Art in Restaurants — A Sensory Experience

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Restaurants in Jackson Hole are teeming with art. This is what Dishing realized while reporting the article, “Appetites for Art,” for the current issue. With this bounty in mind, we begin a semi-regular column about the pairing of art and restaurants. This first one comes from Katy Niner, who wrote the article for the current issue. Meg Daly, the visionary behind Culture Front, will be our regular columnist.

IMG_2799When you enter a restaurant, every element — from the decor to the playlist to the aromas – should flare a feeling, said Ryan Haworth. That was his goal in designing Teton Thai in Driggs. From the neon skull and arrow installation above the bar to the dictionary pages that line the back wall, aesthetics factored heavily in his concept for the restaurant.

“Restaurants should engage all the senses,” Haworth said. Smells, sounds and sights greet guests as soon as they arrive, so that when the meal comes, they already feel transported – away from Driggs, away from reality. “It’s like a drug. You are already there. You are on a high.”

An artist by education and experience, Haworth wanted the restaurant to reflect the texture of his relationship with his wife, Sununta — a cultural-visual juxtaposition of her Thai upbringing with his trappings as a Teton native. Transcending the blurring fad of fusion, he set out to create an interesting juxtaposition of their two cultures.

The result is a space rich with design. On the northern wall, he tore pages from a dictionary and papered the wall with them. Peruse the tiny text and find definitions of words relevant to the Haworths, words such as “Buddha” and “elk.” Painted hatchets hang atop the printed pages — a palimpsest of tropes.

An installation above the bar continues the aesthetic conversation: inspired by the neon signs saturating Bangkok — IMG_6756a lost art in America, Haworth said — he set a bison mount against a neon ring radiating red. Armed with a quiver of vintage arrows (an eBay score), Haworth stuck 24 points into the wall, a mysterious, humorous spray of near-misses surrounding the skull.

People often ask Haworth if he shot the arrows into the wall (the answer is, “No.” He was worried they might sail through the drywall into the adjacent hallway).

In his art as in his restaurant, Haworth aims to evoke something in people, good or bad. Dining out presents a singular opportunity to prod people, he said. They go out for a meal hoping for an experience, which makes them all the more receptive to experiential, experimental design.

Haworth began cultivating excitement even before Teton Thai opened in Driggs. Covering the windows in black paper, he scrawled the words: “Smile: Teton Thai is coming soon!”

The intrigue channeled his own experience designing the restaurant. Feeling stagnant in his work as an artist — designing for other people — Haworth approached the space as a blank canvas. “This is my art.”

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About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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