Nicholas Coleman has been all over the United States, to Canada, Europe and even Africa. For two years, as a missionary for his church, he lived in the southern-most tip of Brazil near the border with Uruguay. He’s seen what other parts of the world have to offer. And yet he has chosen the American West to lay down his roots.
This abstract idea of home—and what that may look like—is the underlying theme of the Utah artist’s new show, Living in the West, which opens June 1 at Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Every town has a story, and it’s those stories that help tell our own tales about the places we call home.
“Growing up in the West, in my opinion, has been pretty fantastic. My town of Provo, Utah, was named after a French fur trapper named Etienne Provost. He was one of the first Europeans to make it into what is now the Provo
Valley in 1825. He had a few run-ins with the local inhabitants at the time and was lucky enough to escape with his life,” Coleman says. “I think what a lot of people take for granted is their local history. The cities that run up the Wasatch mountains are almost all named after prominent mountain men. The cities of Murray, Draper, Ogden, to name a few. I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit. My mom from an early age took me to Europe, visiting cathedrals, art museums and the Alps…this definitely nurtured my love of history and other cultures.”
For Coleman, the more he lived in other places, the more he identified the West as his own home. This was especially true in Brazil. “What was pretty amazing about living amongst Brazilians is that it was like going back in time. Dirt and cobblestone roads. Men and women on horseback was commonplace as I was in the land of gauchos! After a six-month struggle learning Portuguese I became and am fluent,” he says. “I drew and painted when I had the time. Upon returning to the states I instantly began to be able to produce the work I had long dreamed about while I lived in Brazil. I was quite happy to get busy painting fulltime.”
After his return stateside, the artist, the son of renowned Western painter Michael Coleman, set up an easel in his father’s studio. After several years, Coleman had started his own family and had his own studio, though his father’s influence was never far. “I will always be a Coleman!” he says, adding, “Over the years I have collected and now surround myself with paintings, artifacts and accoutrements that inspire my paintings. My wife gets after me a little bit, but she knows how the process works and is happy as long as most of it stays in the studio!”
Living in the West will feature up to 15 new works that exemplify Coleman’s style of painting.
“In my work I love the grand vista. Over the years I have tried to find the balance to where a work of art will hopefully grab your attention from across the room. Then, as you approach it and look into it more closely, the small details are there to keep the viewer engaged and visually satisfied,” he says. “This upcoming show at the Trailside Galleries was a mix between reading a few Ernest Thompson Seton books and my own experiences in the back country of Utah this last fall and the winter skiing with my son Henrik up at Sundance near our home in Provo. I love big game. Moose, grizzly bears, black bears, deer, but I also love the birds, squirrels and the small game that are hard to miss if you are paying attention when you are out and about. I feel compelled to paint the little experiences I have and I look forward to my time outside. The little critters that are running around really do make my day.”
Nicholas Coleman in his studio in Provo, Utah.