THE ARTS: Skeletal scenes

By on April 29, 2015

Dusting off bones to see a differed view of the West

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming – When Rebecca Mortensen took an interest in drawing and painting, her uncle, Jackson sculptor John Mortensen, gave her some advice. Start with the bones and work from there so you get the structure right. The bones are the base of everything, he told her.

Mortensen, 23, took his advice in her artwork, which at the time featured mostly her passion horses. But while at school at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, her art teachers encouraged her to think beyond her classic horse paintings and drawings.

In her efforts to dig deeper she thought back to her days growing up on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, and the antlers, bones and carcasses shed find while out riding. She also remembered her uncles advice. And soon her work evolved into featuring bones, not as an underlying layer in work, but as the featured image.

They are so symmetrical and oddly perfect, which is why Im enticed, Mortensen said.

A show called Bones, Antlers, Skulls, featuring Mortensen’s work, along with art by Kelly Halpin, opens Friday at Daly Projects. Artist Bronwyn Minton also will have work in the exhibition.

The show was a natural fit because of the subject matter Mortensen and Halpin tackle, said Meg Daly, owner of the gallery. The exhibit theme was built around their work and meant to showcase their unique perspective of the West. Both women have a fresh and hip approach to art and are inspired by the skulls, antlers and bones found in the Western landscape. Yet both artists, who Daly represents, have distinctive styles and approaches.

Mortensen’s work feels architectural in design and, working in ink and oils, she features skulls and antlers of animals found in the area. She uses a muted palette of grays and browns with an occasional pop of turquoise. Her work in the show features ink on canvas renderings of bighorn sheep, owl, deer and bison skulls and other antler paintings.

It feels like this interesting and really contemporary deconstruction of these iconic images in our area, Daly said. She grew up here and had a very Western upbringing, yet has this contemporary approach to art and imagery. She’s a great example of this fresh voice coming out of the West. Shes very authentic. Shes not doing it to be clever. It just interests her to work in this way.

Halpin, 29, has a graphic style. She spent much of her youth in Wyoming and has continued a close relationship with the land, whether out snowboarding or climbing. Her work explores life cycles found in nature.

art 2There are bones and skulls and skeletons and themes of renewal in her paintings, Daly said. She looks at what it means to live in touch with those cycles.

Halpin is known for her surrealist take on biology, astronomy and quirky characters she finds in everyday objects and animals. Her acrylic paintings on board in the exhibit are created using her signature illustrative style. Bold-colored backgrounds feature a bear skull, a sheep skeleton and various other animal bones.

Artist Bronwyn Minton’s work compliments the pieces by Halpin and Mortensen. Minton, who is the associate curator of art and research at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and whose most recent work includes the public art installation The Cairn Project at the Center for the Arts, will show older work she created years ago. Her abstract black and white photographs of bones shrouded in shadows seemed a great fit to add to the exhibit, Daly said. In viewing the photographs its hard to tell what you are looking at a tooth, a joint, a part of a spine. The images, Daly explained, lend the show dimension and the entire exhibit poses a very different perspective of the romanticized presentations often seen of the West. The work is also affordable, ranging from $200 to $800.

Bones, Antlers, Skulls, featuring work by Kelly Halpin, Rebecca Mortensen and Bronwyn Minton. Artist reception 5 to 8 p.m., Friday May 8th. Show hangs Friday through May 30 at Daly Projects, 125 East Pearl.

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