UW graduate successfully finds his way as professional artist in Jackson
Connor Liljestrom, a 25-year-old Jackson native, graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art and a concentration in painting and drawing.
“I was art inclined from a very young age, but I didn’t embrace my potential as a professional artist until the middle of college,” Liljestrom says.
Now, the young artist has accomplished what many in his field only dream of – co-owning an art gallery in Jackson Hole, where he is free to make and display his art however he likes. Additionally, Liljestrom’s works have sold out at solo exhibitions and have been collected privately across the nation and the world.
Liljestrom’s use of bold colors, elusive shapes and abstract western flare has made for a fascinating series of work and a style distinctive of any other artist in the West.
“It is hard to understand and talk about art that is currently happening in the kind of way we would discuss past art movements because we lack the benefit of context,” Liljestrom explains. “However, I would loosely say, I am working in a space that is a continuation of American abstract expressionists. I have many influences I pull inspiration from as jumping off points for my own work.”
He notes most of his unique work is accomplished using oil paint, although he tries not to worry about the confines of one medium.
“I just try to use materials to their best advantage,” he says.
Liljestrom also says there are no bounds on what inspires his paintings.
“I am interested in exploring a lot through my art,” Liljestrom says. “A number of those interests share commonalities and many don’t, but I paint what interests me.”
“Almost everything inspires me in some way,” he adds.
The New West Fine Art Gallery
With the help of Liljestrom’s friend Corey Milligan, the young artist is now showcasing his work in Jackson Hole’s newest art gallery.
“New West Fine Art is a new gallery in Jackson that I partnered in opening this past June,” Liljestrom explains. “I have wonderful freedom there to show anything that comes out of my studio however I would like to show it. It is a rare freedom that I deeply enjoy – it seems like there is no other way at this point.”
In addition to Liljestrom’s work, the New West Fine Art Gallery showcases the work of Milligan, founder of New West KnifeWorks.
“Connor and I first met playing rugby when he was in high school,” writes Milligan on the New West Fine Art Gallery website. “Four or five years ago while Connor was away studying his craft, he told me he wanted to come back to Jackson and make a living as a painter. I immediately knew I would do everything I could to help him.”
“I grew my business selling knives at fine art and craft shows around the country, and while exhibiting on the road, I always took in the work of other artists. Over the course of 20 years, I developed my eye quite a bit. This is how I know Connor is special, and we are lucky to have his homegrown talent in Jackson Hole,” Milligan continues.
He further notes, “It is my belief Connor will be the leading Western Contemporary artist of his generation.”
According to their website, the New West Fine Art Gallery specializes in the curation and sale of contemporary art referencing the American West.
Currently, the gallery is running Liljestrom’s solo exhibition, “The Last of The Old West,” which explores themes inspired by his life growing up near the Tetons as well as several mythologies, Hollywood and pop culture, natural history, colonialism and the canon of Western-centric art history.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.