CREATIVE PEAKS: Creatures of the New West

By on August 9, 2016

The Stable opens to showcase alternative art inspired by the environment.

In a place replete with traditional wildlife art, The Stable introduces a unique take on works dreamt up with the natural world in mind. (Photo: the stable)

In a place replete with traditional wildlife art, The Stable introduces a unique take on works dreamt up with the natural world in mind. (Photo: the stable)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – It’s unlikely that 19th century French painter Rosa Bonheur would have painted brassieres hanging from the antlers of elk, but who knows what realist animal artists were up to in their spare time. Bonheur is considered the most famous female painter of the 1800s, and her main subjects were animals. Adonna Khare, a modern day Bonheur, goes right ahead and puts the bras in—or panties, shirts, nose rings, or belts.

A new gallery on Jackson Street opened this summer offering contemporary animal art like Khare’s that would leave Bonheur slack-jawed. Animal and wildlife art has changed drastically in the past 150 years, and while some artists today continue the traditional realism practice, others have created a whole new way of rendering wildlife and environment.

The Stable gallery, an annex of Visions West Contemporary in Denver, Colo., presents that new take on animal art. Owned by Jeb and Nikki Todd, and run by sales director Kate Harrington, The Stable focuses on what Harrington calls “contemporary naturalism.”

“The artists we choose go against the grain of traditional animal art or landscape art,” Harrington said. “My goal is to present art that is more thought-provoking. We want people to experience a different interpretation of, say, a bison.”

Khare, for instance, creates large-scale charcoal drawings of animals, often crammed together on the paper. In one drawing a rhino floats by way of bunches of balloons and carries a few octopuses and several rabbits on its back. In another drawing, two moose gracefully don the drying brassieres, joined by a one-eyed owl, a spoonbill, and a number of ducklings, while off in the distance two tornados skim across a rising body of water.

With a recent one-woman show at the Boise Art Museum, Khare, fittingly, also did an artist residency two years ago at Teton Artlab, The Stable’s neighbor.

“Most of my artwork draws a correlation between the human experience and nature,” Khare has said. “I use animals, nature, and other objects as symbols to convey our realities.”

Harrington says art at The Stable tackles different types of environmental issues in a creative manner. “We want to make people think and reflect on their lives.”

While an artist like Khare may address an environmental issue such as climate change through the emotions of the animals she draws, another artist may tackle an environmental issue through his or her materials. Another might portray animals responding to changes in the environment in clever ways.

Belgian artist William Sweetlove comments on threats to clean water as well as the importance of recycling by strapping a PET water bottle to the backs of some of his animal sculptures. “Cloned Penguins” each carry a PET bottle.

Regardless of place, Harrington noted that artists are trying to address common themes. “Water is a worldwide issue,” she said. “Recycling is important worldwide. It’s bringing this global recognition to Jackson’s gallery scene. Art is such a universal thing.” 

Animal art has come up in the world since Bonheur’s time, when painting animals was considered a lesser pursuit. But not all the art at The Stable is based on wildlife. Sandra Dal Pogetto uses various feathers in her abstract paintings, which call to mind work by Caio Fonseca. Grant Haffner’s road trip paintings portray a happy vibrancy of the open road in geometric planes.

In all, The Stable’s roster numbers about 20 and includes Thomas Brummett, Poggetto, Kim Froshin, Haffner, Rocky Hawkins, Bayard Hollins, Khare, Wendy Klemperer, Charles Lindsay, Chris Maynard, Josie Morway, Brad Rude, Tracy Stuckey, Dave White, Justin Colt Beckman, Bryan Christiansen and Immi Storrs.

“I think environment plays a huge role in our artists’ lives and work,” Harrington said. “Artists take their surroundings and use it in their work. The energy it provides is exciting.”

Originally from New Jersey, Harrington moved to Jackson in 2010. She cut her teeth at Altamira Fine Art before moving to Denver to work at Visions West. She has become a devotee of Western landscapes and the West’s rich art history.

“Stiegliz, O’Keeffe, Hartley were all inspired by place and landscape,” Harrington said. “They laid the foundation for modernist work of the American West, and that’s what inspired me to dive into the more contemporary work of this region.”

Harrington pointed to The Stable’s affinity to nature, animals, and environmentalism that relate to the West. “But the goal is bigger than the West,” she said. “We want to change the discourse and put more of a contemporary spin on the artists and their art.” PJH

The Stable is located at 160 S. Jackson Street and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment. Contact Kate Harrington for more info: 307-264-1553.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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