Grand Teton National Park is known for leaving an impression — just take a look around any of Jackson’s 30-some galleries and you’ll see that the iconic range that dominates the Jackson skyline also dominates its art scene.
For painter Jivan Lee, a visit to the Tetons in 2015 left him questioning the idea of “icons.” Why do we enshrine certain places, like the Tetons, as “iconic,” and what effect does that action have on those places?
Lee returned to his studio in Taos, New Mexico, and began exploring those questions through paintings of the Tetons, other iconic places near Taos, and eventually anonymous places in the West that aren’t icons at all. The three resulting bodies of work will come together in one show, “Icons of the American West,” which opens Tuesday at Altamira Fine Art.
Lee’s Teton paintings stand out from the rest of his work. Employing practices from pop art, the “color trends and palettes are inspired by distinctly human filters of visual paraphernalia,” Lee said. He trades his typically subdued and natural palette for bright neon pinks, yellows and blues, “smashed together” on close-up, cropped images of the Grand Teton.
The result is an unexpected look at one of America’s crown jewels.
While paintings of the Grand Teton often ignore the fee booths, crowded parking lots and overflowing tour buses, Lee’s use of colors is reminiscent of an Avengers comic book’s palette. In this way, it hints at the human impact on the mountain range and how we appreciate it.
“One of my interests broadly is the notion of place in our psyche and how humans, globally, shape the landscape in which they live, and are shaped by it,” Lee said.
“These places have such vast histories,” he said, referring to national icons like the Tetons.