CREATIVE PEAKS: Passageway to Art

By on January 10, 2017

Center awards six artists with a home in one of the valley’s most traversed indoor thoroughfares.

‘Welcome to the Pleasure Dome’ by Courtney Blazon.

‘Welcome to the Pleasure Dome’ by Courtney Blazon.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Intricate illustrations, icy edges, bursts of color, projected poems, nature observations, and conceptual carvings—these are themes that will be on view this year in the Center for the Arts’ Theater Gallery. The Center just announced its line-up of six local and regional artists who will fill the gallery walls with compelling works in the months to come.

Four local artists made the cut in a competitive juried process: Scotty Craighead, Matt Daly, Thomas Macker, and Bronwyn Minton. Two out-of-state artists, Courtney Blazon of Missoula, Montana, and Leslie Gifford of Denver, Colorado, were selected as well.

“It’s a really eclectic group,” said Carrie Richer, the Center’s creative initiatives coordinator. “The work is very interesting. The selected artists are innovative and a bit nontraditional.”

Richer coordinates the gallery shows, while an anonymous jury from across the state selected this year’s artists from a pool of 50 applicants. The gallery space itself holds a lot of promise and even some obstacles to artists. Also known informally as the ramp gallery, the space is essentially a sloped hallway between different halves of the building. There are some awkward corners, and public restrooms at one end of the hall. Even though it wasn’t designed to be a gallery, however, the space is considered prime real estate among artists.

“The ramp gallery is a challenging space because it is a place where people are getting from one place to another,” Minton explained. She has shown her work in the space before, and has also curated shows there. “It makes it interesting to show work because people are passing through. Because it’s in an interdisciplinary building, you get a lot of different audiences.”

In a departure from recent years when nine to 10 artists were selected, this year’s roster is focused on only six artists in order to give each artist more exhibition time.

The first artist of the 2017 line up is Leslie Gifford, a painter and dancer in Denver, Colorado. Gifford’s work will be on display March 7 to April 17. Much of Gifford’s work is abstract and involves bright plumes of color as she tries to capture motion and light through painting. Beautiful swirls of pink, orange and violet might erupt in one painting, emulating a dancer in motion, or perhaps goldfish in a bowl. The exuberant paintings often lend themselves to the viewer’s interpretation, the intent being to convey a mood more than represent an exact object or scene.

“I programmed Leslie’s work in March on purpose,” Richer said. “I thought by that point in the winter we will all need a little color.”

From April 18 to June 5, Thomas Macker will exhibit work from his recent show, “Holdout,” at the Nicolaysen Art Museum. The show explores ideas of camoflage, warfare, loyalty, duty, and inner turmoil. “Camouflage means embedding something into the environment,” Macker said. “With camo, we are disguising something, making it invisible. I wanted to look at the ways camouflage literally changes the landscape.” The exhibit features several sculptures, paintings and prints, all involving complex materials and processes. The work draws upon references from war history as well as art history.

The jury selected a literary artist for the first time this year. Poet Matt Daly has an exhibit scheduled June 8 to July 31. He will curate a poetry ensemble that will be projected on the gallery walls using multiple small projectors. Daly plans to collect short poetic stanzas from a number of local poets. All stanzas will relate to the theme, “Oh how we play,” and describe activities that bring people together in Jackson Hole. These short stanzas will then be projected on the gallery walls in random, rotating order. With several projectors running at once, a random but cohesive poem will appear on the wall at any given moment. The exhibit was scheduled to coincide with the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, June 22 to 24. [Daly is the brother of reporter Meg Daly. – Ed.]

“I’m excited to explore the idea that poetry can be a community-building art form,” Daly said. “There will be a lot of voices exhibited on walls and the writing will focus on what brings us together. Anytime someone experiences the exhibit it will be a new poem. It’s like a conversation on the wall that will be changing all the time.”

Bronwyn Minton’s work will be on exhibit August 1 to September 11, including the Fall Arts Festival and the Palettes & Palates gallery walk. Minton said she will show all new work, a combination of drawings and sculpture, and perhaps even some video. She’ll be exploring her signature themes of observations of nature as well as the ways we observe nature.

From October 10 to November 1, the gallery will house illustrations by Missoula artist Courtney Blazon. Surreal, whimsical and darkly humorous, Blazon’s detailed color illustrations tell historical tales. Think Steampunk meets Lewis and Clark. Each illustration seems to tell a story, but what that tale or allegory is can be interpreted by the viewer. Many of Blazon’s illustrations seem rooted in the 19th century, judging by her use of clothes, maps, and scenes of settlers. Another obsession appears to be meat—the animals who feed us and an unflinching portrayal of bloody bits. Because her figures are largely caucasian, one reading of Blazon’s illustrations could be a commentary on Manifest Destiny, the plunder and pleasure of the natural world, and discoveries of beauty and horror.

Not all the artists know exactly what they will be showing yet. Scotty Craighead’s exhibit is scheduled November 15 to January 8, 2018. He said he will be showing new work, likely continuing one of his favorite themes: edges in nature. Craighead creates abstract landscapes from macro photographs of microenvironments, like the edge of an icy stream where solid and liquid water interact. Craighead assembles geometric slices of photos from an existing landscape to create a new, fragmented tableau.

Richer noted that each artist will conduct a lunchtime artist talk. These brown bag lunch events in the gallery have become uber popular, so stay tuned for future articles delving further into the artists’ work and highlighting opening reception and artist talk dates.

In addition, the Theater Gallery will host exhibitions throughout the year from some of The Center’s resident nonprofits, including the Art Association, Central Wyoming College, Jackson Hole WILD, KHOL, Off Square Theatre Company, and the Wyoming Humanities Council. 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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