi-religious aspect of doing something devotional and with discipline. Because the root of discipline is “disciple.” If I’m practicing, this is a form of worship, and I have to have a disciple’s severity towards myself.” ~ Tad Anderson

Everybody can draw and paint, believes Laramie artist Tad Anderson. But the act of taking out a brush, chalk, or any instrument capable of rendering art doesn’t necessarily mean the art will be good.  When one undertakes learning to become an artist, one needs to be comfortable self-criticizing and understanding quality.

Even so, Anderson works to approach drawing with a sense of freedom, a willingness to “follow the course of a drawing.” Then the work of listening to your gut and “hearing” if what you’ve completed is good begins.

“Just as you do in climbing, and I am a climber,” says Anderson. He’s dedicated much of his life to climbing and says his friends are all climbers.

“I’m just kind of a wild man–that’s who I am. So I have to try to discipline myself to make anything happen,” Anderson explains. “I might follow my emotions to the point of extremity. I have to hold on to a certain discipline to maintain sanity or relevancy; otherwise I risk floating away, into the air. My friends are kind of a rag-tag group, but they are dedicated, heartfelt rock climbers. It’s what they do all the time, make new climbs and explore new territory. You’d never know they were climbers, in the Jackson sense, because they’ve got no fancy equipment and aren’t in magazines.”

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