Steamboat artist paints ranch scenes with conservation in mind
If you go
What: “Generations - the Carpenter Ranch” oil paintings, river rock stacks and historic B&W photos remains on display through March 31
Where: The Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Art Depot, 100113th St. , Steamboat Springs
Note: The black and white photos in the current show were originally among those displayed in a previous exhibit, “A sense of Place,” that were collected by Farrington Carpenter’s descendent, Barbara Carpenter.
Publications: A story about Generations the Carpenter Ranch published in the February edition of Southwest Art, and a second magazine story is scheduled to publish in the March edition of Western Art Collector.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yampa Valley oil painter Chula Beauregard has teamed with fellow artist Camille DiTrani and conservationists Betsy and Geoff Blakeslee to create a conceptual art show — “Generations — the Carpenter Ranch” — with a subtle message based on one of the most historically significant ranches in the Yampa Valley, at the Depot Art Center, which is on display through March 31.
The Carpenter Ranch, just upstream on the Yampa River from the town of Hayden, changed hands from a Texas cattleman named John B. Dawson to his Ivy League-educated ranch hand Farrington “Ferry” Carpenter in 1926.
The exhibit combines Beauregard’s light-infused paintings, both smaller works made in the field and larger studio paintings, with DiTRani’s sculptural stacks of river rocks collected from the ranch and historic black-and-white photographs arranged by Blakeslee.
“It was so much fun to work with Chula and Camille, because we all were telling a part of the same story,” Blakeslee said. “Through Chula’s eyes, we see a ranch that is as beautiful as it is functional.
“The relationship between cow and calf, humans and frogs, fish and river flows, birds and haying schedules are all examples of how we manage the land and water,” Blakeslee explained. “On the Carpenter Ranch, nature defines how we use the land.”
Farrington Carpenter became one of the most significant citizens of Routt County and the American West before he died.
In 1996, his descendants sold the 960-acre ranch to the Nature Conservancy with the understanding that the conservation organization wanted to continue agricultural production on the land in harmony with its globally significant cottonwood forests where many species of migratory songbirds utilize the understory. A local family, based in the Elk River Valley, continues ranch operations.
Beauregard, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, recently became intrigued with the potential of historic ranch buildings and rare population of plants, birds and mammals along the Yampa River bottoms. She found herself visiting the ranch regularly after moving to the nearby town of Hayden.
“We moved to Hayden in August 2016, and I needed somewhere to paint, and I began to make a small plein air painting there once a month,” Beauregard said. “There’s really a partnership between conservation and art. We really depend on ranches and open space. They are the raw materials in plein air paintings.”
She gradually recognized that her smaller plein air works were worthy of a bigger project, and at the same time, reflected that the people who worked on the land and raised their family without modern conveniences had a very different lifestyle, and it’s difficult to portray the sacrifices they made.
“We romanticize about the lifestyle — making your own clothes or using a team of horses to plow ice off the river so that you can go skating,” Beauregard said. “It’s easy to romanticize from here, when you don’t know the sacrifices they made, especially the women.”
And modern ranchers continue to make sacrifices in order to live the lifestyle, she observed, many of them working a job off the ranch to make it work.
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