In what seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jackson artist Jenny Dowd opened her first show here,“Teeth.” Inspiration for Dowd’s works were Renaissance curiosity cabinets, also known as “Cabinets of Wonder,” or as the National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA) notes, “Wunderkammer.”
“Teeth,” we wrote of Dowd’s exhibit, “suggests the De Stijl movement’s purity and pared down universality – as well as its spirituality – imposed upon …curiosity cabinets, likely the original ‘found object’ art form. Those cabinets were small, framed stages filled with collected objects, their maker’s assembly of natural and unnatural articles. Often displaying botanical specimens, curiosity cabinets were attempts to understand and control the world while providing a way to marvel at its mysteries.”
The cabinets were also precursors to museums, says NMWA. Their new exhibition, “Wonder Cabinet,” conceived by Assistant Museum Curator Bronwyn Minton, invites us to look in on these mysterious marvels, which were “a way for each individual to display his wealth and knowledge of the world.” The show is Minton’s third community-focused exhibit~~plaster insects, butterfly shadow boxes, NMWA artworks and commissioned works are all part of the show.
“Wonder Cabinet” opens Thursday, November 14th, 6:00-9:00 pm, at this month’s NMWA “Mix’d Media.” The fun happens in Johnson Hall, and all comers have the chance to create and take home their own “wonder objects.” All are welcome, and donations are encouraged! www.wildlifeart.org
“My contemporary work attempts to revive the color, spirit and spiritual designs of the American Plains Indians.” ~ David W. Wharton
In his seminal history of the arts and Yellowstone, “Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park,” Peter H. Hassrick cites Livingston, Montana artist David W. Wharton’s work as emblematic of a contemporary, dramatic thematic shift artists made when capturing Yellowstone.
It’s my feeling the author admired Wharton’s brave stepping away from simply glorifying the Park; you are no arts chump if your work is included in Hassrick’s remarkable book. Wharton, an avid fly fisherman, instead chose to comment on our invasion and misuse of Yellowstone’s great natural resources, Native Americans and wildlife.
“My thoughts and work have always been about the Yellowstone country and that of the Native Americans. We live where they died, we exist today because we stole their land,” states Wharton. “As long as I live in this proximity of Yellowstone, I will always pray to the spirit of this amazing place and the culture of what must have been [imbued with] innocence, freedom and the will to survive.”
Wharton’s arresting, colorful graphic designs appear in his watercolors, lithographs, monoprints and digital imagery. His work is as intricate as a quilt, boldly bright and so intriguing. The longer we look, the more wildlife symbols, basketry, morning star patterns and magic phenomena appear. If these twirling, interlocked symbols are morning stars, Wharton could be depicting his reverence for spirits and ancestors, as well as praying for the plentiful return of a culture and respect for nature’s bounty. Plains Indians communicated with symbols; one source says that the morning star represents a bright and twinkling Venus.
In fact, says Wharton, many of the patterns are based on ancient Islamic tiles and designs dating back to the Byzantine era. Wharton combines and rotates ancient and contemporary motifs for each work.
Wharton’s arts and non-profit leadership experience is extensive. Founding Director of Fine Arts at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities, he’s served as Assistant Professor of arts at Whitman and Colorado Colleges. From one edge of this country to the other, Wharton has directed the Florida Keys Council for the Arts and served as Executive Director of Alaska Transportation & Industry, in Wasilla. He’s currently represented by Sun Valley’s prestigious Gail Severn Gallery.
“I believe that we as a culture have “nickeled and dimed” the Native American Indian culture,” says Wharton. “We have reduced that freedom of the Plains Indians to mere remembrance of what was once a mighty nation. And we pay in beaded and feathered souvenirs. Alvin Josephy researched this culture extensively, as did Grinnell, Curtis and Catlin.” www.davidwwharton.com