CULTURE FRONT: Revealing Wyoming’s flavors, complexities

By on March 18, 2015
Synchronized Recreation is a collaborative work by Marty Dorst and Adrienne Vetter on view at ‘Portrait of Wyoming.’ (Art Association)

Synchronized Recreation is a collaborative work by Marty Dorst and Adrienne Vetter on view at ‘Portrait of Wyoming.’ (Art Association)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – There’s a wonderful culture clash going on over at the Art Association (and I’m not talking about Mark Nowlin’s dapper sweater vests juxtaposed with Sam Dowd’s clay-crusted jeans). I recently revisited the “Portrait of Wyoming” exhibition in the Art Association Gallery. I’d cruised quickly through the exhibit on opening night, but spent more time chatting than really seeing the art. The show is definitely worth a second encounter.

“Portrait of Wyoming” is the first project organized by the Wyoming Art Party, founded by Laramie artists June Glasson and Meg Thompson. While some readers might hope the Wyoming Art Party is a viable political party, its mission is, in fact, “to organize art projects and shows that connect individuals, scattered throughout Wyoming, who work in different regions, disciplines, and from different backgrounds, with the aim of creating work that truly represents art in Wyoming as it is, rather than as it is thought to be.”

For the Portrait show, Glasson and Thompson sought out artists and artisans throughout the state and invited them to co-create a work with a partner from a different discipline. In several cases this meant an academic contemporary artist paired with a traditional craftsperson, and the results speak to a larger conversation in the art world about the role of “makers” within fine arts fields.

Take, for example, Synchronized Recreation, by Marty Dorst and Adrienne Vetter. Dorst, a traditional artist trained in leather carving, scrimshaw and tattoo, started the piece by carving a scene of a moose in a pond on a rectangle of leather. Vetter, whose work often comments on rural life in the West, reimagined the image in leather as a screenshot of the moose prior to being shot by hunters. She added two action figures documenting their trophy kill via cell phone camera. What began as a straightforward celebration of Wyoming wildlife became a multi-layered inquiry into why humans make pictures of our world and actions.

J.B. Bond and Linda Lillegraven teamed up on this multi-media piece for the ‘Portrait of Wyoming’ exhibition. (Art Association)

J.B. Bond and Linda Lillegraven teamed up on this multi-media piece for the ‘Portrait of Wyoming’ exhibition. (Art Association)

“A body of work was produced that would have never been produced otherwise,” Glasson said of the exhibit overall. Glasson teamed with sculptor David Jones, and together they created two exceptional 3-D works offering thoughts on how we use the land in Wyoming.

As with Dorst and Vetter, the collaboration between J.B. Bond and Linda Lillegraven resulted in a blend of materials and approaches. Bond makes forged metal sculpture, while Lillegraven paints representational landscapes. Together they crafted poetic, three-dimensional evocations of Wyoming’s roughness, nostalgia and natural beauty.

The cross-cultural exchange is not solely limited to craft vs. fine art. Collaboration between photographer Susan Moldenhauer and installation artist Andy Kincaid culminated in a sort of dialogue between minimalism and conceptualism as well as precision and process.

Printmaker Ginnie Madsen and placemaker Bland Hoke produced two works rife with materials and images that both affirm and disrupt traditional notions of Wyoming. Delicate doilies by Diana Baumbach were adorned by the more politically minded Colleen Friday to create a surprisingly feminine take on the politics of land use and geography.

These are only a few of the very strong, compelling duos in Portrait of Wyoming, which lives up to its title. One walks away from the exhibit with a sense of having a finger on the pulse of life in the state, with all its tradition, overwhelming landscape and riotous independence and innovation.

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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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