Three Jackson Hole artists lend their fine art images and designs to familiar, functional objects and gain recognition for their artwork and talent.
Printmaker and graphic artist Walter Gerald juggles a family, a full-time job, and a one-man creative studio, Wild Iris Press, creating prints and posters for clients while pursuing a hands-on creative career.
Nicole Gaitan, a Jackson Hole native who returned home after a 10-year stint in California, is working at making art and making it meaningful. She was named Best Emerging Artist by her community. Her work — acrylic paintings — can be found on merchandise around town and online, while her fine art is shown in galleries across four states.
The Art Association’s Artist of the Year for 2016, Emily Boespflug, continues to build her reputation as a rising artist. Now she is on the cusp of leaving her day job to devote more time to her art.
As the art of Gerald, Gaitan and Boespflug takes off, their stories demonstrate how individual the process is of making art and making it one’s own.
A finalist for the Art Association’s Artist of the Year designation, Gerald creates posters that are instantly recognizable in Jackson. A case in point is the tomato-bearing, suit-wearing, lettuce head that graces the poster for the recently opened greenhouse Vertical Harvest.
Gerald began his career in the advertising industry, but he wanted to be more hands-on in the creative process and was lured in the direction of printmaking by his love of music.
“The whole reason I got into art was because I was collecting concert posters,” he said.
He wanted to make his own posters.
Now he produces work for Stio, Mountain Khakis, the National Museum of Wildlife Art and Vertical Harvest, among others. Last September he launched his screen-printing business, Wild Iris Press, at the Takin’ It To the Streets art fair (see page A5).
By day Gerald is Teton County Library’s full-time graphic artist. After hours he does freelance design and print work in his studio space at Teton Artlab. He uses a high-tech digital method, creating computer-generated art and screen-printing, putting a twist on the traditional low-tech style of using stencils.
“The Artlab is a great place to develop my artistic sensibilities,” Gerald said. “It’s an affordable artist space for local artists, and there’s a rotating artist program for artists all over the world. There’s always the opportunity to learn new things from different people.”
Recently Gerald has been collaborating with 4- and 5-year-olds from his daughter’s preschool. The kids drew imaginary creatures and monsters that have special powers, and Gerald is turning them into refined designs.
His children are often part of his process.
“It’s a family affair,” he said. “A lot of times my daughters are in the studio with me while I work.”
The collaboration with the preschoolers, “Creatures of the Caldera,” will open with a reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the Center for the Arts during the Palates and Palettes Gallery Walk.
Gerald will also be part of Takin’ it to the Streets, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. His first solo show as a printmaker is set for the second half of October at the Rose.
Jackson native Nicole Gaitan has been inspired by her environment since she was very young.
“As any little girl, I absolutely loved horses, and all animals, for that matter,” she said. “I drew horse after horse after horse until I got it just right.”
Her environment and being surrounded by the beauty and stillness of nature inspires her the most.
“Sometimes it’s just simple things I see on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s color, a pattern in the snow or an idea I come up with while taking a walk with my own pet,” she said of her sources for inspiration.
But Gaitan emphasized that she is surrounded by inspiration and influenced by all the beautiful artwork in the creative community of Jackson.
“This place is my heart,” she said.
Gaitan tried to find herself in California, where she went to college, but felt she was not being true to herself. She returned to Jackson Hole a few years ago, and soon after she was voted Best Emerging Artist by Jackson Hole locals.
“It was a complete shock to me because I had no idea I was on anyone’s radar,” she said.
Gaitan knew she wanted to paint and follow her dream, but she wasn’t really sure how to navigate it. Last March she was featured in Western Art Collector magazine. More than making a name for herself, she wants to do something with her art.
“I really feel passionate about using my art for something more than wall decor or personal collections,” she said. “I donate a lot to charities and nonprofits that support animals.”
Inspired by a dear friend she recently lost, Gaitan is on a mission to set up a nonprofit to fund help for animals and wildlife.
“I know my art can make a difference and can go further than just sitting on a wall,” she said.
Gaitan shows her work at various locations around the valleys, including the White Buffalo Club, the Teton Raptor Center, Vertical Harvest, Roam Mercantile and Gather Restaurant and Bar. Regionally she shows in Colorado, Montana and Idaho.
During the Fall Arts Festival she will show work Thursday, Sept. 8, at the White Buffalo Club with a wine and cheese kickoff reception, and on Friday, Sept. 9, during Palates and Palettes at Gather.
Emily Boespflug was named the Art Association’s Artist of the Year earlier this summer, earning the honor of having her work reproduced on the label for Jackson Hole Still Works’ Highwater Vodka.
Boespflug likes to communicate the underlying emotion of a particular moment in time in figurative and landscape paintings in oil, watercolor and pastel. She looks for ways to find and express beauty in something easily overlooked. She said the subject matter seems endless in Wyoming.
“The Tetons alone are complex enough to be painted every day over a lifetime with a different view represented every time,” she said. “With every changing season our views are equally inspiring.”
Boespflug also feels connected to the diverse landscapes and scenes found off the beaten path. She sees the dry, desolate wind-swept badlands as beautiful and inspiring as the more recognizable mountain peaks.
“I love expressing the juxtaposition found within the Wyoming border in a contiguous series of paintings,” she said. “Preserving local history, open spaces and ‘the soul’ of Jackson also inspires my art.”
After winning Artist of the Year she is excited and a little anxious “because this is a milestone I shouldn’t let pass me by.”
Boespflug said her ideas are piling up and “it’s time to harness that creativity and run with it rather than continuing to suppress it and working full time. I have been ready to immerse myself in creating art for a long time now, and I need to take the time to make it happen.”
Boespflug has been one of the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s View22 artists this summer. She will be painting in the QuickDraw Art Sale and Auction starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, on Town Square.
She will leave the following day for a plein air competition in Escalante, Utah, where she won the Paint Out and Honorable Mention in 2014 and sold all but one of her paintings in the final show. Needless to say, she has been hooked on plein air ever since.
Boespflug will make the big move toward being a full-time working artist as soon as she feels financially secure to do so.
“I plan to branch out beyond Jackson for gallery representation and to continue participating in plein air events and competitions,” she said. “I am also looking forward to applying to artist residencies to help build a strong body of work.”
Boespflug expects to show her work at Takin’ it to the Streets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 on Town Square.