Cassens Fine Art is proud to present, “Whispering Waters,” an exhibition dedicated to preserving in memory what our waters should look like and inspiring viewers to do their part to restore what might be tainting the picture in reality. The exhibition features the works of Ryan Jolley, Jake Gaedtke, Teresa Garland Warner, Colt Idol, Turner Vinson, and Nate Closson.
This exhibit will be on display for the month of February, with an artist's reception taking place on February 2nd, 2024. 10% of the proceeds from this exhibit’s sales will be donated to the Bitterroot Water Partnership.
In the West, water has defined our way of life. Water has shaped who we are, generation after generation. Rivers and streams have served as a compass and a food source. In our lakes and hot springs, we have found refuge and reprieve. We’ve built communities and families around our waters, and in turn, the waters hold our stories as they’ve shaped the way we farm, trade, and live.
This February, canvases with pristine portraits depicting our waters grace the walls of Cassens Fine Art. But, the reality outside of the frame is that many of our waters suffer from degraded habitats, dried streambeds, and polluted waters. With each passing year, the need to protect and preserve our waterways grows so that generations to come can have access to clean, abundant water and continue to enjoy and benefit from the wildlife of Western Montana.
Six artists contribute their works to this exhibition to help viewers preserve in memory what our waters should look like so that when we step outside the door of the gallery, we can do our part to restore what might be tainting the picture in reality. “We need to have the beautiful upheld as a goal to reach toward, and hopefully someday the ideal and reality come so close that you realize they are one,” said contributing artist Ryan Jolley.
Jolley grew up on the Bitterroot River bottom. “The river was a constant source of pleasure and enjoyment for my family,” he shared. “It seems I was always either walking along the river looking for deer sheds, morel mushrooms, or other treasures. I would ride my horse for miles along the riverbanks, stopping to fish or swim in my favorite secret places. Not only was the river a place for recreation for us, but it was also a critical life source for our farm. My family's 200-acre ranch depended on irrigation water, and my grandfather owned one of the oldest water rights on the Bitterroot River. Every spring we would clean the irrigation ditches and open up the headgates, watching the life-giving water rush to our pastures. That understanding of the critical importance of water to our Valley's livelihood is deeply ingrained in me. Having a chance to paint a river scene, or a creek that will feed into the river, has special meaning in my heart because of it. Water - especially our Bitterroot River, is life.”
For artist Jake Gaedtke, painting waters of all kinds has been a major subject for his work. “Water brings life to this planet to all living things. To quote Norman McClain in his novelette A River Runs Through It, ‘I am haunted by waters.’”
Gaedtke, along with fellow contributing artist to this exhibition, Teresa Garland Warner, reminds us that our national parks were created because of artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Carl Rungius, John Henry Twachtman, and Thomas Worthington Whittredge. The work of these artists had a direct influence on Congress to preserve the beauty of the wilderness in America. “Artists bring out the beauty and necessity of our waters and our lands and in turn, have a huge influence on the preservation of these lands and water and the need to be the stewards of the wilderness,” Gaedtke points out. “Art has the power to move people like nothing else,” Warner chimes in.
In talking with Jolley, Gaedtke, and Warner, you become quick to see where art and conservation collide. The painting on the wall becomes more than a painting and the artist behind it transforms into an activist, making us all realize that we all have the ability to instigate change and shape the future in our own unique ways.
Many paintings for this show are oil on linen panels depicting scenes of the featured artists' favorite places, their memories on our waters, and eye-catching perspectives. We asked Jolley, Gaedtke, and Warner if there is a specific piece that they find particularly meaningful or interesting and what they hope viewers will notice and appreciate when they see it.
“The pieces that depict a creek scene always bring back memories of fishing, hunting, and hiking along a creek with my dad or my grandpa - which was a common occurrence growing up. I have a lot of fond memories of catching cutthroat trout in the middle of a stream, so I like to paint a creek and think, ‘Right there - that's where I would sit and flick my fly into that bit of backwater,’” answers Jolley.
“To share the beauty and movement of waters is significant for me,” says Gaedtke. “I want the viewer to feel the water when they experience my paintings; the urge to want to skip a flat-headed stone over still waters. I want my paintings to bring back childhood memories of fishing or swimming with friends and siblings. I want viewers of my work to experience the water at its fullest.”
Warner particularly likes her piece depicting a scene from Old Darby Road. “Your eye follows the river into the valley and mountains beyond. The colors are spectacular every season but especially in the fall.”
The works of Colt Idol, Nate Closson and Turner Vinson will join Jolley, Gaedtke, and Warner’s on the walls for this exhibition and an opening reception will be held on February 2nd, 2024 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Cassens Fine Art. 10% of the proceeds from this exhibit’s sales will be donated to the Bitterroot Water Partnership to support their mission of leading reliable and intentional conservation initiatives that promote and provide clean, ample water for people and healthy habitats by working with key partners and our communities. For more information, please visit bitterrootwater.org.