Cowboys on the Kalispell Skyline

By Beacon Staff

Yes, that is a cowboy scaling the side of a building on Main Street in downtown Kalispell. His name is Kal and he’s trying to climb back up to his horse. Only his horse isn’t there yet. But it will be, and Marshall Noice hopes it will happen soon.

“Kalispell Kal” is a life-sized fiberglass sculpture made by local artist Kay Lynn. Nearly a decade ago, Noice bought the sculpture to dangle from the side of his Main Street art gallery. Over time, weather took its toll and about four years ago he had to take it down. Lynn took it back, let it dry out and then refinished it with a durable fiberglass exterior topped off with a hearty automobile paint generally applied to Volkswagens.

On Nov. 18, Kal returned to the side of the Noice’s gallery. Now Noice plans on placing Kal’s horse, also a life-sized fiberglass sculpture crafted by Lynn, on his roof to create a scene in which Kal is pulling himself up by a rope while his trusty equine buddy looks down at him.

The horse is completed and sitting in Lynn’s studio. Noice said he has to figure out how to bolt the horse to the roof while keeping his ceiling weatherproof and sturdy. The sculpture weighs roughly 150 pounds, Lynn estimates.

Once the horse is put in place, there will be three of Lynn’s sculptures on downtown buildings. Along with Kal, there is also a bear on top of the KM building, hanging his paw and watching over people as they enter Red’s Wines & Blues.

Lynn, Noice and KM’s owner Bill Goodman hope there will be more sculptures in the future. Noice and Goodman envision a series of Western-themed sculptures that would give downtown a vibrant and distinctive, as well as artistic, vibe. Lynn is already working on another cowboy, running with his rifle in pursuit of a fox. But nothing is set in stone, Lynn said.

Fiberglass sculptures are ideal for withstanding harsh Montana weather. Lynn has been fiberglass sculpting for about 15 years, though she has immersed herself in a variety of mediums, including a long stint in bronze. She owned a foundry in Boston and then the Flathead for 25 years.

One of her heroes in fiberglass sculpting, Lynn said, is Hugh Hockaday, the namesake for Kalispell’s well-known Hockaday Museum of Art. While many people are familiar with Hockaday’s portraits, Lynn said his fiberglass sculptures are also stunning, many of which are housed at the museum.

“He really has been an inspiration to me,” Lynn said.

On a recent November afternoon, she and fellow artist Jani Dryden were putting the finishing touches on a small cowboy running with his rifle, which will serve as the model for the life-sized sculpture. She creates the small model by forming a wire frame for the core shape, then layering pieces of paper bags and newspapers dipped in wheat paste around the wire to form the full body. It’s like paper mache, though Lynn calls it paper sculpture.

When it’s time to make the life-sized sculpture, Lynn essentially goes through the same process, just on a much larger scale and with Styrofoam as well. Once the wire, Styrofoam and paper body is shaped, Lynn adds pieces of fiberglass over the entire figure, giving it a protective outer layer. Then she adds color and details with the automobile paint.

Though she emphasizes that plans for future sculptures downtown haven’t been hammered down, Lynn agrees with Noice and Goodman that the sculptures give new life to the heart of Kalispell.

“If we could go with it, it would be great,” Lynn said. “That would provide a rich experience for everyone.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.