May 18-June 9
Where does a man go when he has been almost everywhere in the world? For the peripatetic Pem Dunn, the answer is Patagonia. A former pilot for United Airlines and now a Colorado-based landscape painter, Dunn has touched down in some of the earth’s most alluring locales, from the Greek island of Mykonos to the Peruvian ruins of Machu Picchu. In spite of his many odysseys over the years, Patagonia, at the tip of South America, kept calling out to him as a must-see destination. “Ever since I was young, I have been intrigued by its remoteness and drawn to it because it’s a place that not many people go,” Dunn says.
Last October Dunn, along with his wife, JoAnn, and a cadre of adventuresome friends, journeyed to the icy outpost, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream. With sketchbooks and camera in tow, he captured the snow, fjords, and glaciers that mark this desolate terrain. This month Evergreen Fine Art presents a show titled Patagonia: Land at the End of the Earth, the artistic fruits of Dunn’s foray to the bottom of the world. The show opens with a reception on May 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. Barb Hadley, co-owner of the gallery, says that for her the artist’s 15 new paintings bring to mind works by the early 19th-century painters and explorers. “Like those early Bierstadts and Morans, these images show us a land that few of us have yet experienced,” Hadley says.
When Dunn and his party arrived in Patagonia last October, it was springtime, and the temperature hovered between 30 and 40 degrees during the day. But the weather was subject to change from sunny to sleet to snow within five minutes. In that way the climate is similar to Dunn’s native Rocky Mountains. However, Dunn says there are some major differences in the two landscapes—most notably the color palette of the terrain. “There was so much ice with all the glaciers and icebergs that the ice takes on an iridescent blue-green cast. And this affects the colors of the water around it,” he says. “The Rocky Mountain area tends to have more yellows and browns.”
Also, according to Dunn, the shapes of the mountains are different. In Patagonia the mountains often come to a point and sport an array of pinnacles because they were formed by glaciers. The Rockies, on the other hand, are more pyramid-shaped, says Dunn, who has clocked thousands of hours on plein-air outings near his home in Winter Park, CO, west of Denver.
Dunn says this long-awaited trip to Patagonia did not disappoint. For him it was the best trip of his lifetime, in large part because the excursion was a profound spiritual experience. For 10 days his band of travelers saw no other human beings. They often spent meditative time in nature in complete silence, content to listen to the sounds of the wind and rain while relishing breathtaking, 360-degree views. “This area had such an impact on me spiritually that I wanted to share it with others who didn’t have the opportunity to experience it as I had,” Dunn says. “It is a vast, remote wilderness, and to be able to climb a ridge and look down on an ice field that stretches for 50 miles or hike on Tierra del Fuego with no one else around left me with such a feeling of awe for all God’s creation.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in May 2012.