Jackson Rising III charts new territory

By on September 3, 2014
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‘Hidden Silences,’ by Alison Brush.

Jackson Hole, Wyo. – Opening this Friday, Art Association’s annual Jackson Rising III exhibit showcases the work of eight different local artists who exemplify the range of talent and ideas percolating in Jackson.

“The show is a nice way to consolidate during Fall Arts Festival what is fresh and urgent in local art,” said exhibit curator Thomas Macker. “I know for sure this is going to be the Fall Arts show people walk into and go, ‘Whoa!’”

The Jackson Rising group show began three years ago as a way to take the pulse of the local scene. Each year’s chosen artists nominate artists for the next year. Then Macker’s job begins by first talking with the selected artists about what is exciting them currently.

“I try to bring out in the artist what is their most experimental stuff and what they felt like their niche is,” Macker said.

The result this year is an exhibit in which a Figure 8 racecar comingles on the gallery floor with a 25-foot aspen tree. Prints of rappers are posted across from elegant oil paintings of the valley. Photographs of Cuba hang adjacent to abstract oil paintings. Renderings of the cosmos accompany symbols of a family’s lineage.

Macker says an unintentional common thread can be seen in the collection of work. “A sense of place is at the heart of the artists’ projects,” he said. “That’s something that came through the curation. I wasn’t looking for that.”

For a few of the artists, the sense of place is based on travel. For others it’s based on the Jackson area itself. Painter Alison Brush will show work from travels in Costa Rica. Brush has a wonderful, expressive abstract style, using gorgeous blues, greens, whites, reds and pinks. She says her paintings are informed by years of photographing nature up close.

“I notice the very tiny details of form, pattern and texture when I spend time in nature. In the 90s I collaged drawings from my photos in Photoshop along with manipulated photos to create digital abstracts. When I started painting with Jeremy Morgan about 10 years ago, it was these images that inspired my work.”

To create her paintings, Brush uses one bright, transparent color at a time. She never mixes colors. Instead, using brushes, palette knives and her hands, she creates layer after layer of paint, charcoal, and a variety of mediums. Then she will take off paint to reveal the earlier layers and give a sense of space and depth.

“I think about abstract concepts when I paint. Time, temperature, space, void, form, and what happens when the forces of nature meet. I try to paint opposites – hot/cold, wet/dry, liquid/solid, light/dark, distant/close, stillness/movement, and fullness/emptiness.”

“The imagery may look familiar, but may be unlike anything we have seen with our eyes,” Brush said. “The paintings may remind a viewer of something he or she has experienced in waking consciousness or in a dream.”

Artist Ben Carlson may well have the most dramatic pieces in the entire show. Early one morning last week, he drove a car into the middle of the Art Association gallery. Titled, simply, “The Car,” the banged up, gutted sports vehicle belongs to a friend who uses if for the Figure 8 Races. The friend asked Carlson to paint it.

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‘The Car’ by Ben Carlson.

Carlson did more than paint the wreck. “The Car” is a deranged-looking mobile installation work. The basic black body was augmented with pink and bright green sections, and a white eye over one front light. Then Carlson wrapped some areas in VHS tape, creating a mad fluttering effect.

“I wanted to create a different kind of spectacle with the car’s performance,” Carlson said. “I wanted to make it shiny and to create a vibration of fluttery texture activated by the movement of the car. Thinking in the vein of a monster or a disco ball, I salvaged old VHS tape, which I used to make it ‘furry’ and shiny.”

Carlson says he tried to think about “The Car” as a cultural artifact that might be understood differently depending on its context. “To me, it begins to create a dialogue about cultural objects,” he said. “In local expressions of culture, such as car races, hill climbs, skiing costumes, and American traditions in general, when are we embracing stereotypes and irony? When are we creating genuinely unique meaningful expression?”

On the other end of the spectrum from objects and abstraction, the Jackson Rising III show features work by Grace Davis, which she says, “tells a story.” Her piece, “Family Tree,” is one example.

“I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where your family lineage means a lot and the rest of the country thinks you’re a bunch of rednecks,” she said. “‘Family Tree’ plays on those ideals by portraying my family as a group of hunting jackets that don’t have faces. At some point in time, a family tree dissolves into so many branches you can’t identify the connection. The trees also refer to Shaker imagery, which I was studying at the time.”

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‘Family Tree’ by Grace Davis.

Davis says she is very interested in the mark, and the accumulation of the mark to build narrative and space.

Sculptor Kyle Craighead Haynam will exhibit five unique pieces that highlight current events. “Specifically I will be focusing on issues aligned with the so-called ‘housing crisis’ in Teton County,” he said. “My work illustrates human beings adapting to live in homes better suited for animals as a way to cope with the limited living arrangements and copious work opportunities of a small Western town.”

One of Haynam’s pieces is an actual aspen tree. “Kyle has done carvings into the tree referencing Basque sheepherders in the 1800s,” Macker said. The sheepherders recorded their presence, experiences and thoughts by carving in the bark of aspens. “Kyle’s tree feels like a mix of fairy tale and cave paintings,” Macker said.

Another artist to imagine unusual living quarters for humans is Andrew Ciulla. In his painting, “The Moon and Beyond,” he explored his interest in humans colonizing other planets.

“This painting depicts the Earth as flat panels to communicate the ignorance we still have about our place upon the Cosmos,” Ciulla said. “Until relatively recently, humans believed the Earth was flat. I truly believe that if our species is to out-live our rapid development in technology and survive the hardships we’ve put upon our planet, we need to set up an establishment on a moon or planet. Redundancy is important. It’s like having a two-engine airplane. If one engine fails the plane can keep flying until it reaches a safe place to land.”

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‘Moon and Beyond’ by Andy Ciullla.

Elaina Oliver will show work much closer to home – plein air paintings of scenes from around the valley, including the Hoback River, local buttes and wildflowers.

Wade Dunstan’s photographs from Cuba show everyday people and the spaces they inhabit. “The images have a great dynamism,” Macker said. “They are very active in that regard; there is a whole narrative in each photo.”

As a low cultural counterpart to his high-culture show at The Rose, Aaron Wallis staple-gunned three prints from The Street Bible to a rough plywood board. “In the gilded frame, his work is very cohesive,” Macker said of Wallis’ print series. “Whereas, this is a way of bringing his formalism but stapling them upon the wall, creating a juxtaposition.”

The opening reception for Jackson Rising III is Friday, September 5, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. during the Palates & Palettes Gallery Walk. The Art Association will team with The Rose for refreshments. The exhibit runs through October 10.


About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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