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Snake River, Cowboy Art & a Mangy Moose

"Hay Haulers"
by Donna Howell-Sickels

Beep Daddy and I just returned from a lovely few days in beautiful Jackson Hole, WY. We are tanned and at least 10 pounds the heavier from lots of sun, burgers, and Fat Tire...but I wouldn't have it any other way!

As I'm a Colorado native, I was pretty sure Jackson Hole was going to be beautiful, but folks, this little town at the base of the Grand Tetons is downright breath-taking.

We spent 1/2 a day rafting down the Snake River, and saw at least 17 bald eagles along the way. I have to say, they are much more regal perched on the bank of a river than they are on the dollar bill.

There were a couple rowdy nights at what is certainly one of my new favorite watering holes: The Mangy Moose in Teton Village. It's huge, it's loud, the drinks are ridiculously cheap and yes, there is a giant stuffed moose dragging a sleigh (or was it a ric-saw?) hanging 40 feet above from the ceiling. On Saturday night we jammed to Mandatory Air...a cover band headlined by the Miller Sisters: just about the coolest chicks I've seen in a while. Any gal that can belt "Dead or Alive" warrants my instant fandom.

Jackson Hole proper is the cutest town you ever did see. We loved the Saturday Farmer's market and the delicious rainier cherries. But most impressive was the overwhelming amount of galleries located right in the center of town. Again, as a Coloradoan, I have an ingrained appreciation for all things West - so to view cowboy art without my nose upturned is not hard. Surprisingly though, I found myself very upset that we couldn't leave town with at least 3 or 10 mouth-watering paintings tucked under our arms.

I was lucky to pop into Trailside Gallery and view works by one of their permanent artists: Donna Howell-Sickels (see above). Her paintings embody everything I love and admire about women, they capture the joy of a life lived outdoors- and amazingly, on a personal level- her subjects resonate a quality that somehow pinpoints all the strength and vibrance I see in my own mother.

Another gallery which impressed us both simply by its sheer volume of very eclectic regional works was Buffalo Trail Gallery; on the corner and packed with oodles of sculpture, paintings and some well-chosen photography.

What a difference Jackson Hole galleries are from those we frequent in LA. I saw a man in a bad tanktop and ragged shorts beaming as he purchased a beautiful work of art. Gallery directors smiled and waved at us as we passed their open doors...many men proudly wore suits & ties, and the women were well groomed and matronly. White walls were at a minimum.

We hear about New York, Chicago -and now thankfully - LA's art scene all the time, but I can tell you, Jackson Hole's is flourishing too - their prices are high and their artists are in demand.

"What is Art"? Is it in the critic's eye? Or the eye of the beholder? All the sudden standing in Jackson, I had to ask myself if I had turned into an art snob. Or worse, had I really forgotten what else is out there? Beyond the streets of Los Angeles? Can "patrons" be collectors of Native American works? Will the psychedelic cows and roosters of Linda St. Clair ever be written up in Art Forum? Does it matter?
Funny how on every road I take, that simple 3 word question always seems to get the best of me.