CREATIVE PEAKS: Bright Lights, Small City

By on March 1, 2017

A fundraiser for the Art Association asks, “Whodunnit?” while Borbay pays homage to neon.

A mysterious work for ‘Whodunnit’ (left), and Jason Borbet with his piece ‘Carlos Danger.’

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A little more than 10 years ago, an ingenious, mysterious idea was born (or perhaps borrowed, not born). The Art Association’s program director at the time, Travis Walker, had the idea for a miniature art show fundraiser based on London’s Royal College of Arts Secret Sale, in which art students and established artists create postcard-sized pieces to sell anonymously at affordable prices.

Walker left the Art Association soon after to launch Teton Artlab. So another staffer at the time, Elisa San Souci, took the secret art sale idea and ran with it, creating what is now a time-honored favorite local art party: Whodunnit? Anonymous Art Show and Sale.

Each year, artists are invited to pick up a six-inch square canvas from the Art Association, take it back to their studios and use it however they see fit to create a piece of art. Many artists take a traditional approach and paint on the canvas. Others veer from the expected and utilize 3D materials, from fabric to metal to ceramics.

The works, which all artists donate, are hung throughout the Center for the Arts lobby and ramp gallery. Each piece is presented anonymously, and people can write their name in to bid on a piece. At the end of the evening, a die is cast to select the winner of each piece.

“It proved to be a great fundraiser,” San Souci said of the first event. “The mystery component was awesome. You never knew if you were going to get a real prized piece. Art is so personal, you might not care if it’s by a famous artist or not. You like what you like.”

This democratic spirit continues a decade later. “The show captures what Jackson used to be, and still is,” said Mark Nowlin, Art Association director. “It appeals to established artists and newbies because it’s not a major endeavor to make a small canvas, and it’s nonjudgmental.”

Nowlin says Whodunnit? is one of the big local parties of the year. “It rivals Palates and Palettes. Five hundred people attended last year. It’s a great way to catch up with friends. It’s also a nice entrance for new people in the community.”

Tenley Thompson has contributed artworks to Whodunnit? for the past six years. Though she primarily works as a photographer, she prefers to use the six-inch canvas as a springboard for a sculptural piece in either ceramics or wood. “It forces me to create outside of what I would normally create,” she said. “I get to experiment with new styles and ideas that, if I was not forced into the six-by-six size I would have probably not considered.” Thompson said her small sculptures elicit exclamations of surprise from audiences.

Her favorite part of the show is discovering the unique ways her peers work with their canvases. The chance to buy a work by a well-known artist is always a thrill, Thompson said. She won an Amy Ringholz painting one year for only $99. She also appreciates the opportunity to bid on art just because she loves it without knowing who made it.

“Lots of folks make grids of the works they have won over the years,” Thompson said. “It’s like Jackson art history on a wall.”

The canvases are auctioned off for $99. A select number of 12- and 18-inch square canvases will also be for sale, for $299 and $999 respectively. All proceeds benefit the Art Association.

10th annual Whodunnit? Anonymous Art Show and Sale, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 3 at the Center for the Arts Theater Lobby, $15. Buy tickets at the door or artassociation.org

Light up the night

Recent art phenom transplant Jason Borbet opens a show at the brand new venue, Ski Barre/West Bank Dance Saturday night. Borbet, who paints under the name Borbay, will hang three new works along with other pieces in his signature colorful style at the “Art Barre Soiree.”

Borbay made a name for himself in New York painting exuberant image and text-based works about hip-hop artists and celebrities. In 2010, Time Out magazine dubbed him the “most creative New Yorker.” One of his ongoing projects is to paint the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan every year for 20 years. His eighth painting in the series will be on display at Ski Barre. Entitled “Neon Guggenheim,” it was inspired by the artist’s painting, “Neon Cowboy.”

He will also show “Old Town Bar,” based on a neon bar sign in New York City, as well as his neon sign painting, “Carlos Danger,” which Borbay started before the Anthony Weiner scandal broke. (Weiner, a former New York City congressman, used the moniker “Carlos Danger” when sending women sexting.)

Borbay and his wife moved to Teton Valley, Idaho, two years ago, and the artist has found great inspiration from the natural environment as well as fellow artists in the region. “Living at altitude, the fresh air, perpetual silence, numerous blue skies, cross country skiing, ice hockey all keeps me going at full bore,” he said.

Borbay also contributed to Whodunnit? so check him out twice this weekend.

Art Barre soiree featuring art by Borbay, 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 4 at Ski Barre/Westbank Dance, free. 3465 N. Pines Way. 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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