LOVELL, Wyo. — It's not hard to find inspiration in Montana's many natural beauties, but some get more attention than others.
For Wisconsin-based fiber artist Toni Bergeon, it's the sagebrush hills and canyon country of the Wyoming-Montana border near Lovell that's at center of her latest work.
“People come through here on their way to Yellowstone and they go to Yellowstone for all of the glamour and geysers and everything, but there’s so much here that’s very different than Yellowstone," Bergeon said. "There’s a big pull here, the solitude the peacefulness, the scenery, it’s just a really neat area."
Bergeon is the latest artist resident at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
The program started in 2014 and just resumed after a two-year COVID hiatus.
"We like to call this park a hidden gem," says David Moore, BCNRA acting chief of interpretation. "While we don’t have the same type of visitation those larger parks do, but we have the same amenities, so we have a lot of the same opportunities to get out here without the long lines. So I absolutely this our park is right up there with those big parks as well.”
For two weeks, Bergeon is immersed in the vast canyon landscape, capturing the beauty with an unlikely medium—fabric and thread.
“It is definitely underappreciated," Bergeon said of fiber art. "I’ve been to many fine art shows and people are like, ‘it’s almost like art’ and so people aren’t yet connecting that this is art. You’re painting with fabric and thread instead of paint, but it’s the same thing. It’s all an artistic expression.”
Connecting the threads of creativity led Bergeon to monoprinting, a process that entails rolling paint onto jelly plates, adding textures and design, then laying fabric onto the paint.
Bergeon then uses the custom-dyed and painted fabric to create quilted artwork.
"Most of my quilts are based off photographs of nature. I do not have a pattern, I’ve never owned a pattern. Everything I’ve done has been based off a photo I had taken or a picture in my head," Bergeon said. "Directions don’t make any sense to me. I was doing it my own way anyway. So that’s why I’m art quilter. Not that I think it’s better or worse or easier or harder, it’s just the way my brain works.”
Bergeon's work is on display in the BCNRA Interpretive Center and as part of her two-week residency, she has created custom quilted pieces fitting six themes identified in the park, including varied ecosystems, wild horses, Crow culture, water resources, and more.