Show Preview | Plein Air for the Park

Moose, WY
Grand Teton National Park, July 15-19

Phil Wright, Along Highway 46, oil, 12 x 24.

Phil Wright, Along Highway 46, oil, 12 x 24.

This story was featured in the July 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

“These are mountains of the imagination,” declares the National Park Service in its visitors’ guide to Grand Teton National Park. And indeed, the Tetons capture the imaginations of countless artists. So it seems only fitting that, in a gala reception beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, in the park’s impressive Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, WY, members of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters (RMPAP) showcase approximately 300 artworks recently created on location. (Artworks shown here are representative of the participating artists’ works.)

The opening-night reception is one of the highlights of the fourth annual Plein Air for the Park art show and sale, organized by the RMPAP, a 14-year-old fellowship of professional artists across the country who are dedicated to furthering awareness of open-air painting within the Rocky Mountain region. A portion of the show’s proceeds goes to the Grand Teton Association, a nonprofit that since 1947 has worked with the National Park Service to generate educational and interpretive materials for visitors.

As such commitments may suggest, the Tetons possess the power to generate uncommon passion. “It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet,” attests RMPAP president Stephen Datz, a painter from Grand Junction, CO.

Erin O’Connor, On Evening’s Edge, oil, 18 x 24.

Erin O’Connor, On Evening’s Edge, oil, 18 x 24.

“There’s something mystical about it,” adds Cindy Baron of North Kingstown, RI, a new participant this year. “The first time I went there 10 years ago, I had tears coming out of my eyes.” John Potter, a painter from Red Lodge, MT, and an RMPAP member for the past decade, is equally awestruck. “There’s a quality of light there that I’ve never found anywhere else,” he says. “I’m still working to achieve a truthful representation of that on canvas.”

Potter, Barron, and Datz are among an expected 42 artists—35 of the group’s 50 or so members, plus seven invited guests—arriving at the park around July 6 to set up their easels and start painting at locations of their choice. Visitors may well come across them during the two weeks that follow and also have the chance to interact with the painters at three additional organized events. On Saturday, July 11, from 3 to 6 p.m., artists Don Dernovich, Kaye Franklin, Lanny Grant, John Hughes, and Kathy Wipflerappear at Schwabacher’s Landing, a popular overlook and wildlife-viewing station along the eastern shore of the Snake River, to offer painting demos and an informal question-and-answer session on the theme of Artists in the Environment. On Tuesday, July 14, eight other participants—including Jake Gaedtke, Ruth Rawhouser, Erin C. O’Connor, and Phil Wright—are painting on the square in downtown Jackson from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. And 25 of the artists take part in a Quick Draw at the Craig Thomas Center from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday the 18th, giving attendees the chance to buy their works at a fixed price right off the easel.

It all adds up, says Datz, to a rare chance “to see 300 or so paintings that didn’t exist a week before, offering a cross section of an entire place in that period of time.” You could even describe it as an aesthetic opportunity of the imagination. —Norman Kolpas

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