Local Life: My Jackson Hole Life

Wild Things

// By Helen Olsson
Carrie Wild painting at the National Museum of Wildlife Art during the annual Plein Air Fest. Courtesy Photo

If a name is a destiny, artist Carrie Wild was meant to connect with nature. She grew up on a horse farm in southern Michigan and spent time at the Michigan State University vet clinic where her parents worked. “Animals have always been part of my life,” she says. A painter, she traveled to Jackson to explore the art scene and sold a few pieces to Turpin Gallery. “The colors I use in my paintings are inspired by the West—the sunsets, the sunlight, even the dust in the air,” she says. Wild was showing her art on the Town Square in 2011 when she met Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris owner Jason Williams. “He was telling me how to find wolves, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t you just take me?’”

They married in 2017 and two years later opened Gallery Wild, now located on the corner of Broadway and Glenwood. Before the gallery, Williams served as a river guide in summer, a snowmobile guide in winter, and in 2007, he launched the safari business. It took off despite the recession. “There was a hunger for this kind of service,” he says. Last December, he sold the business to focus on his fine art photography and Gallery Wild, which is expanding with a new outpost in Santa Fe in June. 

Williams started making photos in high school with a Pentax K1000 and honed his skills shooting in Yellowstone. The safaris were a way to educate guests about wildlife, and the gallery—which features nature-inspired contemporary art—has a similar mission. “Our passion really revolves around wildlife and conservation,” Williams says. “People can take a piece of art home and hang it in an urban space. It’s a way to inspire people to protect wildlife and wild places.”

Williams and Wild share some favorite things about life in jackson with us.

Loose Lips 

We don’t like to give exact locations for spotting wildlife. The park has seen a pretty significant increase in hiking to Delta Lake as a result of Instagram. People geotag their pictures [of sensitive places], and then thousands of people go. Really, this entire area is a great place to see wildlife. Basically, we’re living in the middle of a big National Geographic video. 

Gathering Spot

Part of our concept [for Gallery Wild] was to have an art studio where Carrie or other artists are working so people can get a glimpse into the process. There’s always something happening. We’ve had high school kids come in on dates. We don’t have salespeople hovering on the floor. Our team includes an art teacher, an interior designer, and a wildlife biologist. 

“Our passion really revolves around wildlife and conservation.”

Wildlife Watching 101

Get up with the sun and bring binoculars or a spotting scope. Stop at a pullout somewhere and just take a moment. Your car is the perfect blind where you can sit and watch without altering an animal’s behavior. Things will start to emerge from the landscape. People drive all over God’s creation and don’t see anything. But they’re doing about 10 mph over the speed limit. You’re not going to see anything doing that. When you’re watching wildlife, you are part of the environment. Humans have this sort of insane perspective that we’re somehow different. But we’re animals. Your puffy jacket and your stocking cap don’t make you separate from the natural world. 

Chocolate Fix

Our friend Oscar Ortega is a world-famous chocolatier and a champion gelato maker. He owns CocoLove, right across from the Wort Hotel. It’s unique to have a chocolatier of his caliber in a small town. They have really good coffee drinks, and we always leave with a couple of salted caramel truffles.

Fave Resto

At the risk of ruining a good secret, we’re eating at Gather a lot. The kids like the elk bolognese. (They’re known as the “Bolo Girls.”) They have the best burger in town and Jackson Hole Winery Zinfandel on tap. JH

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