CREATIVE PEAKS: Affable animals

By on July 14, 2015

Teton Artlab resident gives creatures human life

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Growing up in rural Iowa, Adonna Khare spent her days outside exploring the natural world. She, along with her family, would make up stories along the way – like pointing out a tree root and saying it was a gnome’s home.

“There was a sense of wonder,” the artist said,  “and I try to keep that with me when I draw – the idea that there is a little bit more and if you keep looking, there’s more to discover.”

That love of nature and sense of wonder is the basis of Khare’s work and for two weeks she’ll use Jackson for inspiration while in residency at Teton Artlab.

Khare will work at Teton Artlab through July 31 as part of its visiting artist-in-residence program.

She was one of a handful of artists selected from an applicant pool of about 260 artists from around the world, said Travis Walker, founder of Artlab.

Khare’s work was among the highest scored from the applicants, Walker said. Her carbon pencil drawings were immediately engaging. She’s also one of the more established, with work in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and a resume including prestigious awards.

The three-person jury, which selected the residents, looked for unique, quality work, but also artists that would benefit from working in Jackson. Khare’s drawings tell a story, and also prominently feature animals. Last year, when Khare showed at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Montana, she also found inspiration in the landscape and knew she wanted to spend more time in the West. The Teton Artlab’s residency program was the perfect opportunity.

Khare moved from Iowa to California when she was about 8 years old. It was a culture shock. With less time spent outdoors exploring, Khare turned her focus to her drawings.

As a child, she related to animals more so than children. When she was shy or nervous, she always felt better if she had an animal nearby. And if one wasn’t physically around, she could draw it.

“They were my muse and my way of kind of telling my story,” Khare said.

That hasn’t changed throughout the years. Neither has her interest in drawing. While art supplies were limited when growing up, she always had pencil and paper.

“Having a pencil in my hand is almost second nature,” she said.

In art school she explored a variety of media. Specifically, she started working in carbon pencil, which is a cross between charcoal and graphite. It offers the blackness of charcoal, but is fine and smooth and still allowed her to create art by drawing.

“When drawing, everything is exposed, you can’t hide it behind paint, or sculpt around it,” she said. “The process is exposed all the way through.”

Khare’s process is fluid. She uses animals to tell a human story. The stories she creates with the animals are personal, but at the same time she hopes people look at them and bring their own stories to the images.

While in Jackson, Khare will able to devote her time to her work.

The visiting residency program, in its first year, is meant to be “purely a creative experience,” Walker said. The artists receive an apartment, a stipend and a studio space.

The artists, undistracted by friends, family and other jobs, are able to create exponentially more art than they can in day-to-day life. Local artists benefit from having the guests working in the area.

“It’s been so invigorating to be around so many artists that are here to absorb the place and work,” Walker said.

Khare, an avid wildlife watcher, is still drawn to animals as an adult. She hikes near her California home, looking for bobcats and a local mountain lion that frequents the area. She explores the area at sunrise with her daughter.

“We’re always on the lookout for something around the corner,” she said.

And where there is “something,” there is also a story and a drawing for Khare to create.

Khare will have an open studio 6 to 9 p.m., July 24 at Teton Artlab.

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