CULTURE KLASH: Monsters in Your Head

By on September 6, 2016

Two new exhibits provide visionary respite from the hustle of Fall Arts Fest during Palates & Palettes.

Pieces by Walt Gerald and the work of some imaginative young pupils coalesce for ‘Creatures of the Caldera,’ opening Friday at Center for the Arts.

Pieces by Walt Gerald and the work of some imaginative young pupils coalesce for ‘Creatures of the Caldera,’ opening Friday at Center for the Arts.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A wiggly gaggle of fearsome creatures snuck out of the woods and are now lurking around the Center for the Arts Glenwood lobby.

Printmaker Walt Gerald spent the past few months working with kids at JH Discovery Preschool creating “Creatures of the Caldera,” an art exhibition of imaginary beasts. You can meet the monsters and their creators Friday during the Palates & Palettes gallery walk.

The myth of the Enchanted Forest has captivated child and adult minds across the globe for centuries. Inspired by his two young daughters, Gerald invited young artists to help him catalog some of the lesser-known creatures living in Wyoming’s enchanted forests.

“I took a backseat creatively and let the kids come up with imaginary creatures living around us that we might not be able to see,” Gerald said.

He then made simplified drawings of each creature and printed his interpretation of the children’s art on maps of Yellowstone and other nearby areas. The final show is comprised of eight companion pieces, the children’s original drawings, plus Gerald’s minimalist renditions.

“The kids’ drawings are colorful and detailed, so I didn’t want to overpower their images,” Gerald said.

The creatures included a two-headed monster who’s separate heads sleep on different levels of a bunk bed. Goosey Lady Bug Creature is on display, as well as Scribble Guy with Lots of Short Legs. Mr. Triangle Guy has four arms and hands—according to his creator he has a beard that needs shaving and his favorite food is eggs.

“In this show, Walt is fostering and working with preschoolers to unleash their imaginations and artistic sides,” said Carrie Richer, the Center’s Creative Initiatives Coordinator. “But he would tell you that it is the kids that are unleashing new things within his artistic process.”

Gerald says that because children’s minds are not crowded with adult responsibilities and stressors, they have more direct access to their imaginations. “Their train of thought is so much more creative than ours.”

Gerald’s observations echo the wisdom of one of the world’s greatest minds, Albert Einstein, who said, “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.”

As arts funding in schools is continuously slashed, artists like Gerald are jumping in to ensure that kids get to draw and play creatively as much as possible. A nationwide group of artists started The Monster Project to do something very similar to Gerald. They take children’s drawings of monsters and reinterpret them in their adult artist styles. According to the Monster Project website, the artists “hope to help [kids] recognize the value of their ideas and make them feel excited about the potential of their own minds.”

But as Gerald can attest, it is not just kids who benefit from this kind of collaborative creative process. Adults stand to gain a much-needed new perspective on what’s possible.

“For my day job, I’m always getting direction from clients,” Gerald said. “‘Creatures of the Caldera’ is the most off the wall project I’ve gotten to work on.”

The “Creatures of the Caldera” exhibition is on display in the Center for the Arts Glenwood Lobby and Conference Room until October 14. Opening reception 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, September 9 during Palates & Palettes with catering by Bad Doughnut. PJH


The Light Above

Also premiering Friday—the vast Wyoming sky is the focus of Kathryn Mapes Turner’s new show, ‘What the Sky Holds.’

Also premiering Friday—the vast Wyoming sky is the focus of Kathryn Mapes Turner’s new show, ‘What the Sky Holds.’

Kathryn Mapes Turner remembers a quote she heard years ago: “In Wyoming, one doesn’t have to look up to see the sky.”

The nationally recognized local artist shares her vision of looking out at the sky, across the high desert of Wyoming horizons, in a new show at the Center for the Arts.

“What the Sky Holds” hangs through September 19 in the Center Theater Gallery. The show features six 53- by 53-inch oil on rag paper paintings, or what the artist calls “windows,” that she hopes will inspire viewers to experience the gallery space in an imaginative way. Several smaller pieces accompany the large pieces.

“I love the idea of being surrounded by these paintings, just like we are surrounded by skies,” Turner said. “The sky is around us, it’s not above us. It holds us.”

The featured paintings range in color and style—some include trees on the horizon, some not. A few offer an expressionistic rendering of a rainstorm. Colors vary, from a tea-stained monochrome of a winter sky to pastel apricot clouds against pastel blue sky. Light bursts, hovers, dissipates. The overall effect of the paintings together is at once meditative and exhilarating.

Turner grew up captivated by Wyoming skies and remembers many family trips back and forth from Cheyenne when her father was a state senator. “The sky has shaped me,” she said.

“This work is unlike Turner’s recent artwork,” Richer said. “It is lighter, more contemporary and is very playful.”

According to Richer, Turner created the paintings with the Center in mind. “She was excited about the work being here, where arts, imagination and creativity happen every day,” Richer said.

Turner has had this show in mind for a while. Inspired by abstract expressionist painters Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Helen Frankenthaler, she wanted a chance to play with her style and her materials. She returned to watercolor technique, where she got her start, but now with 20 years of experience as an oil painter.

“I have so much struggle settling into a style,” she said. “When I look at the paintings in this show I see a great amount of variety. That’s who I am.”

The artist feels that the variety in her work mirrors the landscapes that surround her. “The sky is always changing; the seasons are always changing. Dynamic natural forces are all around us.”

“What the Sky Holds” by Kathryn Mapes Turner is on display in the Center for the Arts Theater Gallery until September 19. Opening reception 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, September 9 during Palates & Palettes with catering by Bad Doughnuts.

Turner gives an artist’s talk noon on Thursday, September 8, at the Center Theater Gallery. PJH

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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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