Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival – Local ‘Star’ Kathryn Turner
Kathryn Turner: Homegrown artist will be featured at this year’s Fall Arts Festival
It has been an amazing year for nationally-acclaimed and Jackson Hole born and raised painter Kathryn Turner. The cherry on top may be the honor of being named the featured artist for the 2019 Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, which will take place for the 35th year from September 4th through the 15th.
A fair percentage of Kathryn’s work is wildlife-focused and in fact, the National Museum of Wildlife Art here in town now displays four of her pieces. It’s a part of her remarkable year, and an installation she calls a “huge, real honor.” In 2018 she was also the featured artist at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, in Charleston, South Carolina, the largest art event in the country with more than 40,000 people in attendance. In addition, her paintings at the American Master’s Exhibition in New York City won the Patron’s Award.
Kathryn travels all over the world to paint and her medium of choice is watercolors and oil paints.
“I paint the natural world and this is a great place to do that,” Kathryn says. “I think that’s why Jackson Hole is an important factor in my art—there is such richness here.”
And she has a theory as to why Jackson has such a creative community.
“The place is beautiful—that’s a no-brainer—but I think another factor is in play and it’s how dynamic the natural world is here,” she says. “It’s always changing. The length of the day is always changing, the palette is always changing. The seasons bring incredibly different things, so we are used to this idea of change and transformation, and that is always shaking things up and making things dynamic and what we can experience, artists transfer that into their work.”
Fall Arts Festival’s Quick Draw is a “crucible for creativity in this community.” – Kathryn Turner
During Fall Arts Festival one of the events that epitomize artists in real time transferring their experiences into paintings, drawings, sculptures and more is the very popular Quick Draw on Town Square, a plein air experience extraordinaire. At the event, artists have just 90 minutes to create in their chosen medium with a crowd of people looking and cheering them on. There is an auction immediately following the event where people can bid on and buy the artwork they’ve seen unfold before their eyes.
Kathryn has been participating in Quick Draw for 20 years now. She calls it a “crucible for creativity in this community.”
“It really speaks to the level of creativity coming out of Jackson Hole,” she says. “And the high quality of artistry as well.”
Being Quick on the Draw
Although she has been doing the event for quite a number of years, Kathryn admits it is always a bit nerve-wracking.
“I don’t have such a big audience when I paint,” laughs Kathryn. “I am usually alone—I don’t have that pressure of onlookers—so it feels like I really have to stay in the process rather than the perception of the process. I stay engaged with the process completely and that’s hard to do when hundreds of people are looking over your shoulder.”
But when she does this (immerse herself in the process), she tends to lose track of the crowds, time and the time crunch—90 minutes.
“Usually when I’m painting I have relatively unlimited time to do that and let the process unfold as it will, but with this, you don’t have that luxury,” says Kathryn. “You’re confined within a time frame and you actually have to succeed in that amount of time.”
But she says it—the time constraint, the onlookers—creates magic for all of the artists participating.
“I think what happens is when you do place parameters around creativity it serves the creative process in other ways,” she says. “It’s amazing the synergy, the transmission that can happen internally. So we bring our concept to the morning, some idea of what we want to do, then we have this crunch placed upon us and we have to make it happen.”
Every year Kathryn debates if she should do the event again as she fears it might misrepresent the creative process. There’s a lot of prep, a lot of thumbnail studies and a lot of background work that goes into every piece of work, she says, and she worries that people who watch don’t really get the full picture and process of how long it takes to create a work of art.
“It’s like any performance,” she says. “You don’t see how many hours of rehearsal a musician puts in or how many hours a dancer is at the barre.”
Kathryn doesn’t always paint wildlife, both in general and at Quick Draw, so while wildlife pictures are really beloved by visitors and residents alike at this event, she sometimes paints a landscape. Or whatever else she can come up with.
“One year both of my parents were in the hospital here at the same time,” Kathryn says. “My dad was in ICU—he had been dragged by a horse—and mom had acute appendicitis. I was with them in the hospital the night before Quick Draw and I had to get up at 6 a.m. to do this event. I had been focusing on them and didn’t have a clue about what I would try and paint. So on my way out, I grabbed some flowers my mom had by her bed, sat them by my easel and painted those!”
Growing Up in Jackson
Kathryn and her siblings are the fourth generation of Turner’s to be raised on the family-owned and -operated Triangle X Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. The guest ranch is now in its 93rd year of hosting visitors from all over the world who want an authentic Western, horseback riding experience.
Kathryn has been passionate about painting since childhood and says her work was inspired from the get-go by this incredible environment.
“I was put here to do this work,” Kathryn says about why she’s an artist. “If I’m painting then I’m fulfilling my purpose of what I’m here to do which is to create beauty; beauty makes our lives better. I think I’m here to experience the natural beauty and let it filter through my hand and express my appreciation, my enjoyment and my reverence for it. If I can translate it through paint and canvas and surface, then I can make something altogether new as another way to experience the sublime.”
As an artist, she’s known for a wide range of subject matters and styles as she is always evolving with her art. While she does love painting wildlife she says she doesn’t have a favorite. Instead, she has a new one (favorite) every day and loves to paint animals because of how expressive they are.
But despite its abundance, nature is still fragile here in Jackson Hole and its environs.
“And so we as artists here have a special responsibility to expose people to it—it’s a stewardship to make sure that we protect this huge asset,” Kathryn says. “It’s certainly a huge asset to me and my work, but it’s also a huge asset for our whole community so we need to take care of it.”
We’re in a critical time where we need to love nature deeply, to care about it and help its survival, she continues.
“So if my art can do that, help you stop and reflect upon it, that’s cool.”
FUN FACT: Kathryn’s painting of a re-creation of the late 1920s/early 1930s photograph of her grandmother, Lauren Mapes Turner, and her horse Diablo was the cover photo of the 2016 print edition of Jackson Hole Traveler.
Kathryn also owns and features her work at Turner Fine Art, just a short walk from Town Square. The gallery hosts rotating guest artists from around the world.
The Importance of Quick Draw
Kathryn paints en plein air frequently and that experience helps her a lot for participating in Quick Draw.
“In general when painting outside you have all the elements at play,” he says. “For instance, the light’s going to change in a matter of two hours or less so you flow with it; use it.”
“The community values the art here and you definitely see that at the Quick Draw.”
She says the support from the Quick Draw audience is incredible, that the artists feel it when they’re painting.
“They’re all cheering us on, they all want us to succeed,” she says. “I feel maybe they identify as a type of midwife; they’re there to witness the art come to life. They’re there at the birthing of these pieces, invested in them. And then it sells for thousands of dollars in some cases.”
Kathryn believes the art-loving onlookers have more of a relationship—an emotional attachment—built with these pieces rather than with a gallery piece, and that’s a pretty amazing part of it.
“People who support my art don’t always have the means, but will save up to buy art,” she says. “The community values the art here and you definitely see that at the Quick Draw.”
The range of what people pay for a piece of art at Quick Draw helps to support next year’s Fall Arts Festival; it’s an important revenue generator for the Chamber of Commerce to keep hosting it. The festival has become a national art event in and of itself and Kathryn feels Quick Draw has become its cornerstone.
She says the Fall Arts Festival is the place to be the first week of September.
“For artists, you can take a lump of glass and make it into a vessel or a Christmas ornament—you’ve transformed it—you are engaged in this change and dynamic flow,” she says.”It’s just what things are all about here. Each day here is special, so you’ve got to capture it. Take a picture of it, paint it; it’s fleeting.”