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.
The Flathead Wild Art Exhibit is the result of bringing local artists into the wild Flathead River Valley for a week in the summer of 2012. It features works from Laura Nelson (Fernie), Tara Higgins (Fernie), Joseph Cross (Cranbrook), Denise Lemaster (Invermere), and Simon Haiduk (Kimberley). The exhibit also features works from Jackson Hole-based artist Dwayne Harty.
Artists Higgins and Nelson joined a retreat in the Flathead Valley two summers ago 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 received their inaugural showing at the Waterton Heritage Centre on September 28, 2013.
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 Directions’.
“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 reds bouncing off the bottom of the clouds. The whole valley thrives because of this grand river running right through the heart of the valley.”
As a travelling art show it’s Fernie’s chance to experience the Flathead Wild Art Exhibit at The Arts Station gallery 9 am to 3 pm weekdays and when the ‘Blue Toque’ restaurant is open.
The Flathead Wild Art Exhibit opening reception is on March 27 at 7 pm. The exhibit will continue until April 28.