2019 Homestead Magazine

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Creative Collaboration

FINE KNIVES + FINE ART

The knife-crafting journey of Corey Milligan (left) began in 1996, when he set out to make the perfect kitchen knife. Since then, New West Knifeworks has designed the ultimate array of blades and knife blocks. It is now proud to expand into the latest chapter: the New West Fine Art Gallery, featuring the oil paintings of local artist Connor Liljestrom (right).


GALLERY
NEW WEST FINE ART GALLERY
NEWWESTFINEART.COM

Story By
MELISSA THOMASMA
Photos By
ARTHUR BLUE

Beauty isn’t merely something to be admired from a safe distance; in the West, it often emerges in surprising and compelling places. Corey Milligan and Connor Liljestrom both firmly believe that beautiful things are best appreciated through authentic experience and interaction. That’s why their friendship-turned-collaboration on the New West Fine Art Gallery— featuring Liljestrom’s stunning contemporary Western paintings alongside Milligan’s world-class blades and knife blocks—feels both electrically innovative and effortless.

“I believe that Connor is poised to be one of the most highly regarded Western contemporary artists in the United States,” says Milligan. It’s not difficult to see why. Liljestrom’s large-format oil paintings feature bold colors and forms that are inspired by Western heritage and the rugged Wyoming landscape in which he was raised. The painter has cultivated a rich palette, and illustrates hauntingly elegant shapes of Western icons and mythology. The combination is compelling; it is at once an homage to the region’s history and an invitation to contemplate the modern West.

Liljestrom turns to the history, landscape and community of Jackson Hole for inspiration on the canvas. “We seek to surround ourselves with beauty,” he says. “Like the art of Corey’s knife blocks or blades, my paintings are another way that we can reflect the world’s outside beauty on the insides of our homes.” When I Was Your Age (67” x 79”)

While his education is extensive—he studied fine art with an emphasis in oil painting at the University of Wyoming—and his style masterful, Liljestrom wants his work to feel approachable and engaging to all viewers. “The West is a place of beauty; it’s all around us,” he observes. “And we need to remember that our surroundings are an important subject we can curate.”
Both Liljestrom and Milligan feel a profound connection to the Jackson Hole community and landscape, and draw inspiration from its pristine lands as well as its constant invitations to seek adventure. Whether it’s an exquisitely crafted kitchen blade or an imaginative painting adorning a wall, the two collaborators agree that life is richest when it’s infused with art. Their respective passions have dovetailed in an inspiring way while keeping focused on showcasing visually compelling pieces of functional art. “There’s an inherent value of beauty, especially when it’s fused with functionality,” says Liljestrom.

With a degree in fine arts from the University of Wyoming, Liljestrom employs bold colors, haunting shapes and echoes of a classic Western motif in his oil paintings. Sleeping Indian I (72” x 60”)

True to both men’s draw to experience-driven interactions with Western heritage and fine craftsmanship, the gallery is home to another unique element of New West Fine Art Gallery: tomahawk throwing. In the alley tucked just behind Liljestrom’s canvases and Milligan’s hand- carved wood-and-stone Rock Blocks, visitors have the opportunity to channel their inner mountain men by flinging handmade, traditional weapons at a target.

Located at 98 Center Street on Jackson Hole’s historic Town Square, the New West Fine Art Gallery invites visitors to pause and connect, to see the West through Liljestrom and Milligan’s lenses. Their collaboration is an energetic confluence of adventure, reflection and deep appreciation of the West.

Utilizing a palette of colors that reflects the Western landscape, Liljestrom’s imaginative images are both approachable and deeply evocative. Bison B. Bison (72” x 60”)