Cultivation Time, by Virginia Moore. An exhibit of her works is hanging at the Metro Cafe in Casper.  

There is a small sector of the video industry that makes birds-eye videos of landscapes, swooping helicopter-mounted cameras around mountain peaks and over waterfalls, or gazing down at the etchings of rivers and vegetation on the plains from a serene height undisturbed by swamp gas or mosquitos or snarky hiking companions.

Geoff O'Gara, Wyoming PBS
Geoff O’Gara
Geoff O’Gara

I’ve been sorting through a library of such images shot a few years ago over Wyoming, trying to figure out how to cohere them into some sort of watchable thing for Wyoming PBS. One option is to look for stories and history in this landscape. Pete Simpson has graciously recorded some narration recalling that the U.S. Congress considered naming our state “Lincoln,” and musing about whether that name matches the landscape: “Tall. Craggy. Funny, and smart, in a homespun way. And lonely. Lincoln, we know, had the loneliest job in the world.” Welcome to our tall, craggy, lonesome state.

But if you let the aerial images flow by, and replace the helicopter engine hum with music – my choice, some of Jeff Troxel’s amazing flat-picking guitar – it’s tempting to do away with words. After awhile, you stop distinguishing the dots as GMC trucks, or the lines as power corridors, or the gash of a strip mine, or the tongue of a glacier. Elevation doesn’t so much blur this detail as abstract it – you see patterns, shapes, colors, that aren’t evident when you’re on the ground in the midst of it.

One can experience this too with Google Earth, which can zoom you from a satellite eye on the globe to your neighborhood in a few clicks of the keyboard – a chance to see how our garbage is sprawling around the landfill, and check on whether the neighbor’s dog is nosing around our chicken coop. Once you’re done with that, though, you may want to pull back – not just because it’s creepy to have Google in my backyard, but also to see the mosaic of human grid-work and the way it nests in watersheds and mountain ranges and forests. And, finally, those patterns and shapes. What do they suggest? This is your latter-day Rorschach test.

VA in Studio (click to enlarge)
Virginia Moore in the studio. 
Virginia Moore in the studio. 

My colleague, Virginia Moore, who has been working with me on the “Over Wyoming” documentary and several others, has taken this elevated perspective to a new level in a series of large paintings she’s done over the past year, some of which are now hanging at the Metro Café in Casper. In Moore’s work, the colors and lines of pivot irrigation whorls and ragged forest edges are heightened and transformed. They become color quilts, organic tendrils, marbled paper, the pulsing blood of a transparent body. The jostling of curve and color has transcended the merely real.

This is not perhaps what most people expect from Wyoming artists. Many tourists, at least, are prowling Jackson galleries for rampant elk beneath a full moon in front of the Tetons. Can we try something different? Can we do something with the “Over Wyoming” video that won’t be just another pretty-picture flyover for PBS fundraising?

Gathering (Virginia Moore - click to enlarge)
Gathering, by Virginia Moore 
Gathering, by Virginia Moore 

It’s not easy being an artist of any stripe. And we have many stripes in Wyoming – thumb electronically through the Wyoming Arts Council “Artist Image Registry” and you’ll find a great range of talent in a variety of media and styles on display. It takes years of dedication to hone your art, and without – particularly for younger artists – much recognition or recompense. Our attention to them is as random and occasional as a stroll into the Metro Coffee Company, but it’s important that we do that, and I’m not just saying that because Virginia Moore works with me.

 In fact, I’m not sure where she finds the time for all this painting – we might have to dock her pay.

Geoffrey O’Gara is a writer and documentary producer based in Lander, Wyoming. He works for The Content Lab, LLC and serves on WyoFile's board of directors. His column, Weed Draw, is named for a remote...

Join the Conversation


Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Wow! Now, there’s a convergence of two incredible artists! Geoff & Virginia, you make Wyoming a better place!
    Tom Throop
    Lander, WY

  2. Seems there’s a lot of reprocessing, enhancing color of Hubble Space Teloscope images that awes us and actually reveals what’s out there. These pictures seem in that vein, and can help us see what is often muted by 30,000 feet of air. I like looking at both.
    Dick Lefevre
    Lander, WY