CREATIVE PEAKS: At Home ‘Out There’

By on September 20, 2016

A new show by Travis Walker evokes nostalgia and the beauty of the journey.

Two pieces by Travis Walker that hang in his new show premiering at Altamira on Thursday.

Two pieces by Travis Walker that hang in his new show premiering at Altamira on Thursday.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Travis Walker likes to recall a story about seeing an Ansel Adams’ poster of the Snake River and Teton Range when he was an art student. The pristine image stuck in his mind and was part of his inspiration for moving to Jackson nearly 15 years ago.

Fast-forward to June 2016 and Walker found himself in the company of his icon, when the international magazine The Guardian ran a pictorial feature on American national parks. One of Walker’s paintings appeared in the article, as did several by Adams. Coming full circle has never felt finer.

It’s been a good year for Walker, with features in magazines and continued demand for his work. His latest solo show at Altamira Fine Art debuts this week. The painter, father, and Teton Artlab director found a moment to sit down with The Planet and talk about his latest show.

PJH: Tell us about the title of your new show, “Out There.” It has a quiet, Western poetry to it.

TW: I like how ambiguous the title is. It can mean many things. Perhaps it comes from making a lot of my work out in the field, as opposed to in the studio. My color palette was once described as being pretty “out there.” I also am really fond of the song “Out There” from the film Wall-E. I don’t really know why I chose it, maybe a little bit of all of these reasons.

PJH: Will there be a mix of paintings from Yellowstone and GTNP, and also town of Jackson paintings? Are there differences in painting the Yellowstone landscape as opposed to scenes closer to Jackson?

TW: One of my favorite paintings I did this year, but that is not in this show, is of an Amish family watching Old Faithful go off. Obviously the colors are pretty wild in Yellowstone, and I tend to push my colors more when I am working up there. Everywhere I have visited, the color shifts, the patterns change, but there are common elements that interest me in all of them. A vintage RV or sparkling stream looks just as striking to me in the blue greens of Yellowstone as it does in the red browns of Moab.

PJH: You’ve had a couple of prolific years now, producing many paintings, and gaining a lot of collectors. I’m wondering how you feel your work has changed (if at all) the more you paint? Do you find your palette or approach to light shifting?

TW: I am always finding new inspirations in life. This year I have been watching clouds more, and thinking more about the desert.

I painted the Teton Theater this year for the first time as a response to it being shuttered for the past few years and everyone wondering what its new incarnation will be. My most popular Facebook post this year was when I asked what movie I should put on the marquee! People’s responses became a sort of social media Rorschach test. I ended up putting E.T. on the big painting I did. What does that say about me?

PJH: You have a painting that includes the iconic grizzly, Bear 399. Figures and creatures don’t often appear in your work, so when they do they make a big impression. How do you choose when to include a person or animal?

TW: Before I moved to Jackson, I made many portraits and figurative works because I was more invested in humanity as a subject at that point. When I came here, the landscape made humanity seem so small, that I moved away from it. When I do return, as in my tourist pieces, it is because the subject of humanity has again become interesting, often because I find humor in a particular setting.

PJH: Your work often has a feeling of nostalgia. I think we’ve talked about this before. It’s funny how we can feel nostalgic about something that exists right now in front of our eyes, as if we can see it passing away at the same time.

TW: Nostalgia and memory are interwoven. My work is like a faded memory, where only the essence remains, and often burns brighter than reality. I think artists have the power to capture these sort of essential emotional connections in life. So that’s what I’m trying to do, and for anyone who has ever lived or visited the places I paint, there is often a strong sense of nostalgia.

PJH: Also, of course, home is a theme in your work, as in the mobile home and trailer paintings. “Out There” seems like it might be about finding home in your surroundings?

TW: Home is an underlying theme, definitely. But this work is about the journey to find that sense of place as much as the place itself. I find more comfort, and even excitement, in the open road or meandering path than the home at the end of it. PJH

A reception for Travis Walker and his exhibit of new paintings, “Out There,”is 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, September 22 at Altamira Fine Art. The works hang through October 1.

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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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