CREATIVE PEAKS: Retracing Her Steps

By on April 19, 2016

A Jackson native draws from memories to paint new perspectives.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Most of Emily Poole’s most vivid memories from growing up in Jackson involve either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park.

One winter, in high school, she skied around the geysers in Yellowstone. It was all snow and steam in a white landscape. And then an ethereal geyser appeared in the mist.

That geyser was Grotto Geyser, and it became the subject of one of Poole’s paintings now on display through April at Cowboy Coffee.

Not only will you recognize the locations captured within the canvasses, but you might also recognize the artist’s name. Poole grew up in Jackson and lived in town until she attended the Rhode Island School of Design about four years ago.

The show features roughly 12 larger pieces and several smaller ones. Poole created most of the work in a painting class at the design school where she is working on a degree in illustration.

All of the paintings are inspired by Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks. Most are landscapes.

“When you are really little, you take those spaces for granted,” Poole said.

Now living across the country, she’s rendered just how special the places of her childhood memories are in paint. Both parks have always been places of imagination and wonder for Poole, and the work reflects her passion for nature, as well as animals and their forms in reality and fantasy.

Some are traditional scenes such as an erupting geyser or mountainscape. But some of the paintings are studies of smaller parts of the landscape, like algae maps in stunning colors, or tree bark with amazing textures.

“[The show represents] studying beauty in scale,” Poole said.  “It’s a reminder that seeing that panoramic landscape isn’t the only thing that’s amazing about Yellowstone; there are also the little things.”

Poole’s been an artist since she was old enough to hold a pen. As a kid, she took all the classes she could at the Art Association of Jackson Hole. She also took advantage of every program offered at school. The classes helped her establish a strong foundation, and also made her realize art was something she could pursue as a career.

She didn’t start working with oil paints until her sophomore year of college. Her painting class was an immersive lesson in oils, and a departure from her comfortable mediums of pen and ink and watercolor.

Oil painting allowed her to play with and change how she thought about color.

“Some [paintings] are truer to mood than others,” Poole said of the work in the show. “Some are bending reality a bit.”

In the images capturing trees against the skyline, Poole played with colors in the sky. The series of dead, skeletal trees were also experimental, as she discovered what simply felt good to paint.

At the same time she was experimenting with oils, Poole was also trying her hand at landscape work.

“A lot of it was pushing paint around and seeing what happened,” she said. “Don’t worry, I kept my failed attempts out of the show.”

The show does feature a series of animal tracks in the sand and snow. Some are from memories she has of finding wildlife footprints while exploring the parks. One year, while skiing to Fairy Falls in Yellowstone, she saw wolf tracks in the snow bigger than her hand.

“They were very big tracks,” she said. “I did not have little hands.”

She loves the idea that animals are always around, sometimes leaving only clues that indicate you are sharing the same landscape with them.

Poole worked from photographs and memory. The work took her back to her childhood in the valley and gave her a deeper appreciation of Jackson.

“Many are representational,” Poole said. “They are abstractions of feeling as much as they are a direct rendering of something.”

It was cathartic, but also made her a little homesick. There isn’t the same type of open space in Providence, Rhode Island as there is in Jackson.

Poole finishes college this spring. She hopes to return to the mountains to pursue work as an illustrator.

“The one thing I do know,” she said, “is I want to work back West.” PJH

Emily Poole’s art hangs at Cowboy Coffee until April 27.

About Kelsey Dayton

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