Tag Archives: Erin C. O’Connor

What Has Winter Wrought?

Kathy Wipfler  “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole”   7 x 11″   field study

“Greg McHuron was known to wrestle sheets of plywood through various Ice Ages just so he could stand on them without sinking into the frozen depths. But Greg was part Woolly Mammoth.” ~ Plein air painter Erin C. O’Connor 

This Jackson Hole winter!  Folks have mentioned a craving to chew their legs off. But if you’re an artist the show goes on, and being shut in or facing stupendously challenging weather conditions often leads to improvisation, new creative themes and awakenings of a different sort.

I contacted some legendary badass women artists and asked them how winter has affected their work. This post, we hear from  Kathy Wipfler, Kay Stratman and Erin C. O’Connor.


Plein air painter Kathy Wipfler is a true veteran of painting outdoors. Solid and sensible, her practices spring from a lifetime of ranching and hard outdoor work. A long-time member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters, she knows a thing or two.

“Having painted on location here in every season for 36 years, I have a few tricks of the trade to stay as warm as possible. Painting a small format is one of them,” writes Wipfler. “Standing on Blue Board keeps the cold from my feet just a little longer than standing directly on the snow, and having the right boots is important. Painting sunlit snow is a passion, but there have been limited sunlit days so far this winter.”

Wipfler says another challenge is simply finding an accessible turnout to set up her easel and park. “Parking on the road’s shoulder is not so smart. I’ve spent time and effort shoveling out spaces whenever it’s feasible.”

Wipfler’s “Deep Winter – Jackson Hole,” pictured above, is so painterly I can almost feel the artist’s rich brushstrokes simply by looking. They convey the weight of this winter, its frigid cold, and a sense of muffled winter beauty. Wipfler’s snowdrifts are a pillow upon which the mountain rests.

Read more about Kathy Wipfler in this Jackson Hole Art Blog post, “Kathy Wipfler & the Boys!” 


Kay Stratman’s new abstract works are charged with color.

Kay Stratman is experimenting with her “alter studio ego.”

Stratman’s “Natural Abstractions,” comprised of watercolor and wax works, focus on what the artist describes as “amazingly colorful natural occurances that scream for exploration/exploitation/ abstraction.”

Stratman’s work (which she says has always favored essence over traditional form) is focused on subjects ranging from Yellowstone’s brilliant hot springs to “the mysteries of stellar nebula or northern lights.”

“People are familiar with watercolor as a medium and perhaps even encaustic wax,” writes Stratman. “But I combine both media in my work to present an interesting dichotomy. Watercolor and wax shouldn’t even be able to mix, should they? However, each medium becomes obvious upon close inspection, and the view from farther away brings the suggested subject matter to light.  The pieces themselves are splash and poured watercolors on rice paper, infused with encaustic wax (molten beeswax) that makes the paper translucent, allowing me to fuse layers together to create depth of color.”

Erin C. O’Connor – “El Gato Negro.”

Erin C. O’Connor 

“I know an artist who used to work for the phone company; he swiped one of those tents that they put over utility boxes so they can work in inclement weather; now he uses it to paint outside. At 17 below zero, I’d need the tent, the Enormo-Heat-Blaster, and the heated brush handles,” reveals painter Erin C. O’Connor.

I imagine O’Connor’s “Uppity Chick” smile.

Erin C. O’Connor in her studio.

During winter months O’Connor focuses on studio work and brings unfinished “warmer months” paintings to completion. At this time last year O’Connor was in Nicaragua, and she’s “finding welcome refuge in re-exploring those scenes.”

“It all plays back to me like a tape recording ~ the warmth, the humidity, the lyrical conversations, the people I met, all the things I learned,” she says. “Color upon color upon color. This has been my antidote to grey. This has been my rebellion to the cold.”

O’Connor updates her website during winter months, and she’s just been named as the newest member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters Board of Directors. When Plein Air for the Park ” gorgeously unfolds in July, it’s because we’ve thoroughly scrutinized the acrobatics well before summer.”

Next post, we’ll hear from a few more of Jackson’s ultra-talented women artists! All strive to be the best that they can be. Transcending fads and trends, they are wicked strong rungs on Jackson’s art history ladder, and their art endures.

In national art news, it was announced earlier this month that the NEA is in dire straits. Our new administration is strongly considering budget cuts that could eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. If executed, this spells disaster for art interests across the country. Such a step even stands to cancel important exhibitions like SFMOMA’s Matisse-Diebenkorn show.  Read a little about this impending legislation here


Wherever We Go, Art is the Heart

I was going to tell you that if I could live on art, I would. Then I realized I already do. And so do we all, in some way or another. Art is, literally, all around us. The keyboard I’m typing on is someone’s imaginiative creation. The lamp on my desk, the paintings on my wall, my books, the clothes I wear (though in my case I have to fall short of calling what I wear “wearable art.” It’s more like “wearable earrings and sweatshirts.”).

Outstanding in her field: Kathy Wipfler.

Recipes are art, the chairs we sit on. Loving one another and sticking by the Golden Rule is an art. That particular rule is, for some reason so difficult to follow. Why is that? It’s so simple to do the right thing. One of the most obvious “right things” is to respond to friends and colleagues when they reach out. When we don’t respond, the thing we remember IS the non-response. That’s not what you want people to remember, professionally or otherwise.

Todd Kosharek at work. Todd’s passion, work ethic and kindness are the best of Jackson Hole’s art heart.

My wish for us this year is to always try to do the right thing. Think it out. Be honest, but balanced. Who are your mentors? Who do you hold up as a hero amongst us? When trying to decide how to act, what choices to make, how to respond, how to walk this earth, I implore you: Do the right thing.

Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters’ Quick Draw” at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center in Grand Teton National Park.

One “compassion researcher” I know of says this: “We are taught that there is a right and wrong way to behave, to act and to think. Stepping outside this construct is a big shift. Non-judgmental acceptance of what it means to embrace all suffering on the planet takes development.”

Plein Air Cowboy Bar!

I’m not religious, but I try to find the good path, make choices that align my soul and help me towards peace and contentment. So often that effort winds up involving huge, ongoing struggles. Breaking things down to day-to-day triumphs is a better choice. Much of the time our thoughts are of the future, one dream after another. I can be guilty of spending more time dreaming than doing, especially during these challenging winter months.

Today my goal is to break that pattern up a little and re-start this blog! I will begin my book in earnest this year. I will work and produce positively to the benefit of arts here as they are related to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s phenomenal beauty and the wealth of art in our galleries and superb new generation of artists.

Bronwyn Minton, for “View 22.” I purchased my first “Bronwyn” this year!

I will try to present all forms of Jackson’s visual arts to the best of my ability; none of us relates to EVERY SINGLE work of art, but we can appreciate every effort, love that it exists, discuss art and feel lucky our particular creative vortex is so powerful.

Borbay and Friend. Connecting with this guy was a highlight of the year! He’s really a softie.

And so this first post of 2017 contains some of my favorite images and moments from 2016’s Jackson Hole art offerings and events. Just a very few~~there were SO many! To see more images from the past year, visit my Art Blog Facebook Page .  If you enjoy those posts, please “Like” the page and tell your friends! 

Dean Cornwell (1892–1960)
Portrait,1929. The Jackson Hole Art Auction had some exquisite works.

As ever, my deepest gratitude to everyone who appreciates and reads The Jackson Hole Art Blog. I’m thankful and proud.

David Michael Slonim at Altamira Fine Art.

The Jackson Hole Art Blog’s new header image: Detail from David Michael Slonim’s “Bailando,” at Altamira Fine Art.  


Erin C. O’Connor Paints for Morocco; Walker at Altamira

Erin C. O'Connor - Untitled

Erin C. O’Connor – Untitled

“The mission of the Atlas Cultural Foundation is to help underserved Moroccans, especially women and children, and improve their quality of life through locally determined development projects.” Cloe Erickson, Founder

“The people are living exactly they way they have for hundreds and hundreds of years. Stone houses, sheep, goats, a very marginal existence. They are agricultural, but it’s extremely sparse terrain. You can’t truly realize how lush and beautiful it is here until you visit places like these.” – Jackson Artist Erin C. O’Connor

Even the briefest of visits to the Morocco-based  Atlas Cultural Foundation will take your breath away. People, music, swirling rainbows of cloth, smiling children, the purity of souls, laughter, donkeys loaded with grains making their way up steep mountainsides on paths as wide as piece of thread, stone houses seemingly impossible to build…African light on high cliffs, solitary townspeople under tents, illuminated by candlelight.

By Erin C. O'Connor

By Erin C. O’Connor

“These villages,” says plein air painter Erin O’Connor, “are in the High Atlas Mountains, in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a dirt road that probably should have ended 60 miles before it does. It’s unimaginable. The area was the last place for the French Foreign Legion to access, it is so remote.”

Recently O’Connor and a colleague landed the chance to go to Morocco, visit the Atlas Mountains and spend time in the ancient city of Medina, as part of an Atlas awareness-raising initiative. A Montana patron with a strong interest in the organization’s mission financed the trip. O’Connor’s paintings and works by other artists will be offered for sale on February 6th, at a private event in Bozeman, Montana.

“I’d always wanted to go to Morocco. EVERYTHING there is art: the wrought iron on the windows, the tile work, the architecture, the doors, I wanted to paint it all,” says O’Connor. “This opportunity came up,  andI had to say ‘yes.’ It was serendipitous. The funny thing is, I have always considered myself a plein air landscape painter, but being in Marrakesh, in the oldest part the Medina, 8,ooo years old, it was all small alley ways, souks (marketplaces), so many people in such a small place. I was forced to paint in really tight corners! I had two jobs every day: one was to go out and prove just how much my French sucks and the other was to get lost! You go through humbly.”

O’Connor began her trek in the Medina, where she spent almost a week on her own, painting. One day she found herself wedged up in a small souk corner, people pushing by her in huge throngs, very intense for a solitary outdoor artist.

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O’Connor is September’s “Artist in Environment”

Jackson Hole artist Erin C. O’Connor will give a free plein air painting demonstration at String Lake, Grand Teton National Park on Saturday, September 10, 2011, 2:00-5:00 pm. O’Connor’s appearance winds up the Grand Teton Association’s 2011 “Artists in the Environment” plein air series, and coincides with the opening days of Jackson Hole’s Fall Arts Festival. (Tuesday, September 6th, the Jackson Hole Art Blog will post the first of two Fall Arts Festival calendars!)

O’Connor finds her greatest inspiration by painting directly within the environment. Noted for her participation in many prestigious plein air events, she is represented in collections and exhibits throughout the country. Since being awarded the 2009 Joshua Tree National Park “Artist-in-Residency” post, she has taken part in numerous Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters (RMPAP) events, most recently being awarded “Artists’ Choice, Best Body of Work” by her peers at RMPAP’s Pagosa Springs, Colorado competition. Plein Air Magazine’s Spring 2011 issue named the artist one of “Today’s Masters.”

“To gain the endorsements of your fellow artists–there’s no higher accolade,” O’Connor says.

O’Connor came to Jackson 25 years ago, and stays because it’s a place where she and so many others are free to “follow their bliss.” As an artist, you can never paint as much as you’d like, she says. O’Connor sees the world around her afresh daily. It’s a point of ecstasy or a point of madness–but for her, wanting to paint everything you see–and seeing everything as a painting–is a gift.

O’Connor drew and painted from the time she was little.

“When I first started painting en plein air I’d say I strove more to capture details and “true” colors than I do now,” she notes. “Now, I don’t get as wrapped up in those details. It’s the essence behind the details I want to capture. That was never a conscious decision–you’re not going to change the way you paint, it’s like your signature. My style is not really contemporary, not really traditional. The Taos Ten greatly influenced me, and the California Impressionists–the people in the U.S. who were painting outside. It was their clarity of light and brilliant color.”

Describing herself as essentially a “solitary individual,” O’Connor has lately been painting hay bales–“round bales, square bales, hay loaves, hay laying on the ground, in stripes and in piles!” Painting alone allows her to stay in her “zone,” frees her to get into her signature style. Summers, O’Connor works as a landscaper. The job gets her outside, and she can think about how to access certain scenes.

“I’m not above stopping on the Wilson Bridge and placing orange cones around me so I can paint!  But there’s usually an easier way,” says a smiling O’Connor.

A few years ago, while painting at String Lake, a Western Tanager flew down to perch on the artist’s easel.

“I don’t know if it was attracted to the colors of the paint or if it was a mooch! It was a great experience,” recalls O’Connor. “There’s so much going on at String Lake. There are the mountains, so dramatic. There’s the lake itself, quiet and serene. It’s shallow enough to see logs beneath the water’s surface, everything is so interesting, there’s so much to choose from. And it’s an honor to be asked back to “Artists in the Environment.”

NOTE: There are several parking areas at String Lake. To hook up with “Artists in the Environment,” proceed to the furthest parking area–String Lake’s Picnic Area lot. Walk a short distance north, up the shoreline, and find O’Connor “in plein sight,” alongside the lake.

Contact: Tammy Christel    tammy@jacksonholearttours.com

Grand Teton Association’s 2011 “Artists in the Environment”

The Grand Teton Association’s Summer 2011 Artists in the Environment Plein Air Summer Series schedule is set. Beginning Saturday, June 11, 2011 and continuing each second Saturday in July, August, and September, the series offers the public an opportunity to join noted plein air painters as they capture the beauty that is Grand Teton National Park. This year’s artists are Greg McHuron, Greta Gretzinger, Scott Christensen and Erin C. O’Connor.

Look for those artists in these locations this summer:

Greg McHuron~

Date: June 11, 2011

Location: Chapel of Transfiguration

Time: 4:00 – 7:00 pm

Plein air painter Greg McHuron co-founded “Artists in the Environment” with landscape artist Conrad Schwiering, and has been painting in the Western United States for over 35 years. Represented in galleries and museums throughout the West, he is a signature member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painter Association and Artists for Conservation.  McHuron’s latest book, Birds of Sage and Scree, co-authored with Jackson ornithologist Bert Raynes, illustrates and explores bird species native to the sage and scree of America’s West.

Greta Gretzinger~

Date: July 9, 2011

Location: Mormon Row

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm

Greta Gretzinger is known for her large scale murals depicting wilderness landscapes and wildlife. Based in Idaho and the Jackson Hole area, Gretzinger’s lively and illustrative portraits of Western life appear in public spaces and local parks throughout the region.

Scott Christensen~

Date: August 13, 2011

Location: Cathedral Group

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm

One of the country’s most distinguished plein air artists, Scott Christensen’s work is part of Grand Teton National Park’s Craig Thomas Visitors’ Center prestigious permanent collection. Christensen’s paintings are included in significant national venues, such as the National Academy of Western Art, Prix de West Invitational at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK, the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK, National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY, Denver Art Museum, Kimbal Museum, Salmagundi Club in New York, Autry Museum, and the Salon d’ Arts at the Colorado History Museum.

Erin C. O’Connor~

Date: September 10, 2011

Location: String Lake

Time: 2:00-5:00 pm

Artist Erin C. O’Connor finds her greatest inspiration by painting directly within the environment. Noted for her participation in many prestigious Plein Air events, she is represented in collections and exhibits throughout the country. O’Connor was awarded the 2009 Joshua Tree National Park “Artist-in-Residency” post.

For more information, contact….moi! Tammy Christel. tammy@jacksonholearttours.com 307.690.1983