From the Midwest to the Wild West, Jenny Gummersall has taken her photography on a trip across the nation.
Chicagoland native Jenny Gummersall already had her ticket to London and work permit when her plans got waylaid after she met “this crazy abstract artist.” Painter Greg Gummersall would eventually romance the city girl off to an 80-acre ranch outside Durango, Colorado, where he paints and she photographs, surrounded by horses, mountains, and the other visual hallmarks of a contented and challenging rural life.
Whether it’s her minimalist clouds, evocative horsescapes, or sculptural fresh eggs, Jenny’s images convey not just her skill with a camera but also the nature of her days, the nuance of her eye, and the attunement of her spirit. “The whole house is basically a studio, and I’m always working. I’m also a wife and mother, cooking and doing all that stuff, too. I might be editing or photographing, outside with the horses, riding. We get out every day to at least go for a walk, look at and fix fences. We go to town one or two times a week. Otherwise, we work on our art and the ranch; we’re also on the road a lot.” Today, she’s just back from months on the road with her husband and their dog, Macie, supporting the career of their up-and-coming country singer-songwriter son, Tyller; seeing their own clients; and replenishing the galleries that represent Jenny’s and Greg’s work. C&I talked with Jenny Gummersall as she was re-acclimating to elevation and life and art in the Rocky Mountains.
Cowboys & Indians: What in the West compels you visually?
Jenny Gummersall: Light is the basis of my work. Going to school in New Mexico, I was struck by the light. There’s an amazing clarity to it. The revelation was similar to my first drive cross-country — coming over a mountain pass and gasping at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Western clouds, Southwestern light, elements of Western life, the landscape and what happens within it — all powerful subjects. I’ve been working on a series called Ranch Families: Culture of America for more than 20 years, exploring ranch values, the cowboy way, connection to the land, survival, family, community, ethics, music, spoken word, the animals — a microcosm of society woven into our life.
C&I: Your work is in some impressive places, including the Tucson Museum of Art. How did you learn photography?
Gummersall: First just by shooting, then at college in Columbia, Missouri. I studied other photographers’ work, ones I was drawn to: Imogen Cunningham, Irving Penn, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Minor White, Dorothea Lange. Images they created had an emotional impact on me, viscerally.
C&I: How did you hit on horsescapes?
Gummersall: The sculptural qualities of horses first hit me when I was drawing Shires at the New Mexico State Fair while studying photography at the University of New Mexico. I saw a parallel visually to the ballet. Horses-as-landscape probably first hit me because of a polo pony named Freeway. I’m short — 5-foot-2 — and I was eye level with his roached mane, and the light was touching his mane and back. Now, when I see landscapes they sometimes look like horses. It’s a repeating shape of a horizon line or mountain shape that’s become consistent in my work.
C&I: What’s a good day with the camera?
Gummersall: Observing how natural light touches the environment I’m in. When it’s compelling, when the light is perfect, I shoot what I see, and I get lost in it, and delighted.
For Jenny Gummersall’s gallery representation and more, visit her website.
From the May/June 2017 issue.