Western Art Collector
Up to 12 works
80 W. Broadway Avenue Jackson, WY 83001 (307) 203-2322 www.gallerywild.com
There are 62 parks in the National Park Service, and eventually Jennifer Johnson is going to visit all of them. But what comes after that is what really thrills her— painting them.
The Colorado-based artist stumbled into the niche she’s created for herself. Three years ago she was in Great Falls, Montana, to show her work during Western Art Week. Before she could even finish setting up her booth, collectors were asking about a piece she had brought. “I could have sold that painting 20 times over. I mean, I wasn’t even done setting up yet and people were trying to buy it,” she says. “The idea was based around old illustrations for the parks. Illustrators were hired in the 1930s to promote the parks, and they did these amazing works with this wonderful hand-painted typography.”
Her works are essentially a modern version of those illustrations, and they’re quickly becoming cherished paintings by collectors, many of whom have grown up in and around the national parks. Johnson herself spent a great deal of time going to national parks with her family. “We had gone camping with my dad in Sequoia [National Park]—i was probably 8 years old at the time—so when someone wanted a painting from Sequoia we dug out a bunch of his old slides. I had 20 different images, and they inspired the piece.”
Johnson will unveil her new national parks works, as well as other paintings, at Icons, a show at Gallery Wild in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, itself in the shadow of Grand Teton National Park.
“I just love the national parks, the wildlife, the landscape…why not combine them all into one painting?” she says, adding that the handpainted lettering and typography are always designed into the composition, never added later, and that the lettering is never absolutely perfect, a callback to the original posters. “I just love the look of those iconic vintage posters. They had such a distinct look.”
New works include paintings featuring the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains and Glacier National Parks, as well as a 48-inch-tall bison painting emblazoned with the words “Wild West” across the top and bottom.
As national parks have closed during the ongoing health crisis, Johnson says it really encourages her to never take the parks for granted, and to seek them out and experience them with her own kids, as she did with her family as a child.
“People miss the national parks; they miss going and being out in nature that beautiful,” she says. “I recently did a Yellowstone painting for a woman who went to the park for the first time. Later she saw my work online and called me. She wanted me to do a painting because she may never be able to take the trip again. She wanted Old Faithful with the inn in the background and a bison in the foreground. It’s always so fun to hear about everyone’s experiences inside the parks.”