Welcome to the Studio Wyoming Review, a column to be curated by Camellia El-Antably and written by artists and thinkers from communities across Wyoming. El-Antably is a visual artist and gallery owner in Cheyenne. She worked with artists and arts organizations for 14 years through the Wyoming Arts Council. Studio Wyoming Review will publish critical reviews of art exhibitions and events, as well as stories about the many visual artists living and working in Wyoming, and seeks to promote dialogue about the visual arts — Ed.
Touchstone Laramie 2016, organized by the Laramie Artist Project, offers an opportunity to look at recent work by many Albany County artists at once — 36 this year. This pioneering show, now in its sixth iteration, both gives the public a chance to discover artists in their area working in many mediums with a wide variety of concepts and ideas: everything from landscapes to abstract art to found-object sculpture and more.
It also consistently debunks the long-standing myth that art does not sell in Wyoming, because this show sells art, and a lot of it. Started by Susan Moldenhauer and Wendy Bredehoft, Touchstone had two purposes: to display artwork in a professional manner rarely found outside of museums in Laramie and to show that there is, indeed, a market for locally created artwork.
For those unfamiliar with this unique art exhibition, it takes place every two years in Laramie at a motel, usually Fairfield Inn & Suites. It lasts for one weekend, this year Nov. 11-13, opening with a Friday reception and continuing for Saturday and Sunday. The third floor of the motel is converted into artists’ galleries, with no more than two artists per room. Any Albany County artist may participate; the show is non-juried but does require commitment on the part of artists to participating in the planning and showing in a professional manner. Participating artists change, allowing repeat attendees to both keep up with artists whom they follow and find new artists.
Landscape is a dominant theme across the show, as it is in Wyoming.
Lucas Anderson, an emerging artist and the youngest participating in the show, recently took up painting again after deciding to focus on American Studies at the university. His landscapes feature strong colors, almost a southwestern palette, with hard edges; they are realistic with a stylized bent. They contrast with Mack Brislawn’s softer color choices and more dreamy effect of color and shadow blending to create a broader look across the land. Wendy Lemen Bredehoft’s landscapes are distilled yet further into color on color portrayals of clouds across the sky or shadows on the land from hills, clouds, folds, rivers.
A range of photographers also contributed to the show. Doc Thissen displayed 20 photos from his current project, a series called Bypassed: The Lincoln Highway Across Wyoming. Images include dramatically lit abandoned buildings and a time exposure of car lights circling the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne.
Ken Driese’s abandoned places, by contrast, focus on composition and textures. Susan Moldenhauer’s panoramas, in her new series [email protected], are taken with an iPhone from a car moving at 80 mph along I80. The images capture evidence of humans on the land and are blurred in places, a result of the technology. Panning is a technique often employed by photographers for emphasis; these blurs are uncontrollable and offer the viewer an opportunity to develop his or her own narrative about them. She is a Wyoming Arts Council 2015 Visual Arts Fellowship recipient for this body of work.
The exhibition also included several sculptors and artists working in other media or with topics other than landscape. Jodie Atherton and René Williams’ sculptures shared space. Williams’ sculptures combine a range of organic materials with concrete and/or metal in exploring the natural world and scientific concepts. She is extending this into a public project called Science Loves Art to engage people in both disciplines simultaneously.
Jodie Atherton’s sculptures utilize created and found objects to delight and confound the eye with unusual elements masquerading as something else, such as a metal hardware object as the heel of a shoe. Dona Fleming’s dolls, intricately worked fiber beauties, speak to the unconscious through the textures and symbolism in their clothing and designs. A Laramie newcomer, Clay Johnson, offered abstract paintings in which layers of translucent acrylics build up a surface reminiscent of vintage and peeling paint on walls. The colors are in sharply defined rows which bleed into each other without blurring the lines. The viewer may see horizon lines, or landscapes, or simply fields of color in harmony, or perhaps the sense of layers of dreams barely visible.
This review provides only a small taste of the variety and mastery on display at Touchstone. To see more of the artists, and their work, and discover other artist, or to find out about future Touchstone and other Laramie Artists Project events, like their Facebook page or check out their website. The website provides a complete overview of the Touchstone program, list of artists and links to their web pages and other contact information.
Questions and comments may be sent to [email protected] We invite readers to send us notices of shows or artist suggestions for our consideration. Our goal is to publish reviews early enough to encourage readers to attend exhibitions when possible — Camellia El-Antably.