On a lovely July day, a rare weather window among a string of rainy ones, I headed up the Gros Ventre to the Red Rock Ranch with landscape painter and conservationist Dwayne Harty.
With 35 artists and locations to wrangle for this year’s View22 project, I’ve had a lot less “windshield time” with individual artists – and as a general rule, I try to find reasons to visit the Red Rock Ranch whenever I can – so I made sure to let Dwayne know I was available to help him get the lay of the land at the Ranch.
On the way, I heard more about Dwayne’s Yellowstone to Yukon: the Journey of Wildlife and Art project, which in a roundabout way is responsible for Dwayne joining the View22 project. An acclaimed wildlife and diorama painter (think backdrops to gazelles and bison at natural history museums), he traveled deep into the Rocky Mountain wilderness on two-track and horseback for three years to capture the beauty of these landscapes and their importance for large wildlife (sound familiar?). The resulting exhibit was shown in Jackson at the National Museum of Wildlife Art and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.
Dwayne moved to the Jackson area around the time of the Y2Y exhibit, putting down roots with friends and collectors he’s made along the way, gallery representation at Mountain Trails, joining the Art Association board, and now, View22 – which appealed to him as a locally-based art and conservation project.
Bumping up the road to the Red Rock Ranch, I had a chance to share a little bit more about the View22 Project and the Jackson Hole Land Trust, and of course, my “how I ended up in Jackson” story. The hour went by quickly and soon we were in the beautiful open valley of the Red Rock Ranch – red cliffs, lavender hills, forested mountains, and green meadows all around.
We found Carolyn MacKenzie Stimmel, part of the MacKenzie family that has owned the and operated the ranch since the 70s, out at the horse barn getting ready for a Monday morning ride with guests that had just arrived for a week of riding, hiking, fishing, relaxing, and dining – the best of the Western life. After visiting with Carolyn and introducing her to Dwayne (and an invitation to lunch at the dining hall!), Dwayne and I drove around the expanse of the 640-acre ranch, three-quarters of which the MacKenzies have conserved with JHLT, looking at some of the top spots that I had scouted last year with Kay Northup, Lee Riddell, and Travis Walker. He settled on a view alongside the aptly named “Crystal Creek”, looking to the south across the crystal-clear creek to the where the mountains get tight again. I posted up, enjoying watching Dwayne work, observing his unique style, and drinking in a moment of pause in a busy summer.
Dwayne’s meticulous attention to detail in his plein air paintings meant that he returned to this same location for another full day to finish his View22 piece, and got to spend some more time with the MacKenzie family and their guests. He was thrilled to hear that Carolyn had purchased it, and went up to personally deliver it after the picnic. I’m glad to know that he is embracing my “visit the Red Rock Ranch whenever I can” rule.
– Leslie Steen