2017 Donated Artwork

View from Observation Point with various shapes and colors in oil paint
"Observation Point," Lisa Gilley, Oil paint on wood panel, October 2017

NPS Photo

Between mid-October and mid-November of 2017 I spent a month as Zion National Park's Artist-In-Residence (AIR). Some of our National Parks offer a small number of residencies every year to allow artists of many disciplines ranging from visual arts, literary, musicians, theater and dance the opportunity to create in one of our country's monumental places. I am one of the four artists that was awarded an AIR in 2017 which allowed me to live in the beautiful Grotto House, Zion's first Visitor Center, for a month. I hiked as many trails as I could squeeze in during that month, sketched from my cabin and along the Virgin River, biked Zion Canyon in the early morning before the buses ran and painted into the late night inside my Grotto studio with evening walking breaks up the canyon when it was completely void of humans.

This image is an oil painting from a photo I took at the very top of Observation Point, one of my favorite hikes I did during my stay at Zion. It’s not an easy trek, it’s quite steep in spots and long, but when you make it to the top you know you earned it as the view is out of this world. My knees complained on the way down but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

There are many ways to work in oil paints to get different effects. Most of my paintings are larger format than you see in most Plein Air (onsite) paintings because you're limited to what you can complete in a day. My paintings style incorporates multiple (glazing) layers over dryer layers in attempt to give a painting greater depth which also requires more drying time. Paintings like this take me weeks and sometimes months to fully complete. I do a little plein air (onsite—"open in full air") sketching and painting when I'm on the trail as well. I do this mostly to stay fresh and loose in my drawing/painting skills; it’s more of an exercise for me. I've been a photographer professionally and artistically for years and when taking a photo I put a lot of thought into how it will translate into one of my paintings. I go to extreme efforts to find just the right image. A lot of times that requires me to hike deep into the back country or climb out on some ledge always dragging along my cameras. During my Zion Artist Residency I shot well over 1000 images. In the last few years I've built up quite a stock of National Park photos that I always go back thru when looking for the perfect painting subject. I'm always amazed how an image that escaped my attention before is the one I'm obsessed to paint. It’s like I'm reliving the whole experience of being there again in that very location. However, many times I'm already home in my studio when I finally begin a painting. I have to dig deep to recall those smells, the feel of the air and sounds that accompanied that place I photographed sometimes months or even years earlier. This is what is so amazing about being given an art residency in a place as magical as Zion National Park. It not only gave me the time to create work onsite within the park, living there for an entire month also blended Zion deep into my cellular being. I once heard a docent at the University of British Columbia Anthropology Museum tell a group of people about the process of how First Nations Haida Gwaii peoples made their totem poles. He said that the carver would find a tree, ask its permission to use it for his family or tribe's pole and after receiving the tree's blessing and before cutting it down, he would breathe in the soul of the tree inside of himself to keep safe. As the carver began carving the tree into a pole he would then breathe that very soul back into the pole, to live on forever in its new form. I like to think of my paintings like that. I took a piece of Zion within me and will breathe it back into my paintings to share her spirit with the rest of the world. Thank you for such a beautiful, life-changing experience.
-Lisa Gilley
Painting of canyon walls with a dark blue sky
"Towers of the Virgin," Joshua Graham, Oil, April 2017

NPS Photo

"Towers of the Virgin" is a visual response to one of the most striking geologic features in the canyon. For me this collection of sandstone formations represents a visual metaphor of the "sublime," which I interpret as a state of being or a quality that both awes and terrifies simultaneously.

Much of my exploration in ZNP was done at night, under moonlight, which had the effect of simplifying complex color relationships and tones. Wandering the park at night also added a layer of mystery to my experience and the sketches I created while in residence. This painting is the result of one of my nocturnal explorations. My experience in Zion National Park was truly magical and still informs my artistic practice.
-Josh Graham
Black and white photograph of canyon walls and clouds.
“Mountain Walking,” Jodie Hulden, Photograph, February 2017

NPS Photo


This image was made on the last morning of my residency. I had packed away all my gear the night before in preparation for an early leave-taking of Zion. A storm had descended during the night and when I looked out of the cabin window early in the morning, the clouds and mist were swirling around the peaks, hiding and revealing them in ever changing light. I grabbed a camera and spent the next hour trying to capture the wonder and beauty before me.
–Jodie Hulden

The title, “Mountain Walking,” was taken from a saying by Dogen, a Zen Master (1200-1253),
“Do not doubt that mountains walk simply because they may not appear to walk like humans.”

Multi colored digital numbers arranged in diagonal rows
"Zion," Tyler James Patterson, Audio composition, September 2017

This is not the Zion you will experience outside; that Zion speaks for itself! This is the memory of a beautiful dream I had.
-Tyler James Patterson

Note from Zion: Scroll down to download the Mp3 files. Tyler designed these audio tracks as an alternative down-canyon shuttle narration. Please start Track 1 as you depart the Temple of Sinawava and listen via headphones.
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Last updated: April 23, 2019

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