Laney Hicks paints her quiet vision of the West
(Page 2 of 2)
After leaving that job, she spent three years as a free-lance artist and book illustrator. Next she took a job as a regional representative of the Sierra Club , based in Wyoming. As the first professional environmentalist in the state, she was freqently the object of considerable controversy. ''It was a 24-hour job, so I didn't do any painting,'' she says of the seven years she served in this capacity. ''But it was a valuable experience. I grew up a lot. I learned to work with people and groups. The travel was invaluable: I visited a number of places and met a number of people who have since become the object of my painting. Actually, my environmentalism is an extension of my art. Environmental quality is closely associated in my mind with art, aesthetics,'' she says.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Miss Hicks left the Sierra Club four years ago to concentrate full time on painting. She settled here in Dubois, a small town flanked by the Wind River Mountains to the south and the Absarokas to the north. Eagles nest in the rugged cliffs. Otters play in the nearby river. For several years, she lived in a remote cabin that in the winter was only accessible by skis or snowmobile. Recently, she moved back into town.
Trying to build a career as a Western artist has been an uphill fight, she says. A meticulous worker, she completes about 25 works a year and sells them for $300 to $3,000 each. But to establish a reputation and to sell one's works requires considerable effort beyond composing and painting. In the last few years she has spent a great deal of time preparing for art shows and traveling the highways and byways of the Rocky Mountains in an old pickup truck to promote her artwork in places such as Cody, Wyo., Billings, Mont., and Scottsbluff, Neb.
''Distribution is the hard part,'' she says with a grimace. ''I've been going to a lot of shows lately. I like meeting people, but . . . I don't feel like I have enough time to spend painting! I do feel fortunate that I have at least been selling enough to cover the costs of participating in the shows, which isn't true for a number of people.''
The results of this effort have been to give her a solid reputation in the northern Rockies. She has won a number of awards, including two firsts and a ''best of show'' at a recent Wyoming Audubon art show. She has also been selected to participate in several national and international environmental wildlife exhibitions.
Of course, achieving national prominence depends on considerably more than just talent. ''Becoming a famous Western artist depends as much on your personality as on talent,'' Mr. Cotherman maintains. ''In this day and age, quieter artists like Laney are going to have a harder time,'' he says.
Recently, Miss Hicks tried her hand at portraiture. ''I was nervous about it. I thought it would be a lot harder than doing animals. But I found it wasn't all that different,'' she says.
Her reason for venturing into this area, she explains, was a feeling of responsibility. The traditional Western way of life is rapidly vanishing. Rather than trying to reconstruct the past, she feels that today's Westerners deserve to be documented. ''It seems like an important thing to do, and there are not many who are,'' she observes.