The vast and rugged beauty of Glacier National Park has called to the hearts and imaginations of artists as long as the landscape has been visible to humans, a place of extremes and living light that never become rote.
And for many artists, it doesn’t get as good and as simple as setting up an easel outside and painting the inspiration as it sits outside in front of them. This type of painting it called “plein air,” and will be the focus of an upcoming exhibit at the Hockaday Museum of Art, running from May 31 to Aug. 3.
The Going to the Sun Exhibition will feature work of some of the nation’s best plein air painters from the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) society, an organization dedicated to painting outside. Its members are seasoned outdoor painters and considered some of the best teachers in the genre.
“It’s just a really well-rounded group of artists, some of the best in North America and the world for plein air painting,” said Tracy Frazier of the Hockaday.
During the exhibit’s opening weekend, some of the PAPA painters will also teach a three-day workshop, featuring one day of lecture and two days of painting outside.
The pieces featured in the exhibit were either completed or started during the PAPA 2018 fall trip to Glacier Park, when the painters stayed at the St. Mary Lodge and spread out all over the park to capture its glory.
Jill Carver, who sits on the PAPA board of directors, said the 2018 trip for the artists was one of the most popular the group has ever done.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had such a large group show up for a national paint out,” Carver said from her home in Southwest Colorado. “Everyone in the group is at the professional level, high-caliber artists with busy schedules, but everyone wanted to come to Glacier.”
Carver was the reason they decided to venture to Northwest Montana for their annual painting expedition. The year before, in 2017, Carver was part of the Hockaday’s “A Timeless Legacy: Peace Park 2018” exhibition featuring Glacier and Waterton national parks.
When she saw the grandeur within the park, Carver realized the PAPA artists had never been there for an event.
“I was in Glacier and as far as I know in the history of the group this location has never been done and I was obviously staggered by the beauty and the range up there,” Carver said. “So I said, ‘Let’s make the 2018 paint-out in Glacier National Park.”
The group met during the end of September and battled fall weather and winds to get their paintings on canvas, but even so, Carver said she was impressed with the work the artists were able to do on location.
“We source directly from nature. Some people will put in studies completed in the field, others are studio paintings that were produced from studies or notes or photos in the field,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be an excellent show.”
Artists in the exhibit include Doug Andelin, Kenn Backhaus, Mitch Baird, Mark Boedges, John Budicin, John Burton, Carver, Russell Case, Lorenzo Chavez, Len Chmiel, Gil Dellinger, Kathleen Dunphy, Gerald Fritzler, Lynn Gertenbach, Tom Hughes, Joan M. LaRue, Jean LeGassick, Jim McVicker, Jim Morgan, Ned Mueller, Ralph Oberg, Billyo O’Donnell, Jean Perry, Jesse Powell, Matt Smith, Kathryn Stats, George Strickland, Dan Young, Linda Tippets, and Mark Rittorno.
Many of the artists will be at the show’s opening reception on May 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a group will be participating in the workshop running from May 31 to June 2.
Paintings in the exhibit will be available for purchase, with a percentage of the proceeds going toward the Hockaday’s programs and exhibitions. Frazier with the Hockaday said that as of last week, there were still a few spots available in the workshop.
“We’re able to bring this caliber of artists to the valley for the exhibit but also for the workshop. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said the Hockaday was thrilled to learn the artists wanted the first exhibition of the paintings to occur at the local museum.
“We were honored,” she said. “They’re all amazing artists.”
For more information, visit www.hockadaymuseum.org.