Flathead Wild art exhibit features local artists

Laura Nelson and Tara Higgins created new paintings after spending time in the Flathead Valley as part of the Wildsight 2012 BioBlitz.

'Current Directions' is the view Laura Nelson had from her camp near the old border crossing in the Flathead at Joe Bush's place during the 2012 BioBlitz retreat.

'Current Directions' is the view Laura Nelson had from her camp near the old border crossing in the Flathead at Joe Bush's place during the 2012 BioBlitz retreat.

Local artists Tara Higgins and Laura Nelson will have their paintings featured in the Flathead Wild Art Exhibit at the as part of the Missing Piece Festival in Waterton Lakes National Park this weekend.

How many times have you gone into the backcountry to return to create a painting that could hang in an art gallery? For most of us, the memories of nature are what we treasure after our return.

Artists Higgins and Nelson joined a retreat in the Flathead Valley last summer as part of BioBlitz by Wildsight. In August 2012, 10 scientists, including six from the Royal B.C. Museum focused on documenting a stunning variety of rare, at-risk and extensive invertebrates from clams to butterflies to spiders and eight artists exploring the natural beauty of the Flathead valley. Higgins and Nelson were two of eight artists who were there for the week.

What came from that trip are five new paintings by Higgins and Nelson which will receive their inaugural showing at the Waterton Heritage Centre on September 28.

“We hiked up a ridge in front of Commerce Peak that gave us this amazing view of the whole valley,” said Nelson. “The ridge is bare at the top except for a stand of old gnarly fir trees covered in bright golden green lichen watching over the Flathead. I chose a smaller broken off snag to contrast the strong horizontal silver band that is the Flathead river in my painting titled ‘Flathead view’. The Flathead river is the life blood for the entire ecosystem there, as it heads south to the forty-ninth parallel and beyond.

“The colour, clarity and movement of the water were mesmerizing and very symbolic of the issues surrounding the protection of this special place,” said Nelson. This inspired Nelson’s painting titled ‘Current Direction’.

“There are no borders for that water. It links the whole area. There are all kinds of water activity underground beneath the gravel,” said Nelson. “That valley is so untouched. Typically, anywhere else by a river, it would be populated. I understand both sides of the argument. So far people who go there take care of it but who knows what future generations and politicians will do. So it would be nice to preserve the Flathead in perpetuity.”

As an artist Nelson could paint many subjects yet landscapes speak to her. “At a cellular memory, how does a coyote orphaned at birth know how to howl?” said Nelson. “I think it’s because we know it’s our future; we came out of that (wilderness), whether we understand that or not.”

Tara Higgins has three paintings showing in the exhibit. “The Flathead is such a varied landscape. The forest is dense and there’s an amazing light,” said Higgins. “I tried to capture the light and the intensity of it all untouched with ‘Drive By Shooting.’

“There are a massive amount of rivers and the creeks are prolific when you get a chance to stand out on a cliff to see the rivers (below). It’s quite a contemptuous place with the sunset over the river and a storm brewing with oranges and red bouncing off the bottom of the clouds. The whole valley thrives because of this grand river running right through the heart of the valley.”

“It’s such a grand valley with blue, blue, blue sky and mountain ranges spanning on forever. ‘Over the Rainbow’ represents the openness and vastness of the area.”

If you can’t make it to the Missing Piece Rendezvous next weekend, the Flathead Wild Art Exhibit is a travelling art show expected to come to Fernie in the new year.

Hosted by some of North America’s leading conservationists, ‘The Missing Piece Rendezvous’ intends to send a message that people are excited and committed to the idea of the expansion of Waterton Lakes into B.C.’s Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park, also known as the Flathead Valley.

“The line-up is a who’s who in renowned conservationists,” said Andrea Becker, Waterton Wildlife Weekend Festival Co-coordinator.

Harvey Locke, will be joined on stage by Charlie Russell, famed for his work with bear conservation in North America and Russia; Cristina Eisenberg, an American biologist and author who, through her studies on wolf and prey dynamics, is revealing the benefits of this misunderstood animal on the ecosystem; and Sid Marty, author of many books on natural history and western culture.

The ‘missing piece’, as is evident by a map-view of Waterton and Glacier national parks, would match the western border of Glacier and the northern border of Waterton, with the Flathead River marking the western edge of the new national park.