Mary Schmitt is an expert on antiquities.
Down a side street in Jackson, Wyo., stands a charming two-story museum where you’re free to handle precious artifacts. A Navajo saddle blanket woven circa 1890. An ingot-silver, hand-hammered Navajo cuff. A Northwest Coast feast bowl worth as much as a new motorcycle.
Cayuse Western Americana is actually a gallery run by Mary Schmitt. “Antiques have to be held and touched to be understood,” Schmitt says. “When you feel a thing’s weight and substance, you appreciate its quality.”
Schmitt scours the West for one-of-a-kind items. She can fall head over boot heels for a painting done by a cowboy to busy himself during a long winter. She calls such pieces bunkhouse art.
This year she lost her heart to a small painting of horses by Yellowstone Chip. Never heard of him? “He was a wrangler on a dude ranch in Montana, self-taught,” Schmitt says. “It’s nothing fancy, but folk art can draw you in just as much as a pricey artifact.” Chip’s painting? Yours for $1,200. (307) 739-1940, cayusewa.com.
Photography by Jeff Diener
This article was first published in September 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.