Between the 1930s through the 1940s, the United States government enlisted the help of unemployed artists afflicted by the Great Depression to create iconic posters embodying the country’s national parks through the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, the largest art project from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. After rediscovering several screen versions of these posters while cleaning out her studio two years ago, Jennifer Johnson decided to pay homage to these artists
and the memories that shaped her childhood with her series Beauty of Our National Parks, on view at Gallery Wild in Jackson, Wyoming, from July 1 through 14 with an artist demo on July 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I grew up visiting the parks and there’s an endless amount to format,” she says. Unrestricted by the limited color palette the artists who created the original posters had to work with, Johnson incorporates similar typography with her own expansive color palette into the works. In fact, the series was born out of ultra-colorful Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, depicted in the artist’s Grand Prismatic Bison alongside Wyoming’s state animal. “It’s nature’s rainbow,” she says. “I was so inspired after painting it and had so much fun that I was like, ‘Alright, this is what I have to do.’”
Another work in National Parks titled Bryce Canyon Big Horn evokes the same sense of whimsy for Johnson as Grand Prismatic Spring.
“It’s almost like this fairy tale land,” she
says of the canyon. “It’s such a special and unique place, and the colors are so out of this world. Trying to get the distance correct and the colors right in this extremely beautiful landscape was a challenge but I really enjoyed working on that piece.”
While creating these paintings has been nostalgic for Johnson, she’s not the only one.
“It’s kind of sparking [my collectors’] memories of the parks, which I love,” she says. “I really enjoy hearing their own stories from visiting these locations. It’s like having a piece of someone else’s experience.”
Although so far she has painted roughly a dozen national parks as part of the series, this is just scratching the surface. Johnson hopes to eventually paint every national park in the country, visiting as many as possible along the way.
“It’s been so much fun to work on, and I’m proud to be able to preserve the memories of these places,” she comments. “I hope my collectors notice this is something different, and that I’m able to bring the excitement of the national parks back.” For a direct link to the exhibiting gallery go to www.westernartcollector.com
Grand Prismatic Bison, oil, 36 x 24”
Zion - The Narrows, oil, 24 x 16”