It is certainly egoic to inscribe one’s visage upon the land. But it’s also a way of saying “I was here” after we’re gone. It’s a handprint on a 30,000-year-old cave wall. – David Klarén
Pinedale artist David Klarén’s wavy, multi-colored portraits are recognizable to anyone familiar with Wyoming arts social media. Poignant, often nostalgic, his subject’s faces seem to float upwards towards us from the depths of rainbow pools. Always intriguing and often unsettling, the individuals Klarén paints leave a mark upon his soul. As he describes it, these people and their likenesses are shadowy presences, relinquishing a trace of themselves with the artist.
Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? Psychelically brilliant, a little hallucinagenetic, Klarén’s paints flow à la Peter Max. And like Max, Klaren is concerned with how humans leave often destructive marks on our planet.
Klarén’s “Shadow Series” portrays individuals he feels drawn to who make personal and global impacts. Of the former group, Klarén painted a portrait of his mother, Mary, this past October. Finishing on Saturday, October 5th, he hung his mother’s portrait on October 7th as part of a new exhibition scheduled to open on Wednesday, October 9th in his home town of Pinedale. Tragically, Mary passed away just a few hours before the exhibit opened, and she never saw her son’s painting.
Materialized via paint and canvas, they connect human stories with matter.
Klarén recently finished a portrait of Matthew Shepard. Press coverage around the time of the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s death led Klarén to the idea of painting social activists. Shepard, Klarén points out, was not an activist himself. But the brutality of Shepard’s death set fire to dialog about our country’s hate crime laws, particularly those relating to the LGBTQ communities. Although the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is federal law, Wyoming has not adopted it. In fact, Wyoming is one of four remaining states that don’t require data collection of hate crimes. It is legal, however, to marry a same sex partner.
Our nation is often referred to as a melting pot. The description can mean different things to different people. To most, it means that in America, individual cultures should merge and lose their identity to a greater American monoculture. Turn that image inside out, America is alternately a swath of vibrant shades making up a gorgeous multi-cultural coat. Klarén’s mapped topographic colors reflect diversity even as they are conscious replicas of the shapes and elevation of land masses directly connected to his subjects. Their portraits rise out of Klarén’s earth like phantoms, voices from the void. It’s phenomenal how each facial images positions so perfectly against a vibrating, shifting earth. In “Mona,” the subject’s shoulder area IS the topography.
Materialized in paint and canvas, these portrait-souls connect human stories with matter. In most cases, says Klarén, his multi-colored canvases mirror formations of places where his subjects were born. In Shepard’s case, topographic colors are the undulations of the land just east of Laramie, Wyoming, where Shepard was murdered.
“Once I figure out the composition of the painting’s elements, I start painting on the lowest elevation level,” explains Klarén. “These are painted with acrylics, and to neutralize my tendency to overthink my work at times, I choose colors at random from a bowl of numbers that correlates to a particular tube of paint. This takes the color choice out of my hands, introducing a random factor. Once in awhile, I will re-pick a color the same as the previous layer’s. The brighter variant is painted first, black is added to create the shadow, and painted in where the portrait image overlays the topography.”
Sometimes premonitions are recognized only after the foreshadowed event. Klarén’s paintings suggest revelation and altered consciousness. The word ‘psychedelic’ literally relates to contact with the omnipotent. Klarén says he can’t help but feel that a higher power led him to paint his mother when he did. He follows those impulses, and often the resulting paintings strike the biggest chord with viewers, eliciting powerful and loving memories and stories.
Klarén plans to continue the series, and if his rainbow colors connote those of an iconic Pop artist, it’s a happy coincidence. As Wyoming very recently celebrated the 150th Anniversary of 1869’s Suffrage Act, isn’t it fine to find a male artist prioritizing women? Klarén follows where the Muse leads.
Find out more about David Klarén’s artwork, which includes graphite and ink drawings as well as sculpture and public art installations at www.davidkklaren.com
Never let it be said we intermountain dwellers don’t know mythology. And never underestimate our fertile minds.
Long Greek mythology story short, a married goddess slept with a bull and had a half-bull, half-man baby, a minotaur. Her husband, King Minos, was miffed, so he stuck the minotaur in a labyrinth and sent his enemies there to their deaths. Attempts to right this situation were made by members of the gods and goddess family tree. Eventually another pair of lovers, Princess Ariadne and Theseus, struck on a plan to kill the minotaur and escape. All they needed was a little string.
For Sommers, Manotaurs are her inquiry into humanimal behavior, “…the shadowy space in which people act according to the mandates of their bodies rather than their minds.” She tells us her interest in Manotaurs is underpinned by her research into purebred beef bulls populating her husband’s and neighbors’ ranches.
“More than almost any domesticated animal, purebred beef bulls symbolize food and sex. They are formidable exemplars of animal maleness: massive, confident, and with musculature sculpted by breeding and testosterone. Locally they are bred for docility as well as performance, but their sheer power makes them capable of great havoc, especially when competing for females,” writes Sommers. “Manotaurs are also about our control over the minds and bodies of other creatures. Manotaurs walk the fenceline between genetic survival and social survival, between technology and morality. Sometimes they find holes in the fence.” www.suesommers.com
Join the members of the Jackson Hole Gallery Association for a Holiday Art Walk on Saturday, December 28th, 5-8:00 pm. New works, great artists, hot chocolate and cider are on the agenda! Here’s a list of Gallery Association members.
And of special note, Diehl Gallery is hosting its Bright & Beautiful III Holiday Group Show through January 12th, 2020. Join them for a very festive celebration of Diehl Gallery artists! www.diehlgallery.com
May We All Trust Our Light. Happy Holidays and Peace to All. See you in the New Year.