WOMEN YOU SHOULD KNOW IN WYOMING: Jackson, Laramie Artists Named Wyoming Women Artists to Watch (Part 2)

Katy Ann Fox and Leah Hardy draw eye up to the sky and down to the ground

Jackson oil painter and potter Katy Ann Fox recently opened an art gallery called Foxtrot in Driggs, Idaho. (Courtesy photo from Katy Ann Fox)

By Elizabeth Sampson

Special to the Wyoming Truth

The Wyoming Truth is profiling five artists who were selected as Wyoming Women Artists to Watch 2024 and nominated for an exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.  Part one featured Bronwyn Minton and Jennifer Rife.

Katy Ann Fox

Vast skies, distant mountains, deep clouds and solitary houses fill Katy Ann Fox’s paintings. The Jackson artist, 36, likes painting simple things and often depicts evidence of time passing in her work.

“I love back alleys, old buildings — especially houses — gravel roads and big open skies,” Fox said.

 “Beside You” is an oil painting by Katy Ann Fox. (Courtesy photo from Katy Ann Fox) 

Many of her paintings give a nod to her current Wyoming life and her Idaho farm-town upbringing—with jagged mountains and small farmhouses taking center stage. Fox’s colors lean toward cool blues and soft greens with warm pops of poppy red, rusty orange or goldenrod yellow in scenes that evoke childhood memories or a windswept wistfulness.

“I love getting to choose what gets the attention in my paintings,” Fox said. “I really love the color and design aspect, obviously, in painting.” Though she has painted several giant murals, her favorite format is a 12 by 12 canvas.

“I always look forward to returning to oil paint, a square format and a little bit of architecture or exaggerated straight line,” she said.

Jackson artist Tammi Hanawalt, who selected the five women artists to watch, was particularly impressed with a series of Fox’s paintings that feature doors.

“It’s really interesting to me what those doors mean—and what doors mean,” Hanawalt said. “A lot of time her titles reflect something different than, say, just a door.”

Fox’s true love is painting, but when her brain needs time away from all the color, she turns to pottery, sewing or house projects. Her perfect day starts about 6 a.m. with a great cup of coffee, a fast-approaching deadline and a morning with only painting on her calendar. 

“Green” is a painting by Katy Ann Fox, who said she loves showing the evidence of time passing in her artwork. (Courtesy photo from Katy Ann Fox) 

“I need Chapstick close, and I’m probably working on more than one painting at a time,” Fox said. “By 2 p.m., chances are I’ve given my brain a run for its money, so I need a walk in the fresh air and a good conversation or two. Before it gets dark outside, I’m set up with a bucket of warm water and a list of shapes I want to try to make on the pottery wheel, and I’ll be there until 9 p.m., when I promptly turn into a pumpkin.”

Fox, who earned an MFA at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, moved to Jackson in 2012. Ten years later, she opened a gallery called Foxtrot in Driggs, Idaho that showcases her work and that of fellow artists from Idaho, California, Wyoming and beyond.

She said from the time she could walk, she was making things, building things and learning to paint.

“I’ve always been super interested in the world around me and working to make more good,” Fox said. “And that’s when I realized the best I could do in this life was to just follow my art and stay devoted to it. It’s a communication tool and a light—and I love making it.”

Leah Hardy

Sometimes an insect is just an insect. In the hands of metalsmith artist Leah Hardy, 59, of Laramie, sometimes an insect is a commentary on climate change or genetic modifications.

Hardy creates small metal insects—some with moving parts that open to reveal something hidden.

“You experience them by opening them up, almost like you would a box, and discovering other elements on the inside,” she said. “A lot of them are based on insight, memory, experience, human connection, conversation, communication.”

Leah Hardy is a metalsmith who creates small metal insects, many of which are meant to spark thought or conversation about ethical questions. Hardy recently retired from the metalsmithing department at the University of Wyoming. (Courtesy photo from Leah Hardy) 

The style of her insects lends itself to the Women to Watch theme of Future Worlds, Hanawalt said.

“Her interesting sculptures of bugs with wheels are reminiscent of Victorian art, but yet so futuristic,” Hanawalt said. “She’s got these creatures that are partially machine, partially natural critters. It’s very intricate and rather delicate.”

That mixture of living creature and machine supports Hardy’s desire to make people think. More than just creating something beautiful, she uses her art to ask questions about ethical dilemmas she sees in the world, such as whether human life should be prolonged through genetic modification.

“The piece I’m working on right now is going to be choice vs. chance,” Hardy said. “It’s more about climate change. I think it’s really hard to bury your head in the sand and just make beautiful things…You only have so many years on the planet. You want to make a difference—even if you can just get a couple of people talking about the issues that matter.”

“Scarabaeidae and the Celestial Circus” is a piece by Leah Hardy that opens its wings to reveal a secret compartment. (Courtesy photo from Leah Hardy)

She draws artistic inspiration from documentation of actual insects on her travels in India, Costa Rica and Australia. At night, she sets up a UV light and a screen and then records the insects who are attracted to it.

Hardy’s affinity for insects dates back to her childhood in rural eastern Kansas, where she also appreciated the peace of the outdoors and a big sky—like the one she finds in Wyoming.

“A lot of that is how I grew up. I didn’t have a lot of noise, and if I did it was insect noise,” she recalled. “You’re just in tune with the birds and the water. That’s always been important to me as an artist—not because I make work about the bird noises, but because that kind of head space is good to live in for me.”

Hardy, who holds an MFA, worked in ceramics both as a teacher and an artist for about 20 years before deciding it was time for a change.

Pictured above is Leah Hardy’s “Scarabaeidae and the Celestial Circus” with its wings open.
(Courtesy photo from Leah Hardy) 

“I started making really thin, thin pieces,” she said. “They were just so fragile, and they were breaking. It wasn’t a matter of if they would break, it was when. I realized as an artist, I needed to shift medium.”

The next shift for Hardy is retirement. She recently retired from the University of Wyoming, where she ran the metalsmithing program that she founded in 2009.

Going forward, Hardy hopes for a world where artists with diverse backgrounds will have easy visibility.

“I am so happy for museums, venues and galleries that are highlighting people who are in the shadows, whether that is based on gender or background or ethnicity,” she said. “But I would hope at some point we don’t need it . . .  Eventually we will get beyond that I am hoping, when we really succeed in having that kind of equality.”

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