CREATIVE PEAKS: Image Intervention

By on March 21, 2017

A visiting artist shifts the valley into slow motion; Jackson Hole Still Works asks artists to get saucy.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Before the internet (back when dinosaurs walked the earth), we consumed images and information at set times and in set ways. Television only existed on television—not on your iPad or smartphone screen. A magazine article could only be read on the printed page, not jumped to for a moment while scanning for other information. The advent of digital space transformed the way we consume images, creating mishmash left to our minds’ random associations.

Australian artist Charlie Donaldson argues that in the pre-internet days, we consumed images in a linear narrative—information came to us in a comprehensive chunk via one mode of transmission. Now, he says, we lack a narrative structure to our image consumption, and so we make up our own narratives.

“The dismantling of the linear conception of images has really come about due to the internet as all media is collapsed into digital space and we switch between it all very readily,” he said.

“When we search or casually wander the internet, our experience is running on a system of associations based off things you’ve purchased, videos you’ve watched, and articles you’ve read. However, these systems are rarely perfect, and often things can go awry, resulting in magical extrapolations of what we seek to answer, purchase, or learn.”

Donaldson is the visiting artist in residence at Teton Artlab. He will give a presentation about his work on Thursday, and an open studio Friday.

Collaging prints of digital imagery, Donaldson investigates the meaning of images and associations. His art delves into how our minds work, and the storytelling impulse hardwired into our way of making sense of the world. For instance, he questions the way we organize digital images by hashtags. “Images are marked and sorted into set tags and associative systems to make them easier to navigate, but that information is essentially infinite and often images that don’t fit into that system are sorted into them, resulting in bizarre combinations of images,” he said.

Donaldson argues that when we are bombarded with information we have to make cognitive leaps, and along the way our thinking can become muddled and our minds can fabricate strange stories.

“My practice involves taking that bombardment, mining a lot of data from it and then attempting to marry that data with the process of storytelling,” he said.

For his Jackson project, Donaldson explored the folk history canon of the United States, especially stories associated with the American Midwest, such as gold mines, Bigfoot, lost expeditions, and UFO encounters, which he sees as intrinsic to modern American cultural mythology.

“I wanted to create a body of work that was polished yet seemingly insane and absurd,” he said, “In the way that someone investing such a huge amount of time into something so false and ridiculous (UFOs, Bigfoot) gives it some amount of cultural and historical significance.”

His final collage will tell a story that begins with a lone gold prospector striking it rich in late 19th century Wyoming and ends with a treasure hunting society based in Jackson that disappears off the face of the earth.

Artist talk by Charlie Donaldson, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at 175 Center Street. (Please note this is a different location than Teton Artlab.) Open studio with Charlie Donaldson, 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 24 at Teton Artlab, 130 S. Jackson Street.

High spirits

A few years ago, two energetic, inspired friends started an artisanal grain-to-bottle spirits company with a special twist. Jackson Hole Still Works founders Chas Marsh and Travis Goodman envisioned a company that partnered with local community organizations and businesses, and highlighted local artists. To that end, they decided their signature vodka, Highwater Vodka, would feature artwork by a local artist on a yearly basis. Each year, JH Still Works would partner with the Art Association to hold a contest for new art. Now in its third year, the competition just opened and runs through May 30.

“Travis and I come from families that are very passionate about the arts,” Marsh said. “We believe whole-heartedly in all of the amazing support that the Art Association provides to our local and greater Wyoming community as well as to the artists who live here. Our contest is designed to draw focus to both.”

Previous winners include Katy Ann Fox and Emily Boespflug.

The theme of the competition is simply, “Wyoming,” and artists from the state and from Teton County, Idaho, are invited to submit their work for consideration. Media considered includes 2D work in watercolor, oil, pastel, pencil, acrylic, collage and multimedia. Original works only; no prints. Each work must be 12 by 12 inches and framed. The winner receives $2,000 and their winning artwork on the label for one year, plus, and most importantly, a six-bottle case of Highwater Vodka.

For more information and to apply, check CallForEntry.org. 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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