Raised by two National Park Service parents in Jackson, Gisele Olson is tackling Jackson’s tourism issues through postcard-size collages.
“I think the parks especially are dealing with this Catch-22 of being a place where people want to go, and the people want to care about and preserve,” Olson said. “Being able to support these massive crowds of people, how does that affect the environment and how does that affect the wildlife?”
Olson will display her collages in her first-ever solo show, “Things To Do In Jackson Hole,” which is set to open Friday at The Rose and run through Oct. 6. Olson said the show is a satire of tourism and the overpromotion of Jackson.
“The show is centered around this idea of like, Jackson is a fantasy land for many people, like all different kinds of people, and what kind of challenges that mentality creates,” Olson said. “I’m doing it in this kind of fantastical, absurd and darkly humorous way with the use of collages, which are actually made from postcards.”
The problems she’ll be addressing include the lack of housing, conservation, and the more general social construct of the West.
“That’s not something people want to think about when it’s dreamland town,” Olson said.
Olson doesn’t like to take her work too seriously, so she approaches it with “measured libertinism.”
“I just sort of let my personality, leaning toward dark humor and irony, come through in the work, even if the work can be about more difficult topics,” Olson said.
Her work brings to light how Jackson portrays itself as the Old West, while usually forgetting about the true history of the area.
“That mentality participates in the erasure and exploitation of indigenous people who actually were the first people here,” Olson said.
Olson aims to create ironic art that allows viewers to look at it on a variety of levels.
“If people only want to engage with it from a ‘Oh, this is so funny!’ standpoint, that’s fine,” Olson said. “If people want to get really deep and philosophical with it, that’s awesome.”
The small art pieces are all untitled, giving the viewer and Olson space to think freely about what they’re seeing.
“I don’t want to ever really make art didactic, that tells people what to think, or gives some kind of answer,” Olson said. “I want to sort of observe things, put it out and let viewers come to their own conclusions about what each piece means.” ￼
This article has been updated to reflect which local conundrums Olson will addressing in "Things To Do In Jackson Hole" and to correct a transcription error in a quote. — Ed.