Today this is Katherine.
I'm sitting here looking at one of our barns. This is The Old Woman Barn (Richard Harrington) and it holds down the fort in our TV room/knitting den. I look at this barn a lot. This barn has become home for me. I put the photo of The Old Woman Barn up before I began so I could look at it while I typed. It's funny--the walls of our house feel more like home than the actual structure does. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.
Jim and I have entered our "art" period. It seems to be following our "food" period. Fortunately, we didn't have to stop eating or cooking as we moved into our "art" period. The expense of the "food" period, however, did not diminish. And the expense of the "travel" period has not diminished as we moved from there to the "food" period. I am discovering our interests mount up. I suspect I am not the first person to figure this out. Our interests increase beyond the increases in our income. This sucks.
In addition to the expenses of our interests, we just purchased a roof. It is brown. The old roof was just old and insurance doesn't cover "old" when it comes to a roof. It is no fun buying a roof. Again, our new roof is brown. That's all I have to say about our new roof.
I have no interest in this new roof and that disturbs me. I'm at a place where I'd happily trade the roof for a really fine painting. I think this might be sick and twisted.
This disturbing desire to have real live paintings has many strong roots, but for now I'm just thinking about how our "art" period connects to Jenny Lake Lodge and the Tetons. There are other contributors (Santa Fe, Barbara Hauben, my grandmother, and Katie Hoffman come to mind at the moment), but I'd have to say that we buy barns and cowboys (so far) in Jackson because of a series of happy hazards that began at Jenny Lake Lodge. We are having an "art" period because we return to this boutiquey-cabiny-foodie lodge in the Tetons year after year. It's there we decided we like being surrounded by art because we ate in a dining room dripping in paintings and there that we met David Hezlep who led us to the Jackson Wildlife Museum and The RARE Gallery in Jackson.
The dining room at Jenny Lake Lodge is filled with art. It is all "plein-air" art. It's the sort of thing where artists set up their easels at spots conveniently located in front of the Tetons and then they paint the mountains they see and try to capture the amazing way these mountains catch the amazing light. Jim Wilcox is the Jackson big name in this style and we can't afford anything he does. That's just fine with us. Jim and I learned early on while having incredible dinners at Jenny, surrounded by "plein-air" Teton landscapes (many done by Wilcox himself), that, well, we didn't ever want to own any of it. We just aren't "plein-air" kinds of folks.
We remember a disillusioning moment over the "plein-air" style when some folks we know from DC discovered Wilcox often added or subtracted from a "real" setting to create better balance in a painting. They own a Wilcox and one of their happy things was traipsing all over the park looking for the exact spot their painting had been created. A trip to the Wilcox Gallery and meeting Wilcox's son taught the couple the horrible truth and they realized their painting might not exist anywhere for sure. I'm not sure they have recovered yet.
We are English teachers. We suspend our disbeliefs easily. We don't tie art appreciation to any belief in reality as we know it. Our barns are, we've learned, inspired by real live barns. We know we would never ever recognize one of the "real" barns in the flesh. None of them are in Wyoming. We're okay with that.
Part of having an "art" period is knowing what you like and what you don't like. The Jenny dining room taught us that we like being surrounded by art and that we don't like the "plein-air" Teton paintings. That's a lot I think.
We've spent many hours in the Jenny dining room with our friend David discussing those Teton landscapes draped on the walls everywhere. The dining room wouldn't be right without these landscapes. It's amazing how you can learn to love and appreciate things you don't want to own. Wanting to own something doesn't have near the aesthetic distance, but it is amazingly satisfying.
Anyway, David introduced us to the Jackson Wildlife Museum and The RARE Gallery. Ritualistically, we visit these places when it rains or we want to rest from all the hiking and kayaking we do. We love seeing new shows each year at the JWM. This year a line of huge masks honoring the Chinese Zodiac critters lined the walkway from the parking area to the museum itself. Artist Ai Weiwei created the masks. They are wondrous.
David also taught us how to bring art to the Jenny lobby. He always bought the coffee table books at the JWM about the shows he saw while visiting Jenny and he gifted them to the lodge. Those books became the beginning piece of our nightly pre-dining ritual--we have a drink by the fire in the lobby and thumb through one of the "art" books in the bookcase. We have learned about art and artists this way (Weiwei this year) and once we discovered a photograph of my grandmother in an art class taught by William Merritt Chase in a book devoted to his work.
We now follow David's lead and gift books to the lodge as well. It makes us happy when we see others thumbing through them in a communal sort of way while they enjoy the wait for dinner. Sometimes a classical guitarist plays in the background. Jenny just drips in art in all sorts of ways.
David also introduced us to The RARE Gallery in Jackson. It is different than the other Jackson Galleries. It is more contemporary and more Eastern and more Western and more like a wonderland of things we would love to own. The walls are not cluttered. You can see individual works of art. This is good.
We have visited for many years and were always welcomed by the owner. She chooses the works based on connections with the artists. Her knowledge of their crafts and inspirations and aspirations make gallery viewing a new experience. We just loved going to the gallery. She never tried to sell us anything. She taught us about the artists the gallery loves. It was during this time that we fell in love with the Harrington barns. We didn't mean to do it. Really.
Our story with RARE continued when Chris gave Jim the first Harrington barn. Jim has told this story in another post. This seemed to free us and we bought a small Harrington barn last summer and a triptych by a new artist we have come to love (Michael Swearngin) at the RARE. Then, in another wild and wacky move, we celebrated Christmas and our anniversary by buying The Old Woman Barn. Three of anything is a collection. We officially have a collection of Richard Harrington barns. I worry that this pleases me as much as it does. Is this also sick and twisted? We are art collectors. Go figure.
We had any number of rainy days to rest in the Tetons during our just-finished stay at Jenny. We visited The RARE Gallery as well as the JWM twice this year. We bought a new Swearngin painting. Ropers Under Full Moon. Pretty big. Swearngin is our cowboy guy and not as pricy as our barn guy. He's newer. He begins with a black canvas. This intrigues us. We like his "palette." It feels weird saying things like that.
Swearngin seems to be to cowboys what Harrington is to barns in our life. We seem to have developed an impressionistic western barn and cowboy approach to art around here. I'm guessing neither one of us thought it would ever go this way.
I like entering our house. I walk in and see the wall with "Chris's Barn" (what we call it), the Swearngin triptych (I wish I could remember the title), Ropers Under Full Moon, and my Grandmother Wardin's pastel portrait of my Uncle Harry. There is another barn not pictured here--a watercolor done by Jim's uncle and probably the only work that has survived his death in WWII (a story reserved for the book Jim is writing now).
I walk in and the art on the wall hits me as soon as I open the door. I look up at all this art and I feel home. The cowboys and the barns do a square-dance on the wall that just says welcome to me. I feel this same feeling of home with The Old Woman Barn upstairs.
I see home in the art around me and I know a huge part of this is from our home away from here at Jenny. I am liking our "art" period.