Category Archives: Watercolor

Wonder Cabinets; Montana Artist David W. Wharton’s West


In what seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jackson artist Jenny Dowd opened her first show here,“Teeth.”  Inspiration for Dowd’s works were Renaissance curiosity cabinets, also known as “Cabinets of Wonder,” or as the National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA) notes, “Wunderkammer.”

“Teeth,” we wrote of Dowd’s exhibit, “suggests the De Stijl movement’s purity and pared down universality – as well as its spirituality – imposed upon …curiosity cabinets, likely the original ‘found object’ art form. Those cabinets were small, framed stages filled with collected objects, their maker’s assembly of natural and unnatural articles. Often displaying botanical specimens, curiosity cabinets were attempts to understand and control the world while providing a way to marvel at its mysteries.”

wondercabinet1_sm7f494fThe cabinets were also precursors to museums, says NMWA. Their new exhibition, “Wonder Cabinet,” conceived by Assistant Museum Curator Bronwyn Minton, invites us to look in on these mysterious marvels, which were “a way for each individual to display his wealth and knowledge of the world.” The show is Minton’s third community-focused exhibit~~plaster insects, butterfly shadow boxes, NMWA artworks and commissioned works are all part of the show.

“Wonder Cabinet” opens Thursday, November 14th, 6:00-9:00 pm, at this month’s NMWA “Mix’d Media.” The fun happens in Johnson Hall, and all comers have the chance to create and take home their own “wonder objects.” All are welcome, and donations are encouraged!

David W. Wharton - "The West, A & B"

David W. Wharton – “The West, A & B”

“My contemporary work attempts to revive the color, spirit and spiritual designs of the American Plains Indians.” ~ David W. Wharton 

In his seminal history of the arts and Yellowstone, “Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park,” Peter H. Hassrick cites Livingston, Montana artist David W. Wharton’s work as emblematic of a contemporary, dramatic thematic shift artists made when capturing Yellowstone.

It’s my feeling the author admired Wharton’s brave stepping away from simply glorifying the Park; you are no arts chump if your work is included in Hassrick’s remarkable book. Wharton, an avid fly fisherman, instead chose to comment on our invasion and misuse of Yellowstone’s great natural resources, Native Americans and wildlife.

David W. Wharton - Yellowstone

David W. Wharton – Yellowstone

“My thoughts and work have always been about the Yellowstone country and that of the Native Americans. We live where they died, we exist today because we stole their land,” states Wharton. “As long as I live in this proximity of Yellowstone, I will always pray to the spirit of this amazing place and the culture of what must have been [imbued with] innocence, freedom and the will to survive.”

Wharton’s arresting, colorful graphic designs appear in his watercolors, lithographs, monoprints and digital imagery. His work is as intricate as a quilt, boldly bright and so intriguing. The longer we look, the more wildlife symbols, basketry, morning star patterns and magic phenomena appear. If these twirling, interlocked symbols are morning stars, Wharton could be depicting his reverence for spirits and ancestors, as well as praying for the plentiful return of a culture and respect for nature’s bounty. Plains Indians communicated with symbols; one source says that the morning star represents a bright and twinkling Venus.

In fact, says Wharton, many of the patterns are based on ancient Islamic tiles and designs dating back to the Byzantine era. Wharton combines and rotates ancient and contemporary motifs for each work.

Wharton’s arts and non-profit leadership experience is extensive. Founding Director of Fine Arts at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities, he’s served as Assistant Professor of arts at Whitman and Colorado Colleges. From one edge of this country to the other, Wharton has directed the Florida Keys Council for the Arts and served as Executive Director of Alaska Transportation & Industry, in Wasilla. He’s currently represented by Sun Valley’s prestigious Gail Severn Gallery.

“I believe that we as a culture have “nickeled and dimed” the Native American Indian culture,” says Wharton. “We have reduced that freedom of the Plains Indians to mere remembrance of what was once a mighty nation. And we pay in beaded and feathered souvenirs. Alvin Josephy researched this culture extensively, as did Grinnell, Curtis and Catlin.”



Peace in the Valley: Dean, Sanders & Vhay; Solberg at Astoria

Glenn Dean -"Rise"

Glenn Dean -“Rise”

New works by painters Glenn Dean, Jared Sanders and September Vhay will be on exhibition at Altamira Fine Art July 15-27, with an opening reception for all three artists on Thursday, July 18, 5-8:00 pm. Each artist brings renewed vision of their respective muses: for Dean, it’s landscapes imbued with a Taos light; Sanders’ renowned paintings of barns and other farm structures continue to accumulate silent power; and Vhay’s horses, accompanied by large-scale renderings of bison, are ever-intriguing.

“When I approach the landscape I try to simplify what I’m seeing. I strive to reduce the noise and look for nice color harmonies as well as positive and negative shapes playing off each other,” says Glenn Dean.

That’s modesty talking—Dean is much more complex than his statement suggests. A relatively young artist (Dean is 31), he has devoted himself to unraveling the complexities of works by great masters he admires; Maynard Dixon and Edgar Payne in particular.  For Dean, Dixon and Payne “painted things the way they were meant to be painted, with a solid sense of form and broad strokes of clean, defining color.”

So, if you’re thinking like Maynard did, you approach landscape painting with spiritual reverence. And you are straightforward in your beliefs, as well as the task in front of you, which, says the artist, is humbling. Something hidden resides in each bit of landscape~~all artists interpret what they see in individual ways, but each personal endeavor brings its own revelation, translated to canvas.

A native Westerner, Dean is California born and now travels and lives in the Southwest. Mountains, deserts, and coastlines are his favorite locations, and within each painting Dean manages to both delineate full shapes and fill them with powerfully blended colors. We are transfixed. The big Western media and invational venues are focused on young Dean: he’s snagged Art and Antiques magazine’s first “Emerging Artist Award,” and won the grand prize AND “Artists’ Choice” awards at the Tucson-Sonoran Desert Museum Invitational.  Wow.

Jared Sanders - "Shelter"

Jared Sanders – “Shelter”

“While some landscape painters relish capturing cheery beach scenes or sun-dappled aspen trees, [Jared] Sanders is drawn to the moody intervals that separate the seasons—the times between fall and winter and between winter and spring when he perceives subtle dramas unfolding.” – Southwest Art

Sanders’ show, “A Spirit of Place,” may certainly be about separation of seasons and the softer side of “idyllic,” but what Sanders has become known for is his ability to render barns and rural structures like the kind he knew as a child in a variety of settings and with a mastery of geometric composition and color. His is art that, at first glance may seem ever-repeating. Look again. With each work Sanders designs in depth, punctuating his compositions with brilliantly placed patches of color. Each work is a soul, and each soul regards viewer.

Sanders’ large, flat, geometric areas of color allow him to introduce those elements of abstraction and design into his paintings.

Sanders is meditative and precise, and his paintings stop you in your tracks. Allowing a long, luxurious amount of time to “read” Sanders’ paintings reaps endless rewards. This show, featuring full landscapes as well as barns, do demonstrate his singular intimacy with nature. He is a careful draftsman, sketching from hundreds of photographs he takes himself, and transfering them—–transforming them—-into his still, contemplative works of soft browns, yellows and pitch-perfect reds.

September Vhay - "Chiefs of the Day"

September Vhay – “Chiefs of the Day”

“Horses, bison, coyotes and deer grace the canvases — and a guest appearance by a hummingbird.” 

September Vhay’s new show, “A Divine Pause,” spotlights “animals both delicate and sturdy,” says Altamira. Vhay’s approach to her work remains classic, with a sense of dimension so palpable it can only come from a highly developed spatial aptitude. Vhay’s architectural background is evident in every work.

“My challenge and subsequent reward,” explains Vhay, “is to reorder reality by distilling it to its essence.” The truth of each subject lies in its essence, and intrinsic in that is great truth, she believes. “It is,” she says, “a pleasure to seek out this essence and to share it with others.”

Altamira sells Vhay’s works almost as quickly as they arrive at the gallery. This time, mule deer and foals share space with bull bison and “regal” horses. In fact, many creatures of the valley are rendered: fox and coyote make peace with each other and defer to a lighter-than-air hummingbird. Vhay deeply explores composition, color, light and expression; her backgrounds are often blank, elevating each creature to a higher status, and allowing their essence to be the work’s sole focus.

I happened to be in the gallery the afternoon Vhay’s charcoal works “Chiefs of the Day” and “Chiefs of Night” arrived. Measuring 30 x 77″ they are monumental in size, and viewers feel these iconic animals’ presence, inhale prairie dust, catch the scent of the buffalos’ hides, feel their hot breath.

“Confidence, power and beauty are intrinsic to September Vhay’s artwork, notes fine art consultant Katherine E. Harrington. “September’s soft touch demonstrates a refined appreciation of her subject. To look at September’s Vhay artwork gives the mind a place to rest.”


Watercolor images of wildlife and landscape, as well as works with religious themes by painter Morten Solberg are now on exhibition at Astoria Fine Art.  This is a solo show, but you can meet the artist, who has been painting for decades, at an artist’s reception on Thursday, SEPTEMBER 18th, 5-8:00 pm.

Solberg’s painting “The Artist,” shown at left, appears to be Solberg’s reverent portrait of Leonardo da Vinci.


Big Art at Legacy; Miniatures at Trailside; Mix’d Media; Diehl Kickoff

Nelson Boren - "Circa 1923"

Nelson Boren – “Circa 1923”

Nelson Boren’s big life story is reflected in his big, bold watercolor depictions of cowboy boots, chaps, rodeo gear, cowboy kids on fences and well-worn Western hats. From what I’ve read, Boren was a tad repressed as a young artist, and, though clearly talented, was kept from hanging his artwork anywhere in the house except his bedroom. In college, he studied architecture, only to be drawn to watercolors~~but gave it up, thinking he wasn’t so good.

Back to architecture he went; but when that environment proved too restrictive Boren turned back to painting watercolors, this time taking it seriously. He ended up moving his wife and, by then, seven children, to Idaho. He started selling work door-to-door…and now he’s a featured artist at Legacy Gallery.

Terry Donahue - "Mule Deer Study"

Terry Donahue – “Mule Deer Study”

He and pastel artist Terry Donahue share floor space at Legacy’s Jackson Gallery, in a two-artist show opening July 5th; a reception takes place 4-6:00 pm.

Donahue’s works are, by contrast, gentle. However, his works are also filled with dynamic movement and he chooses to depict a wide variety of wildlife. Some works have a minimalist presence, but are as exciting as any of his works that fill his canvas with paint. Donahue experiments well with space, and his colors are bold, rich. The artist’s emotion is apparent.


Timothy Mayhew - "Chukar Center"

Timothy Mayhew – “Chukar Center”

Trailside Galleries presents their third annual “Masters in Miniature Exhibition & Sale,” showcasing over 250 small work-of-art treasures by Trailside artists. “Home” gallery artists will be featured as are many specially invited artists, Timothy Mayhew among them. Mayhew was kind enough to write and let the Art Blog know how pleased he is to be included in this year’s special, juried event. The show runs July 15-28th, 2013, with an opening reception on Thursday, July 18th, 5-8:00 pm.  All works will be sold by draw at 7:30 pm. The gallery’s roster includes members of the Cowboy Artists of America and the Prix de West.

This is Trailside’s 50th Anniversary year, and the gallery has just recently added a collection of exquisite area rugs crafted in the Middle East to its collections. Stop by and view them any day~~it’s very nice to consider the “big picture” when it comes to presenting your art to the world!  Beautiful, hand made carpets set the tone. Trailside is also a partner in the annual Jackson Hole Art Auction, being held this year on September 14th, at the Center for the Arts in Jackson, WY.

Morgan Weistling - "The Daydreamer"

Morgan Weistling – “The Daydreamer”

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Loughridge at NMWA; Montana’s Hall; Jackson Hole Art & Election Blog

How gorgeous is this woodblock print?  You can’t tell from this image of course; an electronic image rarely reveals art’s true nature. But trust me, artist Leon Loughridge’s woodblock print, Diablo Canyon Storm, is divine. This print, along with several others by Loughridge, is on view at the National Museum of Wildlife Art as part of 2010’s Western Visions. Loughridge’s passion is depicting the light, shadows and atmosphere of the Southwest. I at first took Loughridge’s work for a painting, a masterful watercolor.

The artist says that woodblock artists Arthur Wesley Dow and Kawase Hasui are primary influences, and in fact he has referred to his prints as “woodblock paintings.”  If you’ve not seen Loughridge’s work, or visited the Western Visions collection, a nice chance to do so comes up Wednesday, September 29, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at “Art a’ Brewin'” at the museum.    Many works are still available for sale, and you can see all them that day, for FREE.

Woodblock artist works (including several by Montana’s Russell Chatham) are on display in the Wapiti Gallery.

And, speaking of Montana tonalists, another artist whose work is not represented in any of Jackson’s galleries (that I know of), Dave Hall, creates subtle, hypnotic landscape paintings of Yellowstone National Park and lower Montana.

I’ve not personally viewed his work, but I’ve seen many images on line and Hall looks like he’s got it.   According to his website, he’s been painting full time for seven years; much of his work reminds me of Skorut’s, and his paintings of streams running through fields recall John Felsing.

Here’s what the artist says about his work and inspirations: “I am moved by the half light of dawn and dusk, and most of my paintings are of the southwest Montana and Yellowstone Park areas. A corner of my heart resides there, due in large part to the poetry associated with the convergence of family and friends, moving water and mayfly hatches. Influences include Utah artist and friend Connie Borup, Mark Rothko, Wolf Kahn, Russell Chatham, the Impressionists, and the American tonalists George Inness and Albert Ryder.”

Hall divides his time between Salt Lake City and Montana.  See more of his work on his website,

Item #2

Elected, elected, I wanna be selected…

As I hope and pray you know, there’s a general election coming up.  Recently somebody said to me that there’s a perception that Jackson and Teton County  “have no real issues right now.”

No matter what we write in the papers, no matter the coverage, the population majority is not aware of issues—and they’re often not even aware of who is running until the last days—and sometimes hours and minutes—before they go to the polls. I fear young voters ask their buddies who THEY are voting for and vote the same way.

Elections like the one that just took place in Delaware tell us that too many Americans have no clue; we are involved only on the most superficial levels. Who is responsible for climate woes? We are, because we continue to use products that emit high levels of pollutants. Who is responsible for the people holding political office? We are. We are responsible for listening to candidates, being aware of issues, following voting records, keeping abreast of how those running for office speak to us. Do they really answer our questions? Will we push for better answers?

Or are we waiting for someone to tell us what to care about?

Nobody can control who chooses to become an informed voter, or what voter turnout will be, but we can certainly try to provide opportunities to listen to the candidates. It is impossible to fully appreciate or understand a candidate unless you hear them debate in real time. It’s hugely enlightening and has changed my vote many times. I’m hoping for more real-time opportunities, and I’m involved in trying to create opportunities.

Providing accessible, generous space for public debate is a great community service.

So, between now and November 2, 2010, this blog will devote space to election issues. It will try to present a balance of questions and opinions from voters and candidates. I’m not sure how much I can accomplish here, but I’m a C-Span fan and C-Span is my inspiration.

If you have a question for any candidate, send it to me at this address: I will pass the question on to candidates on both sides of the issue.  I will not print your name if you want to remain anonymous, so no repercussion fears. Your identity will remain confidential, I won’t divulge it on or “off” this blog.  I will also jury the questions, so if a question is not clear, is rude, threatening or inappropriate, it won’t be considered.  When candidates respond I’ll post the question and the response.

Onward and upward with the arts and politics!   Stay tuned.

Kay Stratman at Center Street; Altamira has Sanders; Chin, Up at Oswald


Center Street Gallery debuts artist Kay Stratman’s new brush paintings at an artist’s reception Thursday, August 20, 5-8:00 p.m. Titled Expect the Unexpected, Stratman’s collective works are, as far as I know, Jackson’s only examples of East Asian sumi-e (墨絵) painting, originated in China. An ancient practice, sumi-e (soo-me-ee) was introduced to Japan in the mid 14th century.  Ink and wash paintings at first used only black inks; color washes were added later.

gecko_web_lgSumi-e’s tools—stick ink (sumi), grinding stone, fine papers or fabric, and bamboo handled brushes—are known as the Four Treasures. According to practice, Stratman has produced paintings balanced in composition and color.  They depict landscapes that, although often inspired by the West, are swathed in Asian delicacy—soft, as well as precise.  Misty mountains, swans flying in tandem over serene, mirror-like lakes, snow scenes and liquid portraits of koi, geckos and butterflies are Stratman’s subjects–she renders all using a palette of warm and cool pastel tones.

Sumi-e’s goal is to capture a subject’s soul.  “To paint a flower, there is no need to perfectly match its petals and colors, but it is essential to convey its liveliness and fragrance.”

A final note: Stratman is married to new Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Executive Director Paul Hansen. For more information, phone 307.733.1115.

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414_580Tonalist Jared Sanders’ new collection of works, “A Period of Transition,” also opens Thursday, 5-7:00 pm,  at Altamira Fine Art. A chronicler of nature, Sanders’ quiet, harmonic works play out in soft browns, earth yellows, reds, and their balancing cooler tones of blue and green.  His compositions are simple, in the realm of the naive.   His portrayals of cows in the fields, those colors and structure, can remind me of Milton Avery.

As a rural youngster, Sanders began painting the landscapes of his northern Utah home. “His artistic process is measured and very detailed,” says the gallery. “After scouting potential landscape subjects and taking hundreds of snapshots, he sorts through the best candidates, sketching some in pencil.  He then transfers the sketch to gesso board using brown or sienna oils finished in warm gray or ochre tones, focusing on getting the color of one object or shape in the painting perfect.”

Sanders likes the softer, shoulder seasons: Autumn and Spring.

314_580“I like it in autumn after all the leaves have fallen from the trees.  And my favorite time is in spring when winter is just barely leaving – nothing is green yet, everything is still dead from the winter, the trees are leafless, the willows are red, and a few patches of snow are left on the ground.”

For information:

Item #3

Explorer-photographer Jimmy Chin will be at Oswald Gallery on Friday, August 21, 6-9 p.m.,  to discuss his photographic work and his climbing experiences.
Chin exhibits his views of the extreme landscapes he explores and the people who live in those high and distant countries.  Says the Oswald, “From the Karakoram to Mali to Everest and beyond, Chin has traveled the globe, shooting from some of the most inaccessible terrain in the world, all in an attempt to arrest images that go beyond the ambition of the athlete and wanderlust of the explorer. Images that give the audience a glimpse into remote cultures, distant lands and the world of extreme athletes, ultimately giving perspective into the human potential and our own culture.”

Got bliss?  Want some if you don’t have it?  Visit some of the lands where bliss is a way of life as you view Jimmy Chin’s vibrant photography.