WHEATLAND – Bonnie Parker has been the president of the Platte County Art Guild since 2017 and now in her second term. Little did she know that when she took over that position, it would inspire her to paint.
And paint she has. This year she won two best of show awards for her paintings.
“It was my first year of painting,” said the eclectic and creative Parker. “I got two awards, and I was like… YES.”
One of her best of show awards came from a painting she did on canvas of an elk in a Wyoming mountain field as the sun is setting. It would have been impressive enough, but she cut the canvas and mounted it on a piece of weathered barn wood and then added three-dimensional art in joint compound, hand-made feathers, pipe bone and tooled leather.
The Art Guild of Platte County actually started 70 years ago, according to Parker. In that time, the guild has been working with the fair to provide a venue for artists in Platte County. Not only has the art been flowing for that period of time, but most of it from people who are now long gone is in the Laramie Peak Museum. Some even from that first year of the guild.
In a year where construction took away the space to exhibit the art, the work from the guild was set up and displayed at Platte Valley Bank.
On most years, Parker will send out entry forms, but this year, people actually got the jump on things and started bringing art in without even being asked to do so. Perhaps it was all that time in quarantine, or perhaps it was the longer Wyoming winter, but the art was plentiful in this COVID year and even Kathy Black, the independent judge from Cheyenne, was surprised at not only how much art was submitted, but how really good that art was.
“Usually we get a judge from out of town that doesn’t know the people,” Parker said. “The judge has to be qualified and must have an art degree of some sort. They also have to know about paintings and also know about photography.”
Black came up gaping at the talent that was displayed.
“For a small town, she commented that she couldn’t believe it and commented that it was really great,” Parker said. “She also said that it was hard because there were so many things that were impressive.”
As for Parker herself, she decided this year to enter. As to how she got to that point, she was very candid.
“It’s called winter and living up on Laramie Peak and being cooped up,” she said with a laugh. “And snowed in. I do a lot of crafting and I dabble in photography a little bit, and so I just started a painting and kept adding stuff to it. I paint on canvas because I am not a painter and I feel that my imperfections will not show as much.”
But it was the very raw and simple that became unique to not only the judges, but to all who passed by and admired Parker’s work. It was different, it was eclectic. It was from the mountains of Wyoming. It spoke of who we are in a Wyoming winter: Industrious. Creative. Patient.
Parker has spent the last 23 years surrounded in her majestic mountain cabin that rests peacefully in the shadow of bear’s head mountain on the Laramie Peak. Her stories are as colorful and imaginative as her artwork and she most likely, before it’s all said and done, will have to write a book.
The guild once rented a building that it used as a gallery, but when the building sold, they lost a permanent home to house all the artistic treasures that have been discovered in Platte County. The organization works on donations, and the donations have been sparse.
This organization is responsible for all the downtown murals and has a strong presence in the county even without a permanent home. There are art shows from time to time that may pop up in the 4-H building or a bank, and to miss the culture of an art guild art show is to miss the creative essence that is in our roots and our heritage. Platte County art. It will surprise you.