PORTRAIT OF WYOMING
In February 2014, we invited visual artists, craft folk, and writers living in Wyoming to collaborate on a portrait of the state. Each participant would “start” a piece and mail it to their partner; in turn, each would receive a piece to “finish.” We literally paired up people by drawing names from a hat. If they knew each other well or worked in the same medium, we put one back and pulled from the hat again. We encouraged participants to have fun and to work outside their typical medium. There were no rules or guidelines other than that the piece had to be mailed in a 12” x 12” x 8” USPS box.
We organized “Portrait of Wyoming” with several ideas and impulses in mind.
This state is full of people who make remarkable and beautiful things. We are continually inspired by all the interesting work being created here. We find ourselves in the fortunate position of being in a maker’s culture. People have never stopped making things by hand here, whether out of necessity for the thing itself, or out of necessity to create in the midst of all this space and quiet.
As Wyoming artists ourselves we know how living here - the landscape, the space, the people, the culture - influences and inspires our work. The solitude of Wyoming is conducive to creating. Nevertheless, that very solitude also creates a geographical and cultural challenge: isolation. We organized the project in the hopes of connecting artists and craftspeople from different regions and disciplines. We wanted to celebrate their work and create an opportunity for these individuals to collaborate and show together.
We also wanted to trouble what we saw as false and nefarious hierarchical distinction between “traditional craft” and “fine arts.” We believe a successful creator has a highly sophisticated process and intimate relationship with their medium, which often results in innovation. We were curious to see what might happen if a so-called traditional “craftsperson” and so-called “fine” artist were required to have a creative conversation. What would happen between a blacksmith and a painter? A craftsman who works with horse hair and a sculptor? What kind of work would be produced by such pairings - would a new form be created? And what kind of conversation might ensue?
We wanted to organize a project that represents art in Wyoming as it is rather than as it is thought to be.
We are not gallery owners, curators, or art critics. We are, first and foremost, artists. “Portrait of Wyoming” is by no means comprehensive; we were not able to include all of the talented people in the state. We didn’t have the time or the resources to do an open call. Our ambitions and ideas have been limited by our means, resources, and time, but the results have far exceeded our expectations.