Meeting in the woods
Opening concurrently alongside Trailside Galleries’ 55th anniversary celebration is A Step Into the Wild, a new exhibition featuring the work of Montana wildlife painter Kyle Sims.
The show will feature subject matter that includes grizzly bear, bull elk, cougar and bobcat, as well as other wildlife that makes its home in the West and Northwest. For A Meeting in the Woods, Sims painted a magnificent elk in a tranquil forest setting with deep green conifer trees in the background and a carpet of dense thimbleberry leaves turning golden yellow in the fall air.
“I was sort of obsessed with a Carl Rungius painting at the Museum of Wildlife art. I love the gesture of the bull elk in the Rungius piece and I couldn’t find a shot that was even close to that gesture in my materials, so I borrowed the gesture from him. In my images the bodies were all straighter, but he painted this great bend in the neck,” Sims says. “Starting from there I was able to add my own spin to it and draw from my past experiences. Coming up on a bull like this in the woods is really something else. There’s a moment of apprehension on his part as you both fearfully look at each other.
Something about being out there alone and coming upon a magnificent creature like this is just something else entirely.”
The work features a series of tree trunks that cut through the scenery, some from living trees clad in greenery, but also one dead, or dying, standing tree and another that has fallen down into the forest floor and been overtaken by leaves. The lines of the trunks lead the eye inward at every level. “I wanted the trees to merge toward the inside, sort of leaning into the center of the painting,” Sims adds. “I wanted the painting to guide you to this magnificent gesture of the bull. It all sort of happened by accident, or maybe instinct. It wasn’t planned, but it just happened as a way to complement the main subject.”
Other works in the show include the cougar scene Awoken, which started as a taller painting and was eventually cut down to create a shorter and more panoramic image of a cougar calmly relaxing in a moody and darkened patch of forest, and Hunting For Grubs, a major new bear scene that is filled with a complex arrangement of boulders in the lower half of the painting. Sims says the rocks allow him to guide the viewer to where he wants them to look. A diagonal line here, merging shapes there, a smattering of yellow grass between the rocky forms…it all is designed to give the bear a starring role within the landscape. The setting was based on a trailhead less than an hour’s drive from the artist’s home and studio.
In addition to this exhibition and a recent sold-out performance at June’s Prix de West in Oklahoma, Sims is on a hot streak, one that was kicked off by a milestone that was closer to home: he and his wife Joylene recently welcomed their first child, a healthy baby boy. With beautiful Montana landscapes nearby, the chance for wildlife sightings high and a studio within sight of his home and family, Sims is riding high—“i feel very lucky right now,” he says. “It’s been a great time for us.”
A Meeting in the Woods, oil, 30 x 40"
Hunting for Grubs, oil, 26 x 30"
Quiet as a Mouse, oil, 28 x 16”
Awoken, oil, 24 x 50”