The Art of Evolution and Identity

By on June 20, 2018

New exhibit by Wendell Field captures an artist’s progression and the constant transformation of place

‘Looking Toward Sheila’s Place’

JACKSON HOLE, WY – From his yurt in Kelly, Wendell Field can hear wolves howl. From his front door he can see the Teton range.

“The natural beauty is over the top,” he said. “And, living on the ground like that, there is just a thin wall between me and the outdoors. It makes you feel alive and really connected.”

It also inspires his paintings.

“I paint my life, really,” he said. “I want my work to have an authenticity and an integrity to it that I don’t always see in paintings. People paint the Tetons and of course they are beautiful. But I paint my life and I hope my work resonates that deeper meaning.”

Most of the work in his new exhibit hanging at Teton Artlab are from around Kelly, the yurt park and the northern portion of Grand Teton National Park. While Field is a landscape painter, his work almost always contains a human element. While he doesn’t usually paint people, he includes structures, like yurts or old cabins. He’s a representational painter, but drawn to shapes. Buildings also offer scale and a reference point to the scenery. They also often portray a more realistic look to the landscape, he said.

“Sometimes pure landscapes don’t give the full representation of what is there and what is going on,” Field said. “They are not real. They used to exist, but not anymore.”

Field’s work is a blend of that pragmatic realism, with a dreamy, nostalgic quality. He’s drawn to Kelly, as a place to live and as a subject, because it feels like one of the last holdouts in the valley, a place suspended in time.

‘Red Chairs and Green Wheel Barrow’

“I appreciate the funkiness and soulfulness of old things that some see as junk,” he said. “Kelly has a lot of character. We’re losing some of that in the valley. We are becoming so polished and new in so many areas.”

He likes to paint old cabins with the tin roofs that continue to disappear. He also loves to render the log piles stacked for heating. The abstract look and the circles in the stacks of wood intrigue. They appear in his paintings in a variety of ways, sometimes as a detail, other times front and center.  There are log piles in the snow, stacked outside a sheep wagon and near a pile of lawn chairs, he said.

Field has lived in the valley for about 25 years, and spent 11 of those in Kelly. He’s surrounded by subject matter, from Jackson Peak and the Sleeping Indian to life in the yurt park. The clouds are always moving over the Tetons and he continues to see things daily he’s never seen or noticed before.

“I’m lucky enough to see our mountains in all of their moods,” he said. “There is no shortage of inspiration. I feel like it’s a place I could really paint forever.”

Through the years, his work has evolved, even if inspiration has remained the same. Field recently started painting river stones, new for him and influenced by the scenery from a house-sitting gig. He was, like with the logs, drawn to the interesting lines.

He’s also been experimenting with color. He still paints mostly in primary colors, but, instead of just yellow, he might use four different yellows. He’s trying to find a balance in pushing his palette, while also keeping the paintings realistic and believable.

‘Thekla’s Bone & Stone Pile’

But above all, Field said he’s come into his own as an artist.

“I got to a point where I want to be original; I want to be Wendell Field,” he said. “I want my paintings as original as my signature. Your signature should be recognizable and authentic. It’s just yours. You don’t think about it; you just do it. I wanted my paintings to become that.”


Field will show a collection of mostly new oil paintings and prints at an exhibit at Teton ArtLab that hangs through July 6 and opens with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Pica’s will have its taco truck at the opening with tacos and margaritas.

About Kelsey Dayton

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