At home in Yellowstone

Kevin Chin on residency at Teton Artlab USA, September 2017

What a time to be in the USA. It’s hard not to have a conversation tainted by the anxiety bred by the Trump regime. Shortly before leaving, they had imposed the seven-country ban, and I had been paranoid they might not even let me into the country, having been born in the Muslim country of Malaysia. My residency at Teton Artlab is in Jackson Wyoming, a progressive town surrounded by Trump-supporting electorates.

This morning I am being interviewed on KHOL FM Jackson Hole radio. I have prepared to talk about all the photos I’ve been taking, driving around Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, the jewels of this region. The Jackson Fall Arts Festival has been on, and during the celebratory Art Walk around the thirty galleries in town, I’ve noticed a lot of wildlife-inspired art. So last night I prepared a few funny stories about sighting moose.

Instead, the radio interviewer asks me how my paintings relate to the refugee situation in Australia. Sure, this was the starting point for my last Melbourne exhibition, so it really shouldn’t take me by surprise. But I’ve misjudged what is largely seen as a tourist town. Yes, it is an incredibly scenic wonderland filled with adventurous activities, but underlying is a highly critical art scene, socially engaged in international affairs.

Teton Artlab, as the experimental non-profit studio that has been running for ten years, is the perfect access point. While understated, the program has exhibited work by American heavyweights Chuck Close and Alex Katz.

Issues central to my art practice, of who belongs and who is an outsider, are topical in the current US political landscape. In the month of my residency, I can’t believe I’ll have been featured in three Jackson newspapers, one headline reading ‘Australian Artist Combats Nationalism.’ Sure, the heart of this region beats to the soundtrack of howling wolves, gushing geysers, and growling bears. But the amount of art press in a relatively small town, exemplifies the extensive and thoughtful arts audience that is as much a part of this diverse landscape.

The same afternoon, Artlab Director Travis Walker drives me out to the opening of a site-specific exhibition on a working ranch. The region has a history of cowboys and cowgirls, which I observed at the Jackson Hole Rodeo on the night I arrived. The backdrop for the entire drive is the breathtaking Teton Range mountainside, which seems to stretch forever, and I feel like I am in an endless movie set. Indeed, this is where John Wayne had his first speaking lines.

The sprawling exhibition by Mark Morgan Dunstan is akin to an international biennale, with works hidden amidst lush pine forest. I down my hot toddy while Mark tells me about his uneasy relationship to the land here his family owns, in the context of this country’s own colonial history. On the other side of the world, questions of belonging remain the same.

I take a photo, adding it to my 10,000. In this moment I realise, I’m standing at the nexus of art, filmic dreamscapes, the politics of place, and a lifetime’s worth of research. We drive off as I wonder how I am ever going to collage this experience together into a single canvas plane. Out walks a moose in front of the car. Snap.

 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body

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Exhibition opening of Hides,by Mark Morgan Dunstan. 

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KHOL FM Jackson Hole radio, Brennan Hussey interviews Kevin Chin. 

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Kevin Chin artist talk, Teton Artlab. 

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Jackson Hole News and Guide article by Tom Hallberg. 

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Kevin Chin, Rain Hail Shine, 2017, oil on linen, 163 x 238 cm. 

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The picturesque Teton Ranges, ten minutes from the residency. 

Kevin Chin’s paintings assemble fragments from across continents, to contemplate pressing issues of belonging and alienation. He questions nationalist ideals at a time of global migrant crisis and greater cultural flows. He has exhibited extensively around Australia, and has had solo exhibitions at Art Stage Singapore and Youkobo Art Space Tokyo. Chin was the winner of the 2015 Bayside Prize and has been awarded multiple grants from the Australia Council, City of Melbourne, Ian Potter Cultural Trust, and National Association for the Visual Arts. 

Kevin Chin is represented by THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery.

www.kevinchin.com.au

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