The New West Fine Art gallery welcomes both potential buyers and appreciators of art to enjoy artist Connor Liljestrom’s large format, abstract scenes of the West. The same rugged yet refined aesthetic you’ve come to expect from NewWest KnifeWorks and Mountain Man Toy Shop will be reflected by both the gallery’s artwork and in its laid back, uniquely Wyoming attitude. We sit down with New West KnifeWorks founder Corey Milligan and artist Connor Liljestrom to take a look at how a knifemaker and an artist have teamed up to bring you some of the most exciting and accessible art in the Mountain West.
What brought about this unorthodox collaboration between fine art and knives?
Connor and I are buddies from playing rugby, we’ve played together for the Moose since 2013 when Connor was still in high school. Four or five years ago 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… at the time, I didn’t even know if he was any good. When I started making knives, I was going to art shows a lot, so I’ve always had that connection to the art world. I encouraged Connor to do local art shows too and introduced him to friend of mine in the business before we got the idea to open a gallery together.
We were actually on our way to ski Teton Pass when Corey suggested opening a gallery. A mutual friend persuaded me to just say yes, to push past being self-conscious of its success. Prior to that ski day, I was looking at a couple galleries to show at, and this was just such an unorthodox opportunity. It’s amazing for an artist to be able to solo show at a gallery. I’ve been lucky with my quick emergent success, but even before that, the support I’ve been met with from Corey has always been absolute.
Sleeping Indian by Connor Lijestrom
What will the gallery be like?
It is my belief that Connor will be the most renowned western Contemporary artist in the United States, and our gallery will support that. The gallery will feature Connor’s art alongside custom knives and hand carved rock blocks. Of course, we are paying attention to what other galleries do and have done, but our main goal is to focus on doing things that other people aren’t doing yet. I have the same ethos with my knifemaking… we don’t want any limits on creativity.
American Made Knife Art. New West KnifeWorks
What is the vision behind the art?
I was born and raised here in Jackson, surrounded by this richly creative community. Growing up, I would ride my bike to galleries and sneak my sketchbook in to try and copy my favorite pieces. In some galleries I was met warmly, and in many I wasn’t, because I wasn’t a buyer. That experience formed a bit of a chip on my shoulder… gatekeepers to the art world generally do a massive disservice to the majority’s cultural appreciation of art. People shouldn’t feel like an entire aspect of culture isn’t available for them to enjoy. So, I carry that stick pretty heavily. My art doesn’t have to be for you, but I want to let you know that if you appreciate beauty, there is art out there for you.
Even if you consider yourself more of a tomahawk throwing enthusiast or a whisky aficionado than a collector of fine art, we think the New West gallery might surprise you in all the right ways.
98 Center St, Unit C, Jackson, WY 83001