Pinedale artist Isabel Rucker is a jeweler who isn’t just interested in cut diamonds and rubies.
She’s interested in other natural gems, like crystalline structures of ice and snow.
“I tend to think of winter here as the season of the crystal. There’s all these things, transient gemstones that show up,” Rucker said. “Whether it’s the hoarfrost or the snow or the ice, there’s all these little jewels that land in our environment.”
Two of those landed last week at Jackson Hole Public Art’s ArtSpot display on Broadway, just north of Karns Meadow. Passerby may have noticed the two large geometric structures stacked one on top of another and elevated 15 or so feet off the ground on the south side of the road.
If you’ve wondered where they came from, here’s your answer: They’re Rucker’s, part of her latest public art installation, “Winter’s Jewels.”
And if it seems odd that the ArtSpot is venerating winter when the town is on the cusp of exploding into summer, Rucker has an answer for that.
“There’s so many snow fanatics in Jackson,” she said. “Even if they’re out celebrating summer, I feel like Jackson is definitely a place that really celebrates good snow.”
And celebrating good snow is what “Winter’s Jewels” is all about, though not in the stoke-filled sense of the word. Rucker’s work celebrates the beauty — and color — found throughout the winter. The lower of the two geometric structures hanging in the ArtSpot has a white base adorned with vibrant cyans, periwinkles and yellows, shades meant to invoke the colors found hidden in the shadows of snowfields.
“If you look at the shadows … they’re not actually gray. It’s not actually a black and white landscape,” Rucker said. “There’s settled periwinkles and blues and purples.”
The top structure, another geometric fixture boasting a whole palette of blues and greens, treats ice the same way Rucker treated snow in its lower counterpart. It’s an abstraction that draws inspiration from both the color found in ice and the hoarfrost that seems to grow on everything in the early hours of winter mornings. Representing the latter with pieces of plexiglass sticking out at odd angles from the larger gem, Rucker used a router to cut linear patterns into the glass, paying tribute to the natural designs hoarfrost makes as it grows.
“If you look at [hoarfrost] real closely you’ll see those angular architectural lines in each piece frost and they’ll be sticking out kind of like ears on a sense quest or something,” Rucker said.
But putting together a nearly 300-pound installation for the ArtSpot wasn’t all just colors and abstraction. It also required a fair amount of engineering, which Rucker completed through months of planning and then 30 hard days of work leading up to the installation.
Each of the structures, made from a combination of foam, polystyrene, fiberglass, epoxy and oil-based paint, has a pipe running through its middle to make it easier to slide the pieces onto the ArtSpot’s center post.
But despite her planning, Rucker and her installation team — her husband, artist Bland Hoke, and Jackson Hole Public Art’s project manager, Alexandra Keenan Pope — realized they needed a last-minute fitting to maneuver the project into the display space. Hoke welded a few fittings in his shop and they were up and running in no time.
For Rucker that sort of quick, DIY fix was a testament to the character of the community of artists in Jackson, many of whom she has seen displayed at the ArtSpot. The program has given her and other local artists the opportunity to make public art, something that, in bigger towns and metro areas, is usually reserved for well-established artists with a long record of work.
“Over the years it’s featured so many local artists and it gives us this amazing public art opportunity,” Rucker said. “The ArtSpot is really special and I’m really happy to be a part of it.”
Rucker’s work will stay up for the next three months, though the end date is uncertain because the private property ArtSpot sits on may be redeveloped. For now, though, it’s business as usual and Rucker will give a public talk from 3 to 4 p.m. on June 28 at the ArtSpot.
Rucker also wanted to make it clear that her piece is for sale. Once it’s taken down she hopes it finds a good home, at a ski resort, maybe, or any other place where people will be able to appreciate the piece and the wintry beauty it represents. ￼