“I imagine a lot of us are doing a lot of looking out our windows these days. If you’re like most people you’re probably under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place advisement (order). I realize this is hard for many people. Most artists live this way every day (and have for most of their lives) by choice and temperament in order to do what we love and make our living. But most people aren’t most artists. To most people, [this] is the new normal.”
Those were Montana painter John Potter’s comments a month or so ago when Covid-19 first rained down upon our heads. As we write, restrictions are being eased. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are partially reopened.
In Jackson Hole, our summers and livlihoods are determined by tourism. We’re used to sardine-like lines of traffic, wildlife darting across vehicle-choked roads. Visitors book every room in the region, paying high prices—$450/night is not unusual. Locals avoid the parks to escape tourism cacophony; but our cash registers ring, and visitors to the Greater Yellowstone region make our financial year.
Social media is having a giant moment, and solo artists are proving incredibly nimble.
We don’t know WHAT this summer will look like. You need a PLAN to come visit. Parks are open, but lodging is sparse. Restaurants are not yet open for indoor dining. Are lodgings in Jackson open? Barely, and there will be restrictions there as well. Are retailers open? Yes, they are opening….but mask and social distancing restrictions apply as posted.
And just a few days ago came the news that Jackson’s Art Association summer art fairs are canceled this year. A huge income producer for the beloved non-profit, it remains to be seen how its staff and the organization will be affected. A fair is made up of individual artists; being a vendor at a fair is hard work, but it’s also an adventure and a networking opportunity.
Art Association summer fairs net the organization $200,000 annually.
“As we look to the summer and beyond, the Art Association is actively recalibrating and envisioning new ways to safely engage our community and artists. Through local support and patience, we will ensure that the annual Art Fairs return to a new normal in 2021, and that the Art Association remains one of the best places to learn and create art in Jackson Hole,” says the organization.
As of late May, art galleries ARE open! We reached out to gallery owners and Jackson’s Chamber of Commerce recently, probing for summer plans~~let’s just say plans continue to be in the making. That goes for Jackson’s Fall Arts Festival, too. At press time, Festival “anchor” events are listed on the Chamber website: Palates & Palettes, Ranch Tours, Taste of the Tetons (which accompanies Taking It To the Streets, the art portion of the day), Quick Draw and Sunday Closing Brunch Walk.
Although the Western Design Conference has its website up and participants are listed for this year, it does not appear on the Chamber schedule.
I was recently asked about art trends in our area. A too brief response is that this is a big new space for individual artists. Social media is having a giant moment, and solo artists are proving incredibly nimble. They don’t need a committee to jump start a project. Drive-by art, web-in-art (just coined that, don’t let me catch you!), virtual galleries, painting instructions via Zoom, instructional videos, cocktails and art, art auctions….it’s all taking place on line.
Does all that give us more space in our brains to hear individual voices and the song of John Potter’s meadowlark?
Potter’s tiny yellow bird ( “The Voice,” above ) is Creator, Nature, our Earth’s pulse in a single fragile, avian minstrel body.
“Hopefully,” he writes on his blog, “We can all learn, and grow, to be patient, be mindful, tolerant; to slow down, live, appreciate; to be quiet and listen. To remember how and what it means to be Human Beings on this good Earth, and not just ‘people.’ ”
“Young” Western artists (anyone under the age of 55 ) often bemoan the power that “traditional” art holds over their lives; why are all these old men and women still relevant?
Well, what is relevancy? Potter, a Native Ojibwe, is over 55 and pretty darn relevant. In fact, the messages he hears, then shares, are of the utmost importance.
Not long ago, Potter had a vision, and he retells it in a story on his blog.
“Many years ago, I went hunting in the mountains here in South-central Montana. I had been out for three days, with nothing to show for it. After Sunrise on the fourth day, tired and VERY hungry, I decided to head home,” writes Potter on his blog. “I poked my head out from my nice warm sleeping bag, ready to head back to my pickup, and suddenly realized that I did not know how to get back where I had parked. I did not know where I was. I was invisible, surrounded and swallowed up by a cold, deep, thick, heavy fog that had settled in overnight. I felt smothered. I was lost. (Yes, Indians can, and do, get lost.)”
“I don’t get lost,” I said to myself. “I NEVER get lost!” And my self answered, “Well, you are now.”
My first instinct was, of course, to panic – so I did (not a pretty picture). I didn’t know what to do. The fog had no movement in it – it was there to stay.
Once I took a few deep breaths and calmed down, I did the one thing that I DO know how to do. I asked for help. I pulled out my Asema (Tobacco), offered it to the Four Directions, to the Earth, to ALL Our Relatives, and finally, to Creator – and then closed my eyes and squinted down real hard and prayed for help. (Indians believe that if you squint down just really hard when you pray, that your prayers carry more of an essence of urgency, need, and importance. Okay, well, THIS Indian believes that, anyway.)
I sat down and waited for the help that I knew would come.”
What happened then? You must click and read on to find out!
In Jackson, John Potter is represented by Mountain Trails Gallery. This summer and fall, look to find him at these events:
– Summer ArtFest, Whitefish, MT, June 26-28
– Art in the Beartooths, Red Lodge, MT, July 11
– Warrior Taste Fest, Bozeman, MT, July 31
– Western Visions Show, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY, September 16-17
– Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, Cody, WY, September 18-19
“In challenging times, there are few things that comfort us like beauty. And there are few things in all of Creation as beautiful as flowers. This exhibition by some of the finest interpreters of nature is not to be missed.” ~ Tim Newton, Collector, Curator, Publisher and Former Salmagundi Club Chairman of the Board.
Participating Artists: Sherrie McGraw • Taos, NM; Kathryn Mapes Turner • Jackson, WY; Quang Ho • Hellam, PA; Kathy Anderson • Redding, CT; Daniel Keys– Fresno, CA; Kathleen Speranza • Lynn, MA; Eric Jacobsen • Prineville, OR; Stephanie Birdsall • Redding, CT; Scott Conary • Portland, OR; Shanna Kunz • Ogden, UT; John Felsing • Mason, MI; Adrienne Steins • Hellam, PA and Paul Rhymer • Point of Rocks, MD.
For more information visit www.turnerfineart.com
Need a little good fortune?
Arts consultant Shari Brownfield of Brownfield Fine Art has announced that her downtown Jackson 55 South Glenwood Street location is one of [1,000] world wide sites for an exhibition of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie), 1990.”
Curators are mega galleryists David Zwirner and Andrea Rosen; according to the Art Newspaper Zwirner and Rosen chose participants based on their mentions of Gonzales-Torres’ work on Instagram.
Gonzales-Torres died in 1996; this particular work is a very tidy, tactile pile of fortune cookies. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to choose a cookie and read their fortune.
“In an era of social distancing, can a fortune cookie help bring us together?” asks the installation. Brownfield hopes that “what appears to be a simple pile of fortune cookies can bring members of our Jackson Hole community safely together with messages of inspiration, as well as consider questions of purpose even when we feel unseen.”
As do all the exhibitors, Brownfield will source and choose the fortune cookies for her particular space; Gonzalez-Torres preferred optimistic fortune cookie forecasts. Brownfield has the right to “interpret/choose the mode, configuration, and placement of installation for each manifestation.”
The exhibit will be open to the public beginning May 28, 2020, from 10-2pm weekdays, says Brownfield. She advises phoning in advance to make certain the exhibition is open; you may also opt to make an appointment. Please visit only if you are feeling healthy and are asymptomatic. Because of the unusual nature of our schedules during the pandemic, please call in advance to ensure the exhibit is open.
The gallery does not provide masks or gloves, but cookies are individually wrapped and sanitized.
AND, the work is deemed to exist even if it is not manifest (visible or obvious). In other words, even if this exhibition is not, in real time, apparent—it still exists. Email [email protected] or call 307-413-9262 for details. www.sharibrownfield.com
BEST WISHES FOR A SAFE AND HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND ~~ MAY WE ALL MEET AGAIN SOON IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS.