CULTURE FRONT: Into the Wild
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – We have a funny relationship to the wild these days in Jackson Hole. On the one hand, wilderness is the reason most of us live here. We want to be close to nature, away from urbanization. The backcountry, unpredictable weather, rampant natural beauty and wild animals inspire us in our backyards.
Yet we are not, as a people, particularly wild. Our politics are moderate, our clothing is practical, our art is safe and pretty and our taste in music is predictable. Wildness, in terms of culture, is confined to drinking too much on a Saturday night. Sure, a few individuals risk their necks pursuing athletic achievements. But as a culture, Jackson Hole tends toward the tepid.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a nice, wholesome, not particularly wild culture. However, I find the disparity between culture and environment here to be perplexing, given our proximity to and proclaimed passion for all things wild. I’m hopeful this month will offer us all an opportunity to examine that disconnect as this week kicks off the inaugural year of the Jackson Hole Wild Festival. Two weeks of activities provide a chance to reflect on the role of wildness in our lives.
At first glance, the Wild Festival seems to be a means of corralling several summer festivals and events into a cohesive whole. The Raptor Fest, the Plein Air Fest, JH Mountain Games, and activities from the former Fire Festival now all fall under the Wild Festival’s umbrella.
Cohesion will likely be elusive this first time around. Not unlike taming wild horses – or headstrong Jackson creative and entrepreneurial types – many festival participants remain intent on doing their own thing. How raptor science, the disease ALS, bat conservation, puppet making, summer solstice, fashion, Clint Eastwood, and paragliding all fit under the same umbrella is indeed a wild concept. However, let’s go with it. The Wild Festival exquisitely encapsulates the full-bore, chaotic energy of Jackson in the summertime.
I want to highlight two events in the Wild Festival, because to me they seem to best fit the theme of the festival and are new events. Plus, the art looks like it will be really cool.
On June 19, check out the Nature’s Beauty Competition at Center for the Arts. Cindee George has organized a flock of artistic teams to adorn models with nature-inspired costumes and make-up. This is a time-based competition. The teams begin work at 4 p.m. The public can watch the beauties evolve and enjoy food and drinks from the Picas Taco Truck beginning at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., teams must be ready to send their models down the runway. Judges (including yours truly) will select the winners in four categories: Best Use of Natural Materials, Judges’ Choice, People’s Choice, and Best Under 18 Creation. Rocky Vertone will DJ.
On June 20 take part in Steamroller Printmaking outside Teton Artlab’s Buzz Shop from 4 to 7 p.m. The Buzz Shop is located on Jackson Street between Pearl and Simpson. Ten Jackson artists have carved a slice of the natural world into a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood. With the public’s assistance, paint will be applied and fabric draped over the image. Then get out of the way for the steamroller. After the roller presses the paint into the carved lines of the image, the fabric will be lifted to reveal a print extraordinaire. The eight-foot prints will be hung from the roof to dry and on Saturday carried in the Species Parade. Bidding on the prints begins at $300.
Wild Festival organizer Marylee White said the “Wild” theme was chosen because it is the one thing that connects everyone in our community. “We all want that feeling of the wild, where it feels frontier-like,” White said.
I’d ask readers and festival attendees to consider these questions about the interface of wild nature and wild community: What is your frontier? What do you value about wildness? What’s the most rewarding wild thing you’ve ever done? Do you appreciate other people’s wildness? How can you bring your love of the wild into the human community?
For the full line-up of Jackson Hole Wild Festival events, visit wildjacksonhole.org.
Creating print art on the street with a steamroller.
UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
Print block image by Travis Walker.