Jackson artist Kathy Wipfler’s superb plein air paintings are the centerpiece of a new show at the Simpson Gallagher Gallery, in Cody, Wyoming. Wipfler & The Boys: A Reunion of Friends opens at Simpson Gallagher, 1161 Sheridan Avenue, on Thursday, September 22, 2011. An opening reception takes place that evening, 5:00-8:00 pm.
Many plein air artists would consider giving up their good painting hand in favor of learning how to paint with their other hand, if it meant being showcased at Sue Simpson Gallagher’s gallery. Wipfler’s fellow artists, the “boys,” are cream-of-the-crop plein air painters Bob Barlow, T. Allen Lawson, Ralph Oberg, Geoff Parker, Matt Smith, Skip Whitcomb and Dan Young.
But enough about them…let’s get back to Wipfler!
This show is a story about the story of how a group of plein air painters met, painted together, grew together and ultimately became contemporary Western masters. The show will include a wide variety of landscapes, as well as some wildlife paintings, from expansive panels to smaller works.
Wipfler had been in Jackson several years, “hanging out” at the Powder River Gallery, then owned by Jenny Promack. The gallery featured painters like Whitcomb, Hollis Williford and Barlow. The gallery also carried works by deceased masters— Charlie Russell letters, and Frank Tenney Johnson studies, Caitlins and Boreins. Wipfler remembers great gatherings of painting friends regularly taking place at the gallery.
“Jenny’s father took the Cowboy Hall of Fame from an empty shell of a building and opened it up with no federal funding,” Wipfler says. “And he started the show called NAWA–North American Western Artists. Jenny grew up around a lot of artists, and her dad was in Oklahoma City doing that project.”
Wipfler recalls how how she and her colleagues bonded and grew. “When Tim Lawson moved to town he called and said ‘Let’s go painting together.’ So we did, fairly often, and Tim and I were in the same galleries, like Powder River–and then we moved to Main Trail Gallery. Eventually we both went to Partners Gallery, which ended up being the Moynihan Gallery. Then, before Moynihan closed, I went to Trailside. Tim, Bob and I were gallery pals.”
Over the years, artists came in and out of Jackson, especially in the fall, long before Jackson’s Fall Arts Festival was created, long before the term “plein air painting” became popular. Wipfler and “the boys” got together to paint for a week or two; they’d go out painting every day. Wildlife artists came, too, and that genre developed locally. Plein air gained ground in the 90’s; small “push-out” paint boxes allowed professionals and hobbyists to paint easily outdoors, packing their tools on a horse or backpack.
“Ned Jacob was a mentor, and he was taught by Bob Lougheed and John Clymer and Bettina Steinke–and they were trained by the “old time guys” in New York,” relates Wipfler. Howard Pyle and the illustrators taught artists they had to work from life. Seeing the real color, seeing the real light. We learned the tradition of the New York and Chicago schools of painting from life. The great traditionalists had full lives as illustrators before they ever went to easel painting. And they taught the people who taught us.”
Wipfler notes that illustrative artists were trained formally. New England based artists like Norman Rockwell churned out work on demand for advertising companies. Close proximity to New York allowed them to take their work there. Works had a formal structure and superb draftsmanship; illustrators were telling specific stories.
For 25 years Simpson Gallagher watched Wipfler become the touchstone for her fellow artists, making her mark in a predominately male profession. She’s long encouraged Wipfler to do a show, but the artist demurred. Wipfler says she’s not a loner on purpose, but prefers to paint by herself, a change from her earlier years when days were spent painting with friends.
“I do better work when I’m not in a crowd. ‘Cause the crowd’s so much fun and work is work—-I’m getting better at painting in a crowd, lately,” Wipfler laughs. She agreed to the Cody show “partly because I’m the only woman and partly because that was how Sue could get me to do a show! She has some great collectors over in Cody; one of those is the person who got my painting in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center!”
“There are many sources of inspiration for this show. It is partly my story too, so I know it well and think it is a story worth telling,” Simpson Gallagher notes. “Kathy is a peacemaker and makes sure that her friends stay connected. She is not competitive in a debilitating way. She only strives to be the best she can be. She was always game to go out painting no matter the time or temperature. She was good company. She was a positive influence and always buoyed every one else up.
It is inspirational for me to see the respect, admiration and love the artists have for Kathy and she has for them. I hope this show will reflect the rare and wondrous, broad-ranging friendship between independent individuals who share a history, experiences, a passion for painting, especially in the outdoors, and the Art Spirit!”
When prompted, Wipfler acknowledges the show is a highpoint in her career. “There are thousands of artists that would literally kill me if that meant they could have my spot in Sue’s gallery,” she says. “People want to be in that gallery badly. You walk in and you can feel the love for the art and their friendships with the artists and the meaning behind it all.” www.simpsongallaghergallery.com
This just in!!! Lucy Grogan, Jackson Hole Art Auction Coordinator, sends the following:
Jackson, WY…The fifth annual Jackson Hole Art Auction was held on September 17th at the Center for the Arts in Jackson, Wyoming. Hosted by Trailside Galleries and Gerald Peters Gallery, more than 88% of the featured 250 lots sold, realizing over $9,000,000 in sales. As the auction got under way at 12:30 pm, more than 300 people filled the seats of the auditorium, with some 400 registered bidders. Bidding was very active with close to 300 phone bids and absentee bids. Internet bidders also participated in much of the sale. In just its fifth year, the Jackson Hole Art Auction has clearly distinguished itself as a destination event, with consignors and collectors from all across the country and abroad, including Russia, Ireland, England, and Switzerland.
The live audience broke into enthusiastic applause when Frederic Remington’s painting “He Lay Where He Had Been Jerked, Still as a Log”, a 24 ¼ x 36 ¼ oil on canvas, estimated at $1,000,000-$1,500,000, sold for $1,583,000. Other highlights include Bob Kuhn’s painting “Study of a Cougar”, a small 16 x 12 inch acrylic on masonite, estimated at $50,000-$75,000, sold for $90,000; Charlie Dye’s painting, “Texas Brush Popper”, a 20 x 24 oil on board, estimated at $20,000 – $30,000, sold for $74,750; Frederick Remington’s iconic bronze “Bronco Buster #16” estimated at $400,000 – $600,000, sold for $488,750; John Clymer’s painting “Marie Dorian – Winter Refuge, 1814”, a 40 x 30 oil on board, estimated $200,000 – $300,000, sold for $391,000.