Annie Allen



Watercolor with swirling circles of color, one with two fish swimming through

Challenge Creek. Photo by Annie Allen

An artist, an artist relaxing into her feminine voice, from the great state of Montana. My journey began 57 years ago in Laredo Montana. Fortunate enough to be raised up on the farmlands of central Montana I explored the landscape daily. Montana provides a depth of scenery for artistic visions and plans. I longed to express my voice through visual art. Slowly that voice began to emerge. Through education, teaching, coaching, raising children and grandchildren my voice became strong and clear. That voice longed to share the valuable connection I felt existed between the earth and humankind. With this idea in mind I applied for the Artist Wilderness Connection.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Swan Valley Ecosystem Management & Learning Center, the Hockaday Museum of Art, and the USDA Forest Service Flathead National Forest collaborated, in their infinite wisdom, and decided to create an opportunity for artists and those interested in art. A chance of a lifetime, a chance to connect “with the greater landscape beyond the borders of Glacier National Park” as stated in the operating plan for the Artist Wilderness Connection Residency. I was one of three artists chosen for this opportunity. This was a chance to observe, reflect, & reveal my interpretation of the wilderness existing in Montana. Using an artist’s voice… more directly my voice, first person, what an honor.

The journey began July 29 at the Challenge Cabin located in the Flathead National Forest. Built around 1927, the Challenge Cabin became a home base of connection where I could gather my thoughts for the day and review the visual imagery that hit my brainwaves. Within a couple of days every sense tingled with new sights, smells, sounds, and tactile sensations. After long hikes, journaling, sketching, and painting filled the afternoons.

The wilderness is not new to me. I have lived in the mountains of Lincoln,  Montana, for over 28 years. My family and their families before them camped, hunted, and gathered their senses in the mountains of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Scapegoat Mountain, and Alice Creek. Hiking has provided a life jacket in more ways than one. Most of the tales that arose from our families experiences in the mountains came from a male perspective. Exciting tales of spotting elk, bear, mountain lions, and other wildlife. Tales of natural beauty, along with precise pinpoints, on maps unfolded.

Now laying before me was a map, a magical map of my own to pour over, analyze, and reflect upon. Trails, pathways to meander and explore. Explorations lay waiting. And most importantly, no perimeters or time to worry about.

As I relaxed into my surroundings I became aware of my connection to my surroundings. The intricacy of which you fully comprehend when you are within the greater landscape. Senses become fine tuned and as an artist I was completely aware of colors, contrasts, shapes, and rhythmic design which ties every component of nature together. The beauty of capturing textures and lines that are revealed at different angles from the sun, the shapes and depth of color that infuse the landscape, the pure delight of creating an image from my own vision and perspective. This vision and perspective gave voice to the inner workings of my mind.

As John Muir so eloquently stated, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”