Whenever September Vhay would travel to Wilson, she would end up being half an hour late.

Not because of an inherent lack of punctuality but because the Jackson painter was always swept away by the beauty of the landscape and couldn’t help stopping on the side of the road to document whatever caught her eye.

Vhay, who always carries her camera and sketchbook with her, makes the same stops today. She’s just sure to account for extra travel time to reach her destination.

“When you see something amazing, I learn to trust that instinct and pull over right away and photograph,” she said. “I’ve learned to embrace that feeling, because that’s so important.”

Vhay, along with Montana painter R. Tom Gilleon, will be the focus of Altamira Fine Art’s Fall Arts Festival programming. The two artists and their work will be at Altamira for Palettes and Palates on Friday, Sept. 6.

Altamira Fine Art specializes in contemporary art that feels decidedly at home in the American West while also adding something to the conversation. Vhay paints realistic contemporary portraits and red line drawings of wildlife that seem to perfectly represent the gallery’s ethos.

Vhay sometimes paints animal forms in isolation, which she characterizes as presenting “a celebrated negative space.” In her red line drawings the horses emerge from a white background; in her realistic paintings the background is there but still adopts a minimalist approach.

“What I love about them is that they are both very similar because they are getting at the essence of an animal,” she said. “And what is so different is the immediacy of the red line drawings. The level of essence in that much abstraction is rewarding.”

Vhay is glad to have her work shown with Gilleon’s.

“I just admire how he handles paint, I admire his composition, his technique and use of color,” Vhay said. “I really admire his work, and it’s an honor to have a show with him.”

Many of Gilleon’s paintings at Altamira depict tipis in the center of a square canvas. The tipi is the focus, but is frequently accompanied by an animal motif, whether that be a live animal in the landscape or a painted animal on the tipi itself. The tipis allude to a human presence without actually depicting a human form, and play on themes of man and nature.

Gilleon is no stranger to the Fall Arts Festival circuit: he was the featured artist in 2009. He is also an important figure in Western art and the first living artist to have a solo show at the C.M. Russell Museum.

The camaraderie of these two painters speaks to the broader aspect of the Fall Arts Festival and its focus on building and establishing the local art community. The influx of artists in town in September gives them a chance to meet one another, take notes and share ideas.

“I’m blessed to have become an artist in Jackson,” Vhay said, “because of the incredible support of this community for the arts.” 

Contact Leonor Grave by emailing fallarts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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