September Vhay

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Jackson Hole artist September Vhay is an impressive emerging talent in animal art. She has recently been chosen by Southwest Art to be in the ‘21 Over 31 Artists with Careers to Watch’ and also won this years Trustee’s Purchase Award at the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Miniature and More exhibit.  She has shown her work at prestigious national shows such as ‘Birds In Art®’, the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Western Vision exhibit, the American Academy of Equine Art, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the American Watercolor Society.  She won the ‘Fine Print Imaging Award’ in the 2008-09 Ex Arte Equinus International Equine Art competition, and placed fourth in that competition’s painting category. 

Her work is classic in subject matter and technique and at the same time modern in her composition and minimal approach.  Backgrounds drop away so that her muted earthen palette can evoke the very essence of an animal. Her paintings are realistic in form and detail, yet they possess an impressionistic aura as well, a looseness that adds a sensitive dimension. 

Speaking about her work, Vhay says, “My challenge and subsequent reward is to reorder reality by distilling it to its essence. It is in this essence where the truth of subject lies. Beauty resides in this truth. It is a pleasure to seek out this essence and to share it with others.” 

A largely self-taught artist, Vhay’s formal training is in architecture. She received her bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Oregon in 1993. She subsequently moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she worked in architecture for ten years and painted in her spare time. Her understanding of structure, composition, and light—so crucial in architecture—give her paintings a sense of three-dimensional form.

In addition to architecture, she was influenced by the work of her great-grandfather Guzton Borglum, who is famous for sculpting Mount Rushmore and other prominent national monuments. It was his, comparatively, smaller-scale work that Vhay most admired.

Initially, Vhay worked exclusively in watercolor influenced by professors from the royal academy of Copenhagen, where she studied architecture in 1991. In 1992, she was awarded the Rosenberg Traveling Scholarship, which allowed her to travel to Scotland to study and paint the buildings of famous watercolor painter and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Vhay says, “Watercolor painting is spontaneous and unpredictable. There is always an element of risk as alterations are difficult if not impossible to make. These aspects make it a challenging, yet exciting medium. It is a balance of careful planning, jumping in, and then knowing when to let go.”

Now devoted full-time to painting, Vhay has expanded her media to include oils. Because of her skill with watercolor, she seamlessly achieves the freshness of watercolor with the saturation of color only possible in oils. One of her mentors, the award-winning painter Scott Christensen says, “September really gets the subtle transitions and separations of warm and cool colors, and how they merge. She understands the characteristics of light.”


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