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- FEATURE STORY: The Journey to Jackson
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HIGH ART: A fresh take on Fall Arts
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – It’s unlikely you will hit every Fall Arts Festival event or gallery show on the schedule for the next two weeks. While you should check out as many as you can, JH Weekly has compiled six shows you should not miss.
None feature classic Western and wildlife painters, instead focusing on emerging artists, unique materials, compelling backstories and work created by your friends and neighbors. These stops should all be on your Palates and Palettes map, but if you miss them during the big gallery walk, you should find time during the festival. You won’t want to miss these shows.
Exclusive views of Everest
William Thompson doesn’t remember feeling lightheaded. He doesn’t remember slumping over, his camera equipment sprawled beside him, feet hanging out the open door of a plane flying at 28,000 feet. The oxygen tube in his mouth had disconnected from the pipe in the ceiling. Not acclimated to the altitude and flying above the world’s tallest mountain, Thompson passed out. The pilot quickly descended. Once revived, Thompson was ready to go back up again.
Looking back 30 years to when Thompson created the first and only aerial collection of photographs of Mt. Everest, he isn’t sure he appreciated the magnitude of buzzing the peak with the door open and camera clicking. But those images today still offer a stunning and unique perspective of the mountain that captures many people’s imagination.
Thompson, former owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, now lives in Washington. He returns to Jackson at the request of the Art Association to share images and stories from the expedition. His work will hang in the Theater Gallery at the Center for the Arts with a reception during Friday’s Palates and Palettes. He also will speak about the work at the Outdoor Photography Symposium on Saturday.
National Geographic originally hired Thompson to take photographs of Brad Washburn, who after 10 years of political and logistical struggles had finally been cleared to take the first aerial photographs of the mountain. Thompson’s job was to spend three weeks documenting Washburn, but shortly after arriving at Mount Everest, Washburn’s wife got sick and he flew back to the U.S. National Geographic staff worried if they canceled the project they might never be able to do it again, so they asked Thompson to step in.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Thompson said.
For several weeks he flew in a small Pilatus Porter, a Swiss aircraft designed for high altitude aerobatics, buzzing by the mountain at 28,000 feet with the door open. It grazed the Khumbu Glacier, the wings almost touching the mountain mass, the plane bucking and bouncing and almost crashing several times.
“It was a bug in a thunderstorm,” Thompson said.
After several weeks shooting in the small plane, he worked from a Leer jet.
Thompson had to learn how to shoot at 28,000 feet, where the light is different in the thinner air and there is less contrast . The peak streaked by so quickly Thompson was able to snap maybe three frames before the moment was gone. It would be more than a month before he could develop the film and see what he captured.
Even loading the film was a challenge. It was 20 degrees below zero and the roar of the jet was deafening. It would take focus even to fumble his film in and out of the camera.
“It became a very zen experience to do this,” he said. “I just became completely focused.”
The turbulence would jolt the plane as it neared the cliff edges. At the time, cameras didn’t have the technology to stabilize images.
“It took complete absolute commitment to what I was doing,” he said.
It was an experience that forever changed the way he photographed. He developed an ability to close out the noise, the fear, even the disruption of the rocking plane in order to focus his eye on the shot.
When he returned, he had about 1,600 rolls of film to develop.
National Geographic planned to use a few of his shots and images taken by Thompson’s friend Galen Rowell as the centerpiece of the magazine. But first, NG editors gathered for a “show and tell” to select images for the issue. The photographer went on stage to project images on a screen, explain the pictures and wait for frank discussions and often harsh critiques.
Thompson was asked to present first. He was only about 15 images in before the editor called for the lights to be turned on.
Thompson began to sweat and thought perhaps his career with National Geographic was over. Instead, the editor announced the issue would be centered on his photographs alone.
Thirty years later, no one else has had the opportunity to extensively photograph Everest from the air, and with the current political climate, it is doubtful it will ever happen again, Thompson said.
The images provide historical perspective today as scientists try to study the effects climate change is having on the world’s tallest peak. That’s important, but Thompson loves the photos for a different reason.
“I think I captured these images and together they tell a story,” Thompson said.
The images tell the story of the mountain and its promise of adventure, brutality and beauty. And that is something that remains impactful and fascinating even as the years go by.”
Everest: An Exhibition of Aerial Photographs of Mount Everest, at Center for the Arts, Theater Gallery. Reception 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Friday, during Palates and Palettes.
Thompson will sign books, 5:30 p.m., and give the keynote address of the Outdoor Photography Symposium, 6:30 p.m., Saturday. For info, email Loren Nelson, [email protected]
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ArtLab show is hot off the press
It sat untouched for years in the back of Old West Press. It is a Chandler and Price letter press built in 1906, the kind of press used for newspapers and cards and then forgotten as the world entered a digital age.
A few years ago, when what was Bear Print changed hands, the new owner mentioned the old press to Travis Walker of Teton ArtLab. Walker has a degree in printmaking and always wanted a press.
The press hadn’t been used for years and Walker needed to find a way to get it running. A C3 grant from the Center of Wonder started the process. ArtLab flew in a printing expert from San Diego to get it running and ordered the missing parts.
To celebrate the rebuilt press, ArtLab is hosting a “block party” Friday, during Palates and Palettes, where you can see the press in action.
Local artists, such as Ben Roth, Scotty Craighead, Aaron Wallis and Mike Piggott carved 5-by-7-inch wooden blocks with simple designs they’ll use to print during the event.
Craighead carved an owl inspired by one of his grandfather’s paintings. Roth carved ski runs and Piggott carved blocks featuring trees and a skier.
ArtLab will use the carvings to create small prints throughout the night that will sell for $5 to $25. The designs will be single color in order to print quickly for the event.
However, the press can be used for more intricate designs and can even work with computer programs, Walker said. He can create designs in programs like Illustrator, create a digital file and make a plate to use on the press.
Letter press popularity has resurged in recent years, especially for invitations. Cards printed on letter press are more tactile. The heavier paper creates a better impression of the design when it’s printed and gives it a more high-end and elegant feel. “The only way you can get that popular beautiful print is from a letter press,” Walker said.
Teton ArtLab’s Block Party is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Friday, at 130 S. Cache, where you can see the new printing press in action and buy images hot off the press.
Illuminating local colors
This year’s Fall Arts Festival once again will draw to local galleries some of the art world’s most recognized names. But Jackson already is home to a deep pool of artistic talent, and Art Association of Jackson Hole will celebrate this in its second Jackson Rising show.
“It’s work that’s inspired by the Tetons and made in the Tetons … or in the valley,” said Thomas Macker, Art Association photography manager and gallery director. “It’s very much about encompassing local [themes].”
The variety of work includes Karen Haynam’s clusters of barbed wire with entangled objects that will hang from the ceiling. The objects tell a story or have a message. Or check out the photography of Greg Broseus, who captured images this summer with a 4-by-5 film camera that explores the interaction of art and national parks. He shot his own reflection in the window of the Craig Thomas Discovery Center with the Tetons behind him, as well as the famous Moulton Barn, but from the side where you can see the jagged peaks, Macker noted.
The show includes 12 artists, some well established in the art community and others who are emerging or returning to create art after a long break. Many artists have multiple pieces in the show.
Macker explained that those in last year’s exhibition nominated the artists, keeping with the theme of building a strong community among local artists who support each other.
The Art Association of Jackson Hole exhibition Jackson Rising features local artists and hangs at the Art Association, at Center for the Arts. Meet the artists and check out the show during Palates and Palettes on Friday and enjoy food from Gun Barrel Steak and Game House.