December 23rd, 2021
Sarah Winkler’s passion for adventure shines through the layers of her mixed media work. The towering forms of the mountain peaks, the vibrantly colorful and textured valleys, and the sparkling reflections of the jagged skylines are beautiful impressions of the grand and unique landscapes that inspire them. Her large-scale work seems to tower above us like the mountains they depict while her textured layers hold within them the mystery of the land.
Any one of her paintings envelope us in a sense of wonder and allude to the vast variety of natural wonders our world has to offer.
While each painting feels, in itself, an adventure — and no doubt hint at the artistic journey of the artist in the studio — we can tell as a viewer that each work holds within it the memory of the original inspiring adventure.
These adventure-filled works allow viewers to embed their own personal memories into the colors and textures of the work. Even so, learning more about the original inspiration from the artist can only deepen our understanding and appreciation of these places and of the artist herself.
Sarah Winkler never works from photographs for your artwork, but instead, she works from her own memories and impressions of the days spent romping around in the landscape. She’s interested in exploring the land in as many different ways as possible, from simple daily walks to horseback riding, from four wheel driving to rafting and more. “I try to see the landscape in a variety of ways and revisit them.,” Winkler says, “I like to see a familiar landscape under different conditions: in moonlight, at sunrise, in snow, and in wildflower season. It’s fun to keep visiting these places and learn the character over time.”
This unique way of exploring the landscape allows Sarah Winkler to truly experience each moment in nature in new and surprising ways. She allows herself to be open and present, seeking not just to see, but to truly experience nature. Through this patience and presence, she has experienced a veritable cornucopia of what she refers to as “goosebumps moments,” moments when nature surprises and delights.
We spoke with the artist to learn more about these memories and experiences that inform and inspire her work and are now delighted to share with you a few of the most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring “goosebumps” art adventures of Sarah Winkler.
THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE
Sarah Winkler didn’t hesitate when selecting her number one “ultimate goosebumps moment.” For her, experiencing the 2017 solar eclipse from within the path of totality was a moment like no other – one she says “changed her life completely.”
Our world seemed to collectively pause and unite in wonder during the solar eclipse of 2017. Most people remember where they were when they viewed this spectacular scene. However, only a lucky few of us viewed the solar eclipse from within the path of totality. Sarah Winkler made sure that she was one of them.
To prepare for this astronomical event, Sarah Winkler and her husband drove out to the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Wyoming, four-wheel driving their way through the rugged wilderness. Despite its remote location, on this particular day Sarah Winkler remembers the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest being a zoo. “The forest was full of NASA scientists and eclipse chasers (people who chase eclipses every 18 months throughout the world).” It was certainly a good sign that some of the most notable eclipse watchers in the world chose the same place as Winkler and her husband to watch the eclipse. True to its promise, their spot proved to give them an experience of the most epic proportion.
Before the eclipse began, Winkler could see a distant shadow on the landscape, creeping slowly across the land towards them. Slowly the shadow fell on the land around them, and Winkler observed how the entire earth seemed to change: “The whole landscape fell dark but not black. All around us was a 360 degree sunset, like a circle sunset around where we stood. Then we looked straight up and saw the stars. It felt like we were in a tunnel. It’s spectacularly spooky. You can finally take your glasses off and stare at the sun for the first time in your life. It was so spectacular and otherworldly, and it changed my life completely.”
The entire eclipse lasted a total of 2 1/2 minutes. 2 1/2 minutes to gaze at the desaturated colors of the landscape, the muted color of the grass and trees around them, the panoramic sunset at their feet, the twinkling stars in the middle of the day, like a tunnel to the heavens or the apocalypse come at last. Those mere 2 1/2 minutes altered Winkler’s perspective of the landscape forever.
After the eclipse, Winkler returned to a studio full of wonder. She pondered how to capture this sublime experience on the canvas. “It’s difficult when you’re experiencing something so spectacular to think, ‘how am I going to top, or even equal, this experience in a painting?’” She decided that painting the star of the show – the corona – didn’t feel quite right. Perhaps it felt a little too on the nose. It wasn’t what she truly wanted to express about the experience. Instead, she was fascinated with the way that the quality of light around her changed the landscape.
She wanted to capture this unique lighting with the landscape in about 30% illumination. She sought to capture the landscape in one of the most unique lights imaginable – not quite night and not quite day, a landscape caught in a perpetual twilight. So she came up with what she refers to as the “Totality Palette,” a palette of colors meant to mimic the desaturated colors of the landscape in the unique light of a solar eclipse. She played with muted evergreens and blacks, silvers and golds and incorporated them into her work.
This unique color palette of this body of work and the wonder and sublimity of these landscapes are felt through her work. These eclipse inspired works, all at once quiet and bold, displayed at Gallery MAR the very next season.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The solar eclipse of 2017 was not Sarah Winkler’s first experience chasing natural phenomena. Throughout her life, Winkler had always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights and their magnificent colors. So in 2013, she set out on a trip to Iceland in the dead of winter to try to witness them for herself.
Winkler remembers buying special boots just for the trip so that she could survive the harsh, freezing temperatures of Iceland in the winter. Of the seven days that she was there, she booked five nightly excursions to try to see the Northern Lights. Although it’s more likely to see the Aurora Borealis in winter, it’s still never a guarantee, so Winkler wanted to give herself the best chance possible to witness this Incredible natural spectacle. She even planned her trip during a solar maximum – where the sun‘s flares are the most vibrant and long – to give herself the greater possibility of sighting of the Northern Lights.
Between 10 pm and 1 am every night, Winkler and her group set out in search of the lights. With all the roads iced over, they had to traverse the backcountry in Super Jeeps, traversing glaciers and fjords in freezing sub temperatures. With good planning and good fortune, she ensured that she was able to witness the Aurora Borealis four out of the five nights that she booked. When the green lights blazed across the sky, she chose to experience the moment predominantly in her body and not through the lens. Fortunately for us, she did snap a few stunning pictures of the magnificent green hues, one even with a comet streaking through.
Winkler translated this experience into her landscape paintings. “Those were some of the first paintings I had at Gallery MAR when Maren took me on in 2015,” Winkler remembers fondly. Through her works, you can experience for yourself the luminosity of the bright light contrasted with the dark mystery of the surrounding landscape.
THE ACTIVE VOLCANO
One of Winkler‘s favorite subjects to visit and paint are volcanoes. Both dormant and active, she loves the vibrancy of the fertile valleys, “how they’re so rich with minerals, the landscape becomes very lush.” She’s explored volcanoes from Yellowstone to the Valles Caldera in Mexico, from Saint Helens to Mount Rainier, marveling at the fields of wildflowers, rising like vibrant phoenixes from the ashes.
One of her most memorable volcano trips was her trip to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. This active volcano is currently erupting and visitors can get as close as they like. “It was fascinating to see the hot, smoking lava pouring into the ocean,” Winkler remembers.
Seeing how the landscape lit up with flaming, molten hot lava was an experience of the landscape she had never had before. The wonder of this power and the diverse life it sows the seeds for is a constant source of inspiration for her mountainscape work.
These pieces juxtapose the awesome power of the mountains with the vibrant delicacy of the floral valleys it creates. Her works show the balance of life, how strength and softness, power and fragility are two sides of the same coin.
THE DOUBLE RAINBOW
While many of Winkler‘s trips are carefully planned around natural phenomena, occasionally nature surprises her and delights her with its spontaneity. And when that happens, all she can do is stop and allow herself to fully experience it.
On one such experience, Sarah Winkler was driving home from Gallery MAR after dropping off a fresh new art. On her way home, she took the scenic route through the High Uintas Wilderness to Flaming Gorge. She was exploring the land, gathering memories and references for her next series, inspired by the expedition of the American geologist John Wesley Powell through the Green and Colorado Rivers.
She and her husband camped at the Flaming Gorge, a big red canyon near Dinosaur National Park. “It’s like a very mini Grand Canyon,” Winkler remarks. Wanting to catch the landscape at its peak vibrancy, she waited for the sun to begin setting over the valley “when the gorge is illuminated with a bright iron red color.” As she waited, camera ready, nature surprised her once again.
From the distance, she saw a rain cloud slowly approaching them. As the cloud grew closer, a subtle rainbow began to form and streak across the sky. As the rainbow drew closer and closer, another began to form around it. Awed by this, Winkler watched in utter wonder and amazement as the double rainbow arced across the sky, encircling the gorge and dipping down into the valley to meet the river below. By complete accident and miraculous chance, Sarah Winkler found herself at the center of a 270 degree double rainbow in the Flaming Gorge. “It was right in front of me,” she remembers in awe, “I thought I could touch it. I was out of my mind with this feeling of ‘WOW.’”
While this unique experience has not yet had a chance to find its way into her work, we can eagerly anticipate her interpretations of the valley in her new series based on the John Wesley Powell expedition.
THE SILVER MINES
Sarah Winkler‘s latest exhibition, “Mountain Glow” is inspired by an experience she had in our very own beloved Park City. On a trip to Gallery MAR, Winkler decided to explore and investigate more about Park City’s mining history. “I never realized before that there’s a thousand miles of tunnels under Park City. I had no idea that it was like Swiss Cheese under that mountain,” she jokes.
Suddenly, she became more cognizant of the worlds beneath us more than ever before. Thinking about the mines, minerals, and hidden gems hidden sparkling below our surface, she decided to create a new series to reflect that.
“The whole series shimmers and shines and sparkles and has metallic paints in it,” she elaborates, “it has micas through the paintings, so all the paintings glow and sparkle in really subtle ways. The new series is all about that: the buried treasure of the mountains.” This new and unexplored territory fuels Winkler’s creativity, and she is excited to explore this idea in more of her work going forward.
These glittering gems of works are now available at Gallery MAR in Sarah Winkler‘s latest show, “Mountain Glow,” opening December 17th. These glimmering jewel-toned works feel like nothing we’ve seen before from the artist, and yet they perfectly complement the power of her body of work and the festive feeling of the approaching holidays.
THE MAGIC MEADOW
While many of Winkler’s works are inspired by her stunning experiences on her travels, many more of her works are inspired by the place she calls home. The mountains around her home in Denver, Colorado are a source of constant inspiration for the artist.
Every day, Winkler takes her two dogs on hikes through the mountains to what she refers to as the “magic meadow.“ This meadow near her home holds great personal significance to the artist. While she’s loved seeing the grand displays of nature in spectacular ways, she finds it just as compelling to watch the small, more subtle changes of nature over time.
Watching her magic meadow turn from summer to fall, from winter to spring, and back again, she marvels at the little details and begins to notice things on a smaller scale. Winkler explains: “It’s been important for me to go to the “magic meadow” for at least half an hour to hour every day, to walk around and just look at things. It’s been a wonderful journey to have that very close connection to one particular place. It’s become such a personal landscape for me. I get to see the changes in the landscape in a very detailed way and it keeps finding its way into my paintings.”
We may not be aware of it, but we have seen this magic meadow before, captured in layers of textured paint. It is the source of much of Winkler’s landscape inspiration. In these works, we can truly feel the significance of the landscape to the artist, reminding us of the local landscapes most meaningful to us.
Nature shows us its wonder in many ways, and sometimes the seemingly smallest ways – our local landscapes and our daily retreats into Nature – can have just as much, if not more meaning, to us the grandest spectacles of nature.
Learning more about these spectacular stories of nature’s wonders, only deepens our appreciation of the works that Sarah Winkler creates. She channels each of her experiences into her work and that energy is felt. “I’ve always considered painting an energy sport,” Winkler explains, “because it’s part healing and part energy. Artists are like yoga teachers or therapists: they’re channeling their experiences of the world to heal people. It takes a lot of mental and psychic energy to create art because we channel our own energy and that of the world around us into our work and back out into the world.”
We hope the stories, experiences, and paintings of Sarah Winkler give you a moment of repose, remind you of the healing power of nature and art, and give you even more reason to look around you and marvel at the natural wonders, both big and small.
Thank you special thank you to Sarah Winkler for sharing her experiences, insights, energy, and art with us here at Gallery MAR.
Written by Veronica Vale