If you go
What: “Landscapes of the American West,” a slideshow and talk with artist Joan Hoffmann
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library
Steamboat Springs Artist Joan Hoffmann has spent the past 37 years painting Western landscapes in watercolors and oils. Today, she’ll present a 7 p.m. slideshow of her paintings while engaging the audience in a philosophical conversation about the role artists have played in the conservation of public lands.
“Our free spirit and public lands go hand in hand,” Hoffmann said Wednesday. “As artists, we roam the countryside because of that free spirit.”
Hoffmann has painted landscapes from the Flat Tops to Steamboat Springs, from the Sierras to Utah’s canyon country.
She reveres natural landscapes — whether they are of the Escalante River emerging from its canyon into the little Utah town of the same name, or Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill — as the natural backdrops to communities.
Hoffmann thinks American landscape painting is just emerging from the shadow of the European tradition of portrait painting as a distinct tradition of its own.
“There’s a lot in the history of landscape painting we’re just beginning to understand,” she said. “Art becomes collectible after 75 years, and we’re that far out from the 1920s. Really, the concept of landscape painting is just now coming into its own.”
Her reputation for using her art to further the cause of conservation has brought recognition to the artist. The Steamboat Springs Arts Council awarded her a 25-year service award in 1996, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club named her Conservationist of the Year in 1998.
She was an artist in residence at Yosemite National Park in 2005.
Hoffmann has become intrigued with the role landscape painters played on exploratory expeditions in the American West made by geologists and surveyors in the latter half of the 19th century in establishing national parks. The painter Thomas Moran is given some credit for inspiring Congress to set aside Yellowstone National Park, she said, and a variety of artists traveled with Ferdinand Hayden, who surveyed Northwest Colorado, and John Wesley Powell, who ran the unknown canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers.
Her audience can expect Hoffmann to weave the history of landscape painting into a discussion about her own philosophical approach to painting adventure landscapes in plein air during tonight’s presentation.
“Landscape painting is about more than painting a tree,” she said. “Landscape painting is about painting the negative space between the trees and capturing the wind, weather and the feel of the temperature. In order to do that, you have to paint outside.”