From Stray to Muse
Pickles is not letting fame go to her head. The two-year-old border collie mix plopped down on the concrete floor underneath a portrait of her likeness, belly up, ready for a scratch. Above her on the wall, her mirror image panted back. This painting is one of many Pickle-inspired pieces by Gillette artist Nancy Brown, whose work was featured in last month’s “Neon” exhibit at AVA Community Arts Center, along with painters Blanche Guernsey and Angeli Coover.
Since adopting the playful pooch just over a year ago, Brown admits that the dog has begun to dominate her subject matter. She bent down to give Pickles a loving rub. “She’s my muse”, Brown said, “in more ways than one.”
Not only has she helped Brown hone her craft, but she’s also helped inspire her as an artist. Brown has been painting for as long as she can remember, earning a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the State University of New York, before moving to Arizona where she and her husband Brad first met. It was his idea to move the family to Gillette about 15 years ago, after landing his dream job following years of living like nomads. Initially, Brown wasn’t too happy about the prospect of moving to the far reaches of northeastern Wyoming, but Brad found her weak spot.
To sweeten the pot, he’d scouted out AVA on a trip to Gillette, which he knew would have great sway with his artist wife. It worked. From her very first visit, the community art center has served as a hub for introducing her to new art and fellow artists, promoting their work while providing a creative space to meet, mingle and share ideas. She was pleasantly surprised by the vast pool of local talent.
“There are so many truly great artists here,” she said. “It’s really amazing.”
As is the tight-knit, local artistic community, who, along with Pickles, has helped her find new inspiration. Even the moody, c0ld, northeastern Wyoming winds and winter weather have since come to grow on her as she frequently turns her canvas and imagination toward the sky.
“I’ve never seen clouds like this anywhere else,” she said, looking up with a smile. “They’re just fun.”
And unlike the ever-changing sky, Pickles is much accommodating, Brown said with a laugh, as she watched her beloved companion ham it up for the camera before nudging Brown for another treat.