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Shelley McCarl

In the fall of 2016, I had the great good fortune and honor of spending almost a month in Montana’s beautiful Centennial Valley , as a Taft-Nicholson Artist in Residence.

I had driven through the Valley many years ago, while on a family trip to Yellowstone. My boys were very small at the time, and we had serendipitously picked up an audiotape of E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” to listen to on the road. When we realized how close we were to the Red Rocks Wildlife Refuge featured in the book, we decided on an excursion—and that side trip to Red Rocks Lakes was a high point of the vacation.

Even after being eagerly anticipated, my time in residence at the Taft-Nicholson Center far exceeded my expectations. I knew that the landscape would be beautiful, but I had no idea of how welcoming the staff at the Center , or how lovely the cabin, or how spacious and comfortable the studio space would be. The time to work, and to think about my work, in complete solitude, was a gift that I will always treasure.

I am interested in painting shifting light on the landscape—in distilling the essence of a place through its unique atmospheric envelope. During my time at the Center , I was able to experience the onset of fall in all its changeable glory: weather from fog and heavy , low rainclouds, to pure blue skies, hail, snow, a full moon, a double rainbow in a glowing orange sky…altering the colors of the willows and grasses and water , minute by minute. The aspen trees changed from summer green to blazing gold, to bare limbs, while I watched. Painting the glowing colors from life, both outside and in the studio, has strengthened and energized my work.

I will always be grateful to those who made my experience in the Valley possible: the Taft and Nicholson families, and the family of Frank Carter , who all had a part in rebuilding Lakeview, and then so generously donated the town to the University of Utah. My thanks also go to those who manage the Center—Mark, Erin, Ryan, Casey , & Bill—for their help and friendship.

See more of Shelley's work at her website:

Last Updated: 7/1/21