Rendezvous Park has long been a favorite spot in Jackson Hole to meet friends or family for a paddleboard, walk or hangout on the beach. But now, a new set of watchful eyes and a kind smile has taken over one local pond.
“I am just stunned. She is magnificent. She’s wonderful,” said Irene Mellion, a retiree from Jackson who admired the statue on a recent Friday.
“Incredible craftsmanship. And I love the whimsical thing with her necklace, and the hair is really cool,” said Mike Fischer, another retiree.
The latest public art project in Teton County actually has a name: Mama Mimi. Thomas Dambo, the world-renowned artist who created her, described what he was thinking as he built a larger-than-life troll statue that dwarfs onlookers.
“It’s like a mama troll that’s come down from somewhere up in the forest. Up in the mountains,” Dambo said. “And then it’s come down and is sitting here at the lake. And I think that she’s pregnant because maybe I would like to come back when she makes babies.”
Mimi’s hair is made of hundreds of screwed-on roots that Dambo and his team gathered while scouring the Snake River. And she’s also rocking some pretty sweet bling.
“We found some big rocks, like oranges and coconuts and those sizes. And then we tied them up in metal wire and made a big necklace of those things,” he said. “That’s some of the local things that I’ve used here.”
Mama Mimi is the latest project from JH Public Art. It’s also the 80th troll Dambo’s created. He’s been all over the world crafting similar sculptures, which each tell a unique story. And even though many of Dambo’s other-worldly pieces are tucked away in quiet corners of their natural environment, publications like National Geographic and NPR have all taken notice of his work.
Dambo considers himself a pioneer in the field of recycled art, which he said is getting increasingly popular. The Dane has been walking the streets of his hometown of Copenhagen, looking for things others throw away and which he could use in his sculptures, for more than 10 years. He attributes some of his recent success to just being ahead of the fads in the art community.
“Recycling is trending so much right now that they have fake recycled wood on the cabinets in the condo where we are staying here,” he said.
And now, Dambo said Jackson Hole is a perfect place for a new troll.
“I think a big sculpture performs good in an environment like this because all the tourists are looking for something to do,” he said. “You go to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and get drunk, and you take the lift to the top of the mountain and take a photo of the view and then you go and find the troll.”
Locals and visitors alike are indeed finding the troll in droves. They’re also doing exactly what Dambo intended with his design: interacting with it. Folks are kayaking up to Mimi and admiring her gigantic fingernails the size of your own hand. They’re also climbing up onto her leg and walking across to a small island in the middle of R park—a coveted vantage point with a unique view.
“Of course, you can also see it from the side or you can go to the other side of the pond. But to be able to see it all up close, you have to either get your feet wet and walk in the water or walk across the leg bridge,” Dambo said.
Dambo thinks Jackson is also a great place for his art because people here are deeply interconnected with nature. He hopes people will see his troll as a protector of parks as they truly ought to be: places of peace, free of human trash and signs of major development. Onlookers like Fisher understood that message immediately.
“There’s things bigger than you are and there’s still magic in the world,” he said.
Dambo said he hopes visitors will treat Mimi with respect, and that garbage from onlookers won’t pile up next to her. He also hopes that the fact that she’s made of recycled materials will push people toward thinking differently about the things they buy and throw away.
“The problem we have in the world is that we produce things to last forever. There’s a lifetime warranty on your glasses, but you’re going to buy new glasses after six weeks or six months. So why do you need things that can last forever if the fashion and the trend changes? You need new things so fast, and that’s what’s creating these mountains of trash for the future,” Dambo said.
Acknowledging that inevitable cycle, Dambo said he’s excited that his trolls will eventually become trash themselves—or, better still, be reused for something else.
“In fact, I’m probably going to make 500 trolls before I’m gone,” he said. “That’s a lot of trash to leave around for the future. So, I’m just happy that people can enjoy it right there and then we can take that and put it back in the dump when it starts to get uninteresting.”
Dambo tracks his projects from all over the world at trollmap.com. Mama Mimi will be on display for at least three to five years in Jackson, and onlookers say it’s unlikely to become uninteresting any time soon.