It’s a sometimes dark, sometimes cosmic, and sometimes beautiful view photographer Thomas Macker shares with us in his new collection of images Western Heritage – Expansion/Consumption/New Age, opening at Teton Art Lab Friday, August 27. An opening reception takes place on the late side, (yes, I can hear the young folks laughin’) 7-9:00 p.m.
Macker describes this show as being concerned with “Wyoming and the western landscape….spiritual, cultural, and environmental tourism.” In much of his other work, he takes special interest in the ironies and complexities of California. Western Heritage delves into activities and issues as mountaineering, car camping, gmo seeds, migrant workers, alternative energy, “intergalactic colonialism,” Black Elk and the psychedelic.
I’ve spent an hour checking out Macker’s website. I find his photography deeply affecting. Intimate. Political. These are the kinds of photographs that, in this election season, those running for office should see. The photographs–portraits of place–illustrate ubiquitous ironies and plights. They more than hint at American tragedies. Private lives are exposed, fates admitted. Throughout his work Macker treats all his subjects, no matter how jarring, with unblinking honesty .
Without being noticed we watch from behind as a lone, aging man fills water bottles from a forest stream. The night sky’s astrological patterns surrounding Perseus (The Hero) are reinterpreted by what I first thought were scattered bullets holes in glass. A friend thought he saw the eyes of the universe. The connected spheres are in fact spores. Domestic workers pose for Macker’s camera inside the properties they tend; their employers are nowhere in sight. These spotless, manicured California homes are proof of attentive care and work provided by these workers, not of the property owners. Nannies, likely immigrants, assume motherhood to babies they push in strollers.
One Macker series, With God, All Things Are Possible, depicts a region of the Ohio River Valley and is a not-so-subtle rip on the concept of a generous Deity. A thick and heavy summer yard is vacant, save the black hole of an ignored trampoline. A dead coyote lies at the side of a road, a woman nuzzles her shepherd; but the most heart-stopping image concerns a young cougar tethered to a pole in a back yard. The cat stalks our photographer and its jailer—some guy I presume is trafficking in wildlife, or he works for a circus—plays ringmaster.
It took me a moment to notice the pistol lying on the bed next to a man in a motel room. The man talks animatedly; he’s wearing a Carnegie Mellon t-shirt.
These are only descriptions of Macker’s photographs, and I fear I may put you off checking out the contents of Western Heritage. This show’s cover image — girls in blue plastic innertubes lolling about in tall Wyoming grasses while a buff dude repairs a chain link fence protecting solar panels — reveals sharp, wry humor. Go see it. Put your thinking cap on. In America, concerned as we are with issues of constitutionality and culturalism, this a potentially thought provoking show.
To view Macker’s work check out http://www.fotocoyote.com/
Jackson Hole’s 2010 Fall Arts Festival is fast approaching. Portions of the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Western Visions/Sixth Annual Photography Show & Sale/ Fourth Annual Sketch Show & Sale are now available to view. Events continue through Sunday, September 26, 2010.
- The Sketch Show & Sale (King Gallery) displays work by participating Western Visions artists and includes simple pencil sketches to studies in oil or acrylic.
- Tuesday, September 7, 2010 — 5:30 to 8:30 pm enjoy Tapas and a presentation by 2010 Featured Scupltor Simon Gudgeon for a special Art After Hours. Program is free. Reservations for tapas required and can be made by calling 307-732-5434.
- Thursday, September 9, 12:05 pm. — Art Alive @ 12:05 features a talk by Simon Gudgeon. Museum galleries; free.
- Wednesday, September 15 — 12th Annual Jewelry & Artisan Luncheon, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register by Wednesday, September 8. 307.732.5412.
- Thursday, September 16, 2010 —- Plein Air Sketching Workshop led by Featured Painter Mary Roberson. 8-11:30 a.m. Hands-on outdoor instruction overlooking National Elk Refuge. Cost: $45. Reservations required via Jane Lavino. 307.732.5417. ALSO: Museum Gallery Walk, 1-2:00 pm. Led by Simon Gudgeon, he will talk about some of his favorite NMWA works. Free for members or with Museum admission. AND, Jewelry & Artisan Show & Sale begins today, continuing through Friday, September 17. View and select offerings of exquisite handmade jewelry, silver items and accessories.
- Thursday, September 16 —- 23rd Annual Wild West Artist Party, 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. Location is National Museum of Wildlife Art. Live music, dancing, plenty of good fare. Register by Wednesday, September 8. 307.732.5412.
- Friday, September 17 —- Featured Painter Presentation and Poster Signing, 1:00 pm. Mary Roberson will speak about her art and influences. Free for members or with Museum admission.
- Friday, September 17 —- 23rd Annual Miniatures and More Show & Sale. Doors open 3:30 pm; Bidding closes 5:30 pm; Presentation begins 6:30 pm. Event features over 150 top American artists. Reservations required by September 8. 307.732.5434.
And, a new addition for 2010:
Wednesday, September 29 — Art A’Brewin’ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Enjoy coffee and fruit at the Museum, and pick up your purchased artwork. Browse works still available. Fun, free, open to the public.
An online Western Visions Catalog can be found here; you can read succinct artist biographies and, for some artists, interview content.