In Wild Company

By on July 11, 2018

Local artist bucks her trend of charcoal broncs in new exhibition, but not entirely

Taryn Boals’s work hearkens back to a childhood spent among animals and nature.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – As a child, when Taryn Boals felt stressed, she often turned to her horses, soothing herself in the rhythm of the brush as she groomed them.

Today, Boals finds peace with charcoal, which she moves across paper in the same direction she used when grooming her animals. Often with each mark, one of the horses she loves begins to take shape under her hand. The edges fade like a memory—and in many ways Boals’s work is part of a memory of her childhood and her horses, she said.

The charcoal horses have been her trademark as an artist and what she is known for, but her new show at Cowboy Coffee is about debuting new subject matter and medium she’s been experimenting with the last few years.

“Menagerie,” is a mix of Boals’s classic charcoal horse drawings, but also acrylic paintings, pen and ink drawings, and moose, elk, bison, rabbits and ravens.

The show’s title fits what Boals hopes people see when they walk into the coffee shop, a collection of animals and works in all shapes, sizes and mediums. The 44 pieces in the exhibition are already hanging, but Boals is hosting a reception for the show 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Boals grew up in rural northwest Illinois in a town with only a few hundred people. Her parents owned a dairy farm and had other animals. She also owned and showed horses. Working with animals was part of her life and often required chores, but she was “obsessed with them,” wanting to know each one and learn its personality.

She was also a child who was always drawing. Her kindergarten teacher told her parents at a conference that Boals would become an artist. Boals never thought about doing anything else and animals made an obvious subject matter choice, until she attended graduate school at Northern Illinois University.

Boals tried to move beyond horses, which some people said were cliché. She experimented with figure drawing and contemporary and conceptual art for two years before realizing none of it really fit and she returning to animals.

Originally an oil painter, she realized in school she wanted to focus on the animal itself, showing its personality and quirks. Painting, though, was detracting from her effort.

“What I was trying to say in my work wasn’t about the paint—it was about getting the essence of the horse and the subject matter I was trying to portray,” she said.

So she turned to charcoal. She loved how working with it—both laying it on paper and erasing it—added to her work a sense of mass and weight.

“I love that charcoal is super physical,” she said. “It’s the closest I can get to the paper.”

Boals continues to use it to draw horses, but she’s also branching out.

In this show, alongside horses, are works depicting animals from the area. Some pieces depict the charismatic megafauna of the Greater Yellowstone like moose, wolves and bears. But there are also the ravens that hang out near the garbage cans around her studio and the resident rabbit she sees every day.

“There’s definitely some new characters in my life,” she said.

They may not be the most famous wildlife in the area, but they are the ones she sees and studies daily.

Boals also has returned to painting. There are several small works with acrylic paints in the show. Painting allowed her to capture scenes like horses in pasture in the winter. She wanted a softer look than the angular marks of charcoal. Painting allowed her to capture the stillness and the light of winter scenes.

She works in pen and ink, too. While the effect is similar to charcoal, the process is not. It requires more planning. It’s more adrenaline-filled with a sense of daring permanence.

“I love the thrill of putting down a mark and there’s no going back,” she said.

Pen and ink forces her to observe a line and think hard about how she could capture an animal in a single motion.

Both charcoal and pen and ink allow her to share her process with viewers.

“I like to work on paper because I like to show my initial lines,” she said. “Once it’s on there—that’s history. It’s there no matter how hard I erase.”

Like the variety of mediums, Boals’s new work is in a variety of sizes and shapes. The smallest are 3 by 3 inches, the largest are up to four-feet long. Prices range from $25 to $850. “Menagerie” hangs until August 1.

“Menagerie,” an exhibition of work by Taryn Boals, openes with a reception 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday at Cowboy Coffee.

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