By Jessica L. Flammang
From his yurt in Kelly, Wyoming, local artist Wendell Field savors the morning view of clouds moving, light shifting and smoke rising from cabin chimneys scattered against the imposing Teton range. Splitting, stacking and cutting wood for his stove in cold Wyoming winters and planting, composting, and harvesting his garden in summer is a lifestyle he appreciates, and depicts in his regionalist, contemporary art.
Field’s paintings showcase natural scenes from around Jackson Hole, New Mexico, and distant places he has traveled, including South America and Southeast Asia. “I have always painted my life,” he said. “My work is a representation of what I am living.”
Everything Field paints starts on location. He utilizes the ‘plein air’ art technique, in which he captures vibrant colors and ephemeral light in real time. Each season, he goes to his favorite haunt to sketch, photograph and paint the view from Blacktail Butte. “I like to paint the scene in different seasons,” he said, “in the biting wind, the height of summer and during a winter sunrise when it’s 20 below.”
Field’s painting of the Grand Teton National Park employee house and transfer station next to it that powers Kelly, hangs at Altamira Fine Art and Local Restaurant and Bar in Jackson. “It’s a working people’s community,” he said. “I appreciate the dignity and integrity in their connection to the land, and I seek that depth in my work.”
Raised on a dairy farm in the woods of rural Michigan, Field has always been dedicated to spending time in nature, drawing, painting and sculpting since he was 10 years old.
Now 53, with four decades of art under his belt, it has only been six years that he has been able to call himself a full-time artist, and like many Jacksonites, has had to work a host of side jobs to get there and take a divergent path from his formal degree in agricultural business.
Sometimes dubbed “folk art revival,” Field’s art brings forgotten places and simple scenes to life, such as his wood stove balancing pots and tea kettles. From his artist’s studio on Cache Street in East Jackson next to the old courthouse, he has a classic view of the old jail, which he paints at different times of year to highlight the contrast of season and light. “It’s symbolic of what Jackson used to be,” he said.
Field shows his work locally, exhibits in group shows around the West, and sells his prints online. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort commissioned Field for a poster on its 50th anniversary, and the Teton Artlab showcases his work. Field replicates his paintings for resale through woodblock, letter-press – which functions like an old-school industrial printing press – and silkscreen, which keeps his art affordable and original for consumers. “Each piece I make is personal, and it starts over with each painting,” he said.
Working on 16 x 20-inch canvas is his favorite size, and most paintings take four to six hours over a few days to complete, although he admitted, “some paintings you wrestle with for years.”
“I feel blessed to live my life in this valley and make art,” Field said. “I paint in the moment. There is nothing more real than realism.”
See more about Wendell Field and his online gallery here.