By: Emma Keinath-Lopez
Art Association of Jackson Hole board chair Scotty Craighead is more than an influential figure at the Association. He is also an avid artist who, like many here in Jackson, is captivated by the raw beauty of this wild place. Through mixed media, he captures images of this place in a way that cannot be experienced with the naked eye. Craighead finds this landscape inspirational, and has been exploring this place since he was a child.
Craighead grew up right outside of Jackson in Kelly, Wyoming. His parents enrolled him in the after school art program at the Art Association of Jackson Hole when he was in first grade. He reflects fondly on his time spent in the studios. Most memorable was his class with Art Association Executive Director Bronwyn Minton, where he engaged in glass blowing to make pendants and marbles. In high school, he took an art class with Ben Roth who taught welding and industrial art. Fascinated by the way things are created, he became interested in art as a way to create and capture beauty. There is value in something existing just for the sake of beauty. Craighead explains how creating beauty allows for “appreciation of the world around us and ensures we do not take it for granted.”
Craighead sure did appreciate the world as a youngster. With a wonderful view of the Tetons right outside his front door, he was inspired to go on numerous outdoor adventures. For some, adventure on its own is not enough to explore this place. Craighead saw art as a unique way of interacting with this place. He went on to study printmaking and photography in college. When Craighead came home after graduating, he wanted to find new ways to see, so he eventually found his passion for seeing the world through the eye of a camera.
Photography by Scotty Craighead – Photograph of exhibit captured by Tristan Greszko
Craighead’s journey into macro ice photography seems like a natural step for him in the progression of his journey in the arts. His particular fascination examining the unique structure of ice crystals seems similar to learning how metal or glass molds together to create their own unique shapes and forms. With photography, Craighead is motivated to step out into the natural world and interact with it in an intentional way. He stops, crouches down in the snow, and goes hunting for the most beautiful and fascinating crystals that require close examination with the help of his camera.
Photograph captured by Tristan Greszko
Once he has the photographs, Craighead either allows them to stand alone in stark singularity, or finds a way to manipulate their appearance to create something entirely different, but still very much an ode to the natural world’s beauty. When he first began to create collages, he would use a spray-on adhesive which he describes as a messy fail. Now, he uses a clear acrylic to adhere the photographs together. He recalls walking down by the Snake River when he first started examining snow up close, and eventually pulling out his camera and realizing he struck gold, or really cool ice in his case. Craighead was excited by his discovery of hidden beauty, and wanted to share what he found with others. In 2014 he presented “#IceChronicles” at Pearl St. Bagels, a Jackson classic spot. This was just the beginning of sharing his work. Craighead went on to present in various exhibitions in Jackson, Denver, and Portland. However, the magic of the Tetons and a special community of people drew him back to Jackson, the place he calls home.
In 2018, Craighead decided to join the board of directors at the Art Association of Jackson Hole, becoming its chair in 2021. Craighead said that he wanted to give back to the organization that provided so much inspiration to him in his childhood and into his adult life. As a supporter and creator of art, he believes that “art is vital in any culture and community” that the Art Association “creates exposure to others that might not be otherwise exposed.” When it comes to art’s role in society, he agrees that it acts as a healing force for many. Beyond what art does for one on a personal level, Craighead is a proponent of utilizing art to bring awareness to the beauty of the natural world. This attention to natural beauty not only engages the viewer but also inspires people to want to protect what they see. In such a time when the topic of climate and environmentalism is incredibly heated, Craighead reflects, “maybe we need art more than ever right now.”
Photograph captured by Tristan Greszko
Craighead’s work in macro ice photography pulls the viewer into a perspective that highlights the small wonders of nature. By pausing to appreciate these mini phenomena, hopefully viewers will become inspired to dive deeper into the world themselves, and dare to create beauty from beauty itself. Craighead came full circle back to the Art Association of Jackson Hole where he started and continues to further his passion for creating art and encouraging others to explore different mediums and unlock their own creative potential. Finding inspiration from nature is a beautiful thing. Acting on inspiration and turning it into beautiful, impactful art is the next step. Find an outlet for your inspiration by journeying into our studios to discover your medium, or to explore the blurred boundaries of creation and the power of free expression!
Photography by Scotty Craighead