Local Painter Channels Love of Horses and Open Spaces in Her Work

Ava Community Art Center Executive Director Grace Torres admires “Aurora Ridge” by featured artist, Tricia Scheele. A Gillette-based painter and ceramicist with work in eight galleries across the country and world, Scheele’s work will hang in the gallery through December, with a public reception on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 6 – 8 p.m.

When she was a little girl, Tricia Scheele’s parents refused to buy her a pony, so she had to draw her own. Where this passion for horses came from is anyone’s guess, given that Scheele grew up in suburban Boise, Idaho, miles away from the nearest ranch. Nonetheless, she can’t remember a time when horses haven’t been a part of her life, both as an artist and professional rider.

“There was never a choice,” Scheele said. “When a passion is so ingrained in your soul, you have no choice.”

She remembers being 2 years old and hounding her aunt to take her horseback riding. Her aunt, who found the pesky toddler’s relentless request annoying, decided she would break her young niece of the passion by scaring the daylights out of her. So, with Scheele on the saddle behind her, her aunt set off in broke-neck speed and proceeded to jump every hay bale in sight with the hopes of deterring her.

It didn’t work.

“I just screamed and told her to go faster,” Scheele laughed. “That kinda just sealed the deal.”

From that point forward, nobody questioned Scheele’s passion for horses.

Movies like “Dances with Wolves” had a great impact on her back then, which she literally took to heart.

“I was like a wild Indian child riding through the foothills of Boise,” she laughed, pointing to her love of beadwork and embracing her distant Native American roots.

In high school, she started professionally as an exercise rider at a horse racing track in Boise, where a family friend finally broke down and bought Scheele her first thoroughbred for her 16th birthday. And though she thought maybe she’d go on to become a jockey, Scheele ultimately walked away from that lifestyle when a jockey friend died while racing.

“It’s a rough field,” Scheele said. “Most of the riders have broken all their bones and a lot of them die.”

Instead, she decided to leave that competitive life behind when she went off to college at Utah State, where she studied art and kept riding, bringing her horse with her.

Part of her passion for drawing and painting horses comes from seeing the work of other painters who don’t seem to get horses quite right.

“When I looked at other drawings and paintings of horses, I’d think that they were all wrong,” she said. “I think you just have to know horses. So many artists out there are really good, but they don’t have the knowledge of horses to draw them correctly. You need to understand the animal’s movements and what it feels like to ride one.”

For Ava Community Art Center Executive Director Grace Torres, it’s this quality in Scheele’s work that stands out the most, particularly in her horse paintings.

“There’s such movement in her horses,” Torres said. “She has a wonderful spirit or energy in her work.”

This holds true for not only her horses but also for her moody acrylic and ink landscapes that exude that same energy and movement, as if watching it slowly unfold throughout the day in different lights and seasons.

“You can’t really pin any of them down,” Torres said as she stood back to take a look at “Aurora Ridge,” Scheele’s showpiece painting in her current exhibit at the gallery.

“There’s this energetic value to it and also a wonderful depth,” Torres said, like the artist herself. “It’s her free-spirit at work.”

“I started imagining the people who lived out here and what their lives must have been like way back then, living
out here among all this wild space.”

There’s a lot of truth to that statement as one looks back on the past few decades of Scheele’s life. Along with making a career as an art teacher and professional artist with work in eight galleries throughout the country and world, including Paris, France, Scheele has also worked as a professional ranch hand in Logan, Utah, and currently works as a conductor on the BNSF Railroad, a job that in many ways appeals to her restless spirit.

“I’m always on the go,” she said, “and get to see a lot of places, including hours of just staring out the window at the passing scenery.”

She also continues to be active in English riding and horse shows while staying busy as a professional artist, including her ink and acrylic paintings and ceramics.

And though she has traded in her thoroughbreds for “kid ponies,” that unlike the horses in her earlier years are much tamer and quieter, she’s content with her current life in Gillette, where she’s lived for nearly a decade.

Recently, along with her passion for painting horses, she’s delved out into capturing abstract landscapes, which she figures has a lot to do with her new job on the railroad. But given her unfettered spirit, she doesn’t paint them straight on but rather renders her own interpretation straight from her imagination.

She recounts the abandoned homestead she happened upon while out helping a friend move cows and her newfound love of Wyoming and its history.

“It was just a one-room shack, broken down building out in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I started imagining the people who lived out here and what their lives must have been like way back then, living out here among all this wild space.”

This is where her art begins, at the juncture of imagination, color and space.

By: Jennifer C. Kocher for 82717

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