CULTURE FRONT: Creative madness at Artlab Open Studios

By on March 31, 2015

040115cultureJackson Hole, Wyoming – Back in the day — or, really, only a few years ago — when Teton Artlab started the Factory Studios, their occasional Open Studio nights were one of the hottest, hippest events in town. Crowds of people buying art, looking at art, looking at each other, drinking beer and raising the esteem of visual artists to that of rock stars.

It was great. And unfortunately it was short-lived. (Whether it’s a collective of artists or a working-to-middle-class family, it’s hard to find a permanent home in Jackson Hole.)

In the Artlab’s current incarnation on Jackson Street, the monthly Open Studio night focuses on the Lab’s visiting artist program. Though smaller and mellower in scope, these evenings are valuable events for Jackson’s creative community.

There are the obvious benefits of getting to see an artist’s work up close and personal. For example, February visiting artist Georgia Rowswell’s abstract pictures of geological features from Yellowstone can only be fully appreciated in person so you can see the intricate layers of recycled fabric that composed the colorful layers.

Michelle Ramin, the other visiting artist in February (each month the Artlab hosts two artists or artist teams), said her residency was “life-changing.”

“Given the opportunity to be in such an inspiring place as Jackson with a full, uninterrupted month to create work was a great gift,” Ramin said. “The Open Studios aspect of the residency was a celebration of sorts for all the hard work Georgia Rowswell and I had done throughout the month.”

Another reward for spending an evening hanging out at an Open Studio is the element of the unexpected. In winter months, the Artlab feels like an industrial space crossed with a cozy log cabin. During February’s Open Studio, attendees ended up sitting near a wood stove and sipping wine while Ben Roth and Travis Walker made an improvised spectacle of themselves by “wearing” a piece of industrial tubing over their heads.

Part elephant trunk, part alien head, the tube had us in hysterics. Where did the tube come from? What compelled Ben to pick it up? Someone may have thrown in an ironic academic art reference like, “Nick Cage visits the junkyard for his latest Soundsuit.” The random hilarity and camaraderie when a bunch of artists get together is an art experience in itself.

Ramin captured this moment in an accompanying watercolor painting. She said the Open Studio night solidified many of the friendships and professional relationships she developed during her residency. “I felt like I had become a part of the Jackson art scene in a way,” she said.

January artist David Buckley Borden echoed Ramin’s sentiment. Borden is creating a series of fine art maps based on Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. He solicited and will utilize public feedback to create the maps.

“The most meaningful part of my Teton Artlab experience was the personal relationships I developed as a result of the residency,” he said, “And one of the most valuable opportunities for developing these relationships was the Open Studio.”

Borden said the one-on-one, down-to-earth conversations that happened during the Open Studio were, to him, “just as powerful and meaningful as the Teton landscape itself.”

Artlab Open Studios may not be the ragers of yore. But you don’t want to miss them. Open Studios are scheduled through October, usually the last Saturday of the month. You can check the Teton Artlab website or Facebook page for details. Who knows? An artist might ask your opinion for a mapping project. Or take your old T-shirt to weave into a piece.

Or, if you’re really lucky, someone will stick a tube on your head.

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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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