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Theodore Waddell Unveils a New Tucker and More Cows
Friday, February 17, 2023


Having been a Montana rancher on a hardscrabble piece of land near the Musselshell River, Ted Waddell’s idea of the perfect landscape is six pines in a 70-mile stretch of highway and no out of state license plates.

That’s what he got as he took a trip through north central Montana, driving along a highway east of Lewiston to Jordan and the Montana/North Dakota border that was “straight as a string.” What he saw served as the basis for his latest body of work, which is being showcased at Gail Severn Gallery, 400 N. 1st Ave. in Ketchum.

“I wanted to find a place where there aren’t any people and no urban sprawl. This area is flat and wonderful, a beautiful part of the world with some wonderful landscape. But they have the White Sulphur Springs there—if you ever go there, don’t drink the water as it smells like rotten eggs and tastes like sewer gas.”

Waddell’s new works will be on view during tonight’s Gallery Walk from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Gail Severn Gallery. His work will be accompanied by the landscapes of James Cook, the encaustic works of Raphaelle Goethals and the sculptures of Carolyn Olbum, another artist with local ties.

In addition to his oil paintings, Waddell will also have copies of his latest Tucker book on hand—this one titled “Tucker Plays the Back Nine.” The book, which features text by Waddell’s wife Lynn Campion, is based on the antics of the Bernese Mountain Dogs he has shared his home with for 25 years.

This is the fourth Tucker book. The first, “Tucker Gets Tuckered,” features Waddell’s pictures of Tucker and his friends snorkeling, sunning on the beach, riding in Waddell’s truck and roasting sausages—not dogs—over a campfire. The last, “Tucker’s Seasonal Words of Wisdom,” shares such kibbles of wisdom  as “A good nose will help you learn who your friends are,” next to a picture of Tucker checking out a skunk.

The newest book includes Tucker checking out a moose on the green during the local club’s Moose Madness week, as well as some pithy sayings, such as Mark Twains’ “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’

“This one’s about golfing and aging—maybe more about aging since we’re all doing that,” said Waddell.

Waddell currently has four of the hundred-pound dogs—Sophie, McDuff, Bogey and Cooper, whom they got as a puppy a year ago.

“These dogs are incredible. They’re very mellow and they mostly want to be around you, even to the point of sitting on your foot. They all ride around in the golf cart with me and travel with me. And our newest dog Cooper is a thief—he steals shoes, socks and dishcloths. His favorite thing is glasses.”

Waddell, considered one of the West’s most celebrated contemporary artists, is known for his abstract expressionist landscapes depicting ambiguous Black Angus cattle, horses and bison.

“I could paint them less abstract and more like a photograph. But, as an artist, there’s nothing I can tell you about a cow beyond what you can see for yourself. To me, these are realistic. I’m showing you how much I care about them,” he said.”

Creativity and paint would seem to run thick in Waddell’s blood. His grandfather, who chronicled the early days of Montana folklore and invented a manure spreader used by Montana ranchers, once shared a cow camp with Charles Russell.

Waddell’s father always smelled like paint from painting railroad boxcars and it’s a smell Waddell loves to this day as he paints heavily textured paintings that he piles high with mounds of oil paints using a paint trowel.

He paints from memory, from photographs, and occasionally on site.   Every once in a while, he squirts his work with a spray bottle letting the paint rain down the canvas dripping onto the floor below. Then he smudges parts of it with a paper towel.

“I like the layers—it’s like history accumulating,” he said.

Introduced to the Sun Valley area while teaching a workshop at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in 1986, he now paints with broad brushstrokes of thick paint in a studio outside the home he shares with his wife, Bernese Mountain Dogs and a cat named Boots in a wooded area north of Hailey.

But it’s the Montana landscapes cloaked in white of winter on a 20-below day that dominate his paintings.

“I’ve always had a hell of a time understanding green,” he said.

Waddell’s work is being featured in a two-man exhibition with James Cook, who also paints landscapes rich with oil. The two have had several shows together at Gail Severn, as well as in  Jackson, Wyo., and Scottsdale Ariz.

“He and I have been friends for over 20 years. I admire him as a painter and he’s a grumpy  curmudgeon like me so he’s my hero as I’m a second-string curmudgeon,” Waddell said. “We agree that a lot of painting doesn’t make any sense anymore. Painters have taken the life out their paintings by virtue of the way they paint and it ends up flat and sort of uninteresting.

“The digital age has tricked a lot of people into thinking they can take an image off their computer and put it on canvas and call it art. And a lot of artists believe if they paint something realistically, it’s automatically art. But painting something realistically is a technique all of its own. James, by contrast, is really smart and knows a lot about painting and he’s a hell of a good painter.”


Check out Carolyn Olbum’s sculptures of discarded tree limbs, rotten roots and dried vines. A local artist, Olbum weaves nature and art together through organic forms and scavenged objects, then immortalizes her findings by casting them in bronze.

Also being shown at Gail Severn Gallery is Raphaelle Goethals’ ethereal compositions created with layered encaustic.

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